Rachel Richards

licensed massage therapist

east village, nyc

News: February 2012

The biggest threat to your health may be your computer!

Computers - can't live without them, but how can we continue to spend 40+ hours a week in front of them without destroying our bodies? If you're not convinced that your poor computer posture is wreaking havoc on your body, here's something that might surprise you. A study printed in the Journal of Epidemiology found that the risk of distal colon cancer in people who have spent at least ten years working at computers increased by 200 percent! And this was true even if they exercised daily. And a study in Japan in the late '90s found that people under the age of 40 who spent 10 hours a day looking at a computer screen were much more likely to develop glaucoma.

But your muscles and joints are even more at risk. If you're like most people and tend to lean forward at your computer, consider this: for every 30 degrees of forward leaning, you increase the load on your spinal joints by 400 percent! This could lead to any number of spinal injuries. Conversely, the slouched position also compresses your digestive organs and impedes circulation. I'm sure many of you are already feeling the signs of impending injury, like a stiff neck, an aching lower back, or nerve discomfort in the wrists and hands.

Now that I have your attention, let's take a look at how you can continue to do your job every day and maintain a steady income without the risk of work-related injuries knocking you out. Here are the three ergonomic essentials that could save your health:

1) Straighten up. Bring your bottom all the way to the back of your chair. Put a small pillow, folded towel, or lumbar support cushion behind your lower back to support its natural curve. This already takes tremendous strain off the entire spinal column by maintaining an effortless upright position. Make sure you face directly forward, too. You shouldn't have to turn your body all the time to look at your monitor or papers. Have everything in front of you, making sure your monitor is at eye level, to maintain proper neck alignment. If you use a phone, get a headset. This will free up your hands and allow your neck and shoulders to remain neutral and relaxed.

2) Bring everything in. Your keyboard and mouse should be close to your body, so that your upper arms are parallel with your torso, your elbows are bent 90 degrees, and your wrists are straight. You don't want to have to reach out in front of you. Let's say your arm weighs about 8 pounds. If you bring your arm 2 or 3 inches forward, that 8 pounds becomes 12, and at 7 or 8 inches forward, your arm weighs about 20 pounds. Not only is your upper body straining to support this weight, but your low back and hip are tightening to provide stability. For example, if you need to reach out with your right hand to use your mouse, your left low back and hip must tighten up to counterbalance the weight of the right arm in order to keep you from falling forward.

3) Take breaks! Introducing the 30 minute-30 second rule. Stillness leads to stiffness. Lack of movement reduces blood flow and tightens muscles. The movements you are doing-typing and mousing-are causing the same little forearm and finger muscles to contract over and over again, putting strain on the muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments. To counter this effect, for every 30 minutes spent at your computer, take a 30-second stretch break. This brings blood and oxygen back into the tissue, stretches out tight muscles, and allows your body to rejuvenate and reset itself before returning to work. Set a timer on your computer or clock to beep every 30 minutes so you don't forget! See the video below for some great stretches.

In order to release built-up tension, restore postural alignment, and reduce stress, get massaged frequently. In other words, if you do your part and I do mine, we'll have you working injury-free until YOU, and not your pain, decide you'd like to take time off!

Source: Nov. 2011 World Massage Conference

Check out this video for effective stretches you can do right at your desk!

What's new with me ...

My addiction to continuing education has me back in school once again, this time studying sports massage to get an advanced certification. Looking forward to sharing my new skills with all my athletic patients!

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American Massage Therapy Association

Swedish InstituteCertified Myoskeletal TherapistNational Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork

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