Sit Up Straight! Kim Harvey Explains Why We Need to Hunt for Ways to Ease Ergonomic Risk

By Harvey, Kim | New Zealand Management, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Sit Up Straight! Kim Harvey Explains Why We Need to Hunt for Ways to Ease Ergonomic Risk


Harvey, Kim, New Zealand Management


Sore necks, tight shoulders, headaches, lower back pain--all too many of us regularly suffer these symptoms of spending prolonged periods sitting or standing in the same position.

Our bodies are made to move and the reduction in circulation caused by periods of little or no movement leads to a build up of tension and toxins in our muscles that may cause us to feel tired and tense.

Most New Zealand workplaces are now aware of such problems and workstation assessments carried out by trained professionals as well as employee training on workstation set-up in relation to their own posture are fairly common practice.

However, there are human as well as environmental factors at play here and without individual awareness of what the body needs, the best workplace set-up in the world is not going to alleviate a sore back, or muscle tension.

Fact is that our bodies were designed for a hunter-gatherer existence when we spent much of our time on the move. Our physiques were strong, our muscles toned and evenly balanced from regular use. Skip forward a few thousand years and we now subject ourselves to long hours of sitting; high-heeled shoes; low fitness resulting in reduced muscle function; hours spent in dehydrating air-conditioned environments staring at computer screens.

It's just not what we were designed for.

Simply put, moving about keeps blood circulating effectively around our body, moving fresh supplies of oxygen and nutrients in and taking toxins and carbon dioxide out. Lack of "flushing" contributes to fatigue, tension, headaches, and lower back and neck pain.

The good news is that there are some very simple actions you can take every day to free up your muscles and reduce tension.

* Get your set-up sorted Ensure your workspace is set up to suit you. Find out if there is a workstation assessment specialist who can help or if there are any health and safety handouts to show you how to do this yourself. Check your set-up every so often, especially if the way you work changes, eg if you start using the phone more--you may benefit from a headset to minimise neck and shoulder tension.

* Make a move Get up and walk around for a couple of minutes every hour to get the blood flowing and ease tension out of your muscles--deliver messages rather than emailing, it'll give you an excuse to make a move.

* Stretch Gentle regular stretching increases the delivery of oxygen to keep your body working and flushes toxins that cause the burning sensation that occurs in the neck, shoulders and back. …

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