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Ice versus Heat for Lower Back

Ice versus Heat for Lower Back

By Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Solutions Northwest, Inc. – Arcata, California

Ice VS Heat for Lower Back Pain Relief

“More than half of Americans (54%) who experience low back pain spend the majority of their workday sitting.” TheGoodBody

Whether your workstation has been designed by an ergonomic specialist or not, constantly sitting at your work desk can lead to lower back pain. In fact, 54% of Americans with sedentary jobs experienced low back pain.

After a long day of sitting at work, you may want to treat your back pain, but should you grab the ice pack or the heating pad?

After Injury, Apply Cold Therapy First

If you injure your lower back, it is best to apply cold therapy during the first 24 to 72 hours. Cold therapy will help minimize inflammation and swelling, which reduces pain and can decrease tissue damage. While there are special ice packs designed for cold therapy, a frozen towel or even a bag of vegetables will do.

However, it is important to be careful when using ice packs as they can burn your skin. Try using a cloth between your skin and the cold source. Do not use cold therapy for more than 20 minutes at a time and do not use it more than 10 times during a 24 hour period.

Apply Heat After Initial Swelling and Inflammation has Subsided

After you use cold therapy to bring down swelling and inflammation, begin using heat therapy to encourage the healing process. Heat therapy increases the blood flow to your injury, bringing more nutrients to the injured area while flushing out the injured debris. Heat also increases tissue elasticity, which helps relieve tension and knots.

For minor back tension, 15-20 minutes of heat therapy may be enough. For more intense pain, 30 minutes to 2 hours of heat therapy may be needed.

Apply dry or moist heat (whichever you prefer) with over the counter heat pads, creams, saunas, or hot tub. An easy home remedy is to fill an old sock with rice or oatmeal, tie or sew it shut, and put it in the microwave for 1-3 minutes.

Use caution to avoid burns, as you should be experiencing warmth and not intense heat.

Ice vs Heat for Chronic Lower Back Pain

What if you don’t have a new injury, but just have chronic lower back pain from sitting all day at the office? In this case, there really is no right answer when it comes to hot versus cold. Everyone is different, so trial and error may be in order.

However, some experts suggest that you should use heat therapy to loosen up your muscles for the work day and use cold therapy afterward to help with any pain and inflammation.

In Conclusion

Remember, when it comes to any kind of pain or injury, always consult with your doctor first. Also, be sure to get up and walk around every 20 minutes while at work and live an active life to help avoid any workplace injuries. For more health tips, exercise ideas, and suggestions to keep your workplace a healthy environment, check out our blog featuring advice from our ergonomics experts.

For an ergonomics consultation to keep your workplace safe and healthy, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more detailed information.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California (Arcata), Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

 

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Sitting vs Standing While Working

Sitting vs Standing While Working

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Sitting vs Standing While Working
“Sedentary time — even among physically active people — may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and more.” American Heart Association

Too much sitting has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and more. Occupations that require computer work, office work, telecommunication, driving, etc. will generally require employees to sit at a desk or in a vehicle, so what is one to do? Is the solution to purchase a standing desk?

Our ergonomics experts will examine this dilemma and provide some suggestions to avoid injury in the work place.

Sitting at Work vs Standing at Work

Sitting allows one to conserve energy and stabilize the body, therefore performing tasks like computer work, driving, or even micro-surgery generally involve sitting. However, sitting for over an hour at a time can release biochemical changes in the body that lead to heart disease.

Standing while working may seem like the logical solution to too much sitting. Standing can help burn more calories than sitting due to the energy required to stand, however prolonged standing has perils of its own. Standing for long periods of time may cause aching joints and sore feet in the short term and in the long term, too much standing could cause painful back problems or permanent muscle damage.

What about Sit-Stand Workstations?

Often both the employer and employee think that the ergonomic risks are abated once a sit-stand station is installed, when in fact, the sit-stand workstations may have introduced new ergonomic risk factors. A sit-stand workstation may lead to awkward postures of the spine and upper extremities with incorrect equipment heights in relation to the individual’s anthropometric needs, incorrect equipment positioning, and incorrect equipment. Additionally, sit-stand workstations do not resolve the issues of repetitive work with inadequate rest breaks. Studies show that the typical break schedule of 15/30/15 minutes is not sufficient to recover from repetitive office work.

The Solution is Movement

If both sitting too long and standing too long is bad for you, then what is the solution? The answer is movement. Moving frequently to avoid prolonged inactivity is key.

Don’t be afraid to sit while doing computer work, just be sure to incorporate movement in to your day beyond your 15/30/15 breaks. This means, every 20-30 minutes stand and take a posture break for a few minutes and move around for a couple of minutes more. When you walk around, your blood circulates through your muscles and benefits your body.

You don’t need to do exercises at your desk (though here is a list of some you can do if you wish), but get into the habit of walking to the printer, grabbing a beverage, standing during meetings, using the stairs, walking the floor, and even parking further than necessary in the parking lot.

In Conclusion

Just use common sense to break up prolonged inactivity in the workplace. Realize that simply standing in one spot for hours isn’t the solution to too much sitting, but that movement is key. And as always, remain proactive about your health in the work place.

For an ergonomics consultation, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more detailed information.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

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Ergonomics Tips: Don’t Eat Lunch Alone at Your Desk

Ergonomics Tips: Don’t Eat Lunch Alone at Your Desk

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager

Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Ergonomics Tips: Don’t Eat Lunch Alone at Your Desk

“65% of American workers say they eat at their desk or don’t take a lunch break at all. – Right Management Human Resources Survey

In an era of multi-tasking at work, it may be tempting to “save time” by eating alone at your desk or in your office. But is it really more efficient to eat alone at your office desk or is it a bad habit?

If you eat at your desk, you are not alone. Studies show that 65% of American workers eat at their desk or skip it altogether, that means only 1 in 3 workers take an uninterrupted lunch at their job.

3 reasons why you should avoid eating your lunch alone at your desk:

1) Eating lunch with co-workers is a networking opportunity.
Eating can be a social activity and one you can share with your co-workers or staff on the job. Connecting with your fellow employees could help you get that job promotion in the future or stay in the mind of others for other work opportunities.

If you must work while you eat, consider scheduling the lunch with your co-workers in advance, so that you can all work and eat together.

2) Social Isolation is bad for your health.
People with strong social relationships may increase their odds of a longer life by as much as 50% according to plosmedicine. Being isolated or alone could negatively affect your health, leading to “compromised immunity and inflammation, heart disease, and other chronic issues.” National Institute on Aging

3) Uninterrupted meal breaks are a great way to reset the workday.
According to Lyle Sussman of the University of Louisville, “taking an uninterrupted meal break is healthy, increases job efficiency and improves morale.” Increased job efficiency and a healthier you will not only be good your personal health, but for the company itself. After your uninterrupted lunchbreak, you will feel refreshed and be able to finish the workday out without feeling so overwhelmed and stressed out.

In Conclusion
Being unhealthy in the workplace can lead to loss of focus, which could lead to errors or injury at the work place. As ergonomics experts, Solutions Northwest wants to make sure your workplace remains a safe and healthy environment for all.

Be sure to share these tips with the rest office workers or employees. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

 

Best Temperature at Work for Maximum Productivity

Best Temperature at Work for Maximum Productivity

best temp at work

By Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Solutions Northwest, Inc. – Arcata, California

In an office setting, it is important to ensure that all of your workers are working in comfort. Studies show that if your office is blazing hot in the summer or freezing cold in the winter, work place productivity suffers.

What is the ideal temperature for the work place?
According to a study done at Cornell University: “When the office temperature in a month-long study increased from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, typing errors fell by 44 percent and typing output jumped 150 percent.” This study was done to show how comfort and environment int he workplace may affect productivity. The study states: “At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate. Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance.”

Are there temperature requirements?
There are no requirements for employers to maintain a specific temperature at the workplace under federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. According to a 2003 OSHA interpretation letter:  “office temperature and humidity conditions are generally a matter of human comfort rather than hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA cannot cite the General Duty Clause for personal discomfort.”

Conclusion:
While there are no OSHA requirements, office temperature matters and shouldn’t be ignored. If you work in Human Resources or have the ability to alter the temperature, you should definitely be proactive when it comes to workplace temperature.

The research suggests you should hover around 77 degrees. It is also important to speak with your employees to learn what makes them most comfortable, which will lead to more productivity and a better relationship with your employees.

For more guidance on all things Ergonomics, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

 

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Don’t Overwork Yourself, Listen to Your Body

Don’t Overwork Yourself, Listen to Your Body

By Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Solutions Northwest, Inc. – Arcata, California

Don’t overwork yourself.

According to BYLLP, the Top 5 Work Related Injuries are caused by: Overexertion, Slip and Fall Injuries, Equipment Injury, Motor Vehicle Injury, and Repetitive Motion Injuries.

Our clients at SolutionsNW.com frequently tell us they’ve developed musculoskeletal disorders by pushing themselves too hard. Commonly, the injury is from repetitive motion related to work tasks. Repetitive tasks require us to do the same movements over and over again. It especially becomes a problem when we ignore our body’s warning signals of pain.

Listen to your body.

Our body starts sending stronger and stronger warning signals until we finally pay attention. When we start paying attention we regret letting the pain get to the point it is at.

This is why we need to pay attention to our bodies. Our health should be our number one priority because without it we have nothing. A lot of times we cannot physically do as much as we want to or feel we have to.

We just have to find a way to be at peace with that. Things we want to accomplish will get done eventually, it may just take longer than we would like.

Try some tips from our Ergonomics Blog whenever you’re feeling a little overworked:

For more guidance on all things Ergonomics, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

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Protect your eyes when using a Smart Phone.

Protect your eyes when using a Smart Phone.

Protect Your Eyes

By Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Solutions Northwest, Inc. – Arcata, California

What is Digital Eyestrain?
Whether it is the smart phone’s tiny screen, the tiny images and text, or the screen’s light, it is important to be cautious and aware of the risks of digital eyestrain.

According to Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report: “the average American (aged 16-44) spends 444 minutes or 7.4 hours staring at screens every day. That’s 147 minutes of television, 103 minutes on a computer, 151 minutes with smartphones, and 43 minutes on a tablet.”

What are the symptoms?
Too much screen time can cause many eye-related symptoms such as discomfort, eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, headache, fatigue, difficulty focusing, and shoulder and neck pain.

5 Ergonomics Tips to Reduce Your Risk:

  • Most smartphones have a feature to make letters on the screen bigger. The most common way to do this is starting with your fingers in a pinched position touching the screen and pulling your fingers apart until the letters are big enough. The letters should be at least as large as the green serial numbers on the front of a dollar bill.
  • Go into the phone settings menu and adjust the screen brightness level to about half. Most phones come with a factory brightness setting which is equivalent to looking at a light bulb.
  • When choosing a color scheme, the ones which are easiest on the eyes are a white background with black text or a black background with green text.
  • Use the phone in a position where there is not glare on the screen, reduce the screen glare to reduce eye strain.
  • Try some Eye Exercises that we have featured in a previous Ergonomics Blog.

For more guidance on all things Ergonomics, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

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