By Jeff Symons, MSE, CEAS, CEAC – Rehabilitation Engineer
One of the simplest ways to prevent a plethora of injuries and poor health that comes from stationary work, especially spending hours on the computer, is to take short breaks I call micro breaks. They are nothing more than stretch breaks but should occur frequently throughout the day. I recently read this quote: “micro-breaks – macro benefits.” A simple micro stretch break can take 30 to 40 seconds and can be done at least once an hour. This is probably one of the most important ergonomic tasks a person can do throughout the day. Sit/stand workstations are now quite popular. While a sit/stand workstation is a nice option, people often think that if they have one, they do not need to stretch throughout the day. I first recommend getting a good ergonomic chair and set up, and then inform people about the importance of micro stretch breaks. If they can’t remember to do micro stretch breaks throughout the day, are they going to remember to sit and stand? Most people wait until something is sore before they start to stretch and this is really too late. People need to take stretch breaks before they start feeling any discomfort.
There is science behind this theory. The discs between a person’s vertebrae do not have a blood supply and the only way they get nutrition is by moving. Usually when a person sits or stands for too long, the back discomfort they feel is the discs that are bothering them. Doing back stretches can help the discs get the nutrition they need and reduce discomfort.
Here is a handout with the proper ergonomic position for using the computer and some sample micro stretch breaks:
Do your back (and body) a favor—take a micro break: 30–40 seconds of light movement and stretching (especially for affected body parts) will help keep the muscles limber, squeeze out metabolic waste products from muscles, and bring in fresh, nutrient-rich blood to maintain joints with a good range of motion. Micro breaks not only help prevent injuries, it helps workers stay alert and be more productive.
Jeff Symons, MSE, CEAS, CEAC is a Rehabilitation Engineer, providing a variety of services for ergonomic assessments, recommendations, and rehabilitation consultation. He can be reached at 916.933.2375; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.jeffsymonsconsulting.com