Ergonomics 101: Working from home during Coronavirus.

Telecommuting has become the norm in our society today, and with the pandemic we have endured and currently face, we may be at home for much longer into the future. While this may be attainable and even ideal for most of the population, our bodies may be affected in negative ways we have never dreamed of. Many people are unaware of the stress bad ergonomics places on our bodies. People can develop wrist, elbow, neck, or back pain, never concluding the cause to be that of their own doing. Sitting in a chair for long periods places compression and stress on our joints that can cause stiffness, strain, and pain in our bodies. Setting up your workspace correctly can help prevent back issues and problems in the future.

Steps for a properly seated workspace.

– Your eyes should be level with the top of your computer monitor.

– Your shoulders should be relaxed and low, not high or hunched up.

– Your lower arms should be parallel to the floor. They should be resting on a support.

– Your feet should be resting on the floor.

– Your upper back should be straight, and your chair should support your lower back.

– You should avoid slouching in your chair and keep your hips as close to the back of the chair as possible.

– Your upper legs should be at a 90-degree angle from your body.

– You should be sitting up straight, and your screen should be a full arm’s length away from you.

– You should avoid leaning to any one side.

 

There is also the option of working at a standing desk that may increase blood flow, good posture, and decreased stress overall placed on the body.

Steps for maintaining proper posture at a standing desk.

– Your eyes should be level with the top of your computer monitor.

– Your shoulders should be relaxed and low, not high or hunched up.

– Your elbows should be bent to 90 degrees, and the desk should be set to the height of your forearms.

– You should be standing on an even surface with your feet shoulder-width apart.

– You should avoid leaning to any one side.

Sitting for long periods can be detrimental to your body.

Being sedentary has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases.  Along with correcting your positioning at the desk, it is also essential to take standing breaks away from the computer every 30 minutes. Going to the bathroom, stretching, getting a drink of water, or grabbing a snack are good excuses to step away from the desk. Taking a lunch break away from the desk is also a good option.  Going for a walk on your lunch break is an excellent way to get your body moving and may even grant you some much-needed energy and concentration to take on the remainder of your day.

If you have experienced wrist, elbow, shoulder, neck, or back pain and cannot find relief from correcting your workspace, physical therapy can help decrease your pain and give you the tools to help it from happening again. You will be taught proper stretching, strengthening, and body mechanics based on your body and individualized goals. You will be able to get back to work feeling good again before you know it!

If you are suffering from pain and poor range of mobility we welcome you as a patient, we have over 20 clinics throughout the valley, request an appointment or come in for a free Rapid Recovery® Injury Assessment.

Pain is one of the few common experiences we can all relate to. Everyone has experienced pain at one time or another in their lives. No one enjoys being in pain, but it is a necessary part of helping keep us alive. To gain a deeper understanding of pain we will look at the various parts of the brain that control pain.

Pain is defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience that is associated with actual or potential tissue damage” which was developed by the International Association for the Study of Pain. Pain is an output from the brain when the brain thinks we are threatened. Tissues (muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves) are just one input for the brain. The brain receives millions of inputs every second before it determines the output (pain or no pain) and processes them at an incredibly rapid rate, millions per second.

These inputs are messages sent to the spinal cord and brain, letting the brain know about temperature (so you know whether to wear a tank top or winter coat), blood flow (is it time to get up and move?), stress levels (hormones including adrenaline and cortisol), movement (your eyes are moving as you read this), and the immune system (such as when you have the flu). If the brain determines that something is a threat it can make you feel pain even in the absence of tissue damage. Processing pain is much more complicated than just a tissue being damaged, so let’s take a deeper look.

Scientists once thought that when tissues are damaged a special “pain center” in our brain lights up telling us we have pain and when tissues are healed this area turns off. We now know through brain scans that when we experience pain, nine areas of our brain light up, we call this our neuromatrix. Everyone experiences pain differently, my pain is different from your pain and your pain is different than your neighbor’s pain but we all have the same nine areas light up, they just light up differently. So what are the nine areas, what are they responsible for, and most importantly why does the neuromatrix matter?

  1. Premotor/Motor Cortex – organizes and prepares us for movement
  2. Cingulate Cortex – concentration and focus
  3. Prefrontal Cortex – problem solving and memory
  4. Amygdala – fear and addiction
  5. Sensory Cortex – sensory discrimination
  6. Hypothalamus/Thalamus – response to stress and motivation
  7. Cerebellum – movement and cognition
  8. Hippocampus – memory and fear conditioning
  9. Spinal Cord – first stop to process information from peripheral inputs (tissues) before sending the info up to the brain

Understanding that there are several areas of the brain that control pain is important. We now know that these nine areas do not just light up together when we experience pain but also communicate with each other when we experience other events such as memories and coordinating movement. This helps explain why when some people experience pain for prolonged periods they report difficulty concentrating at work, feel more stress, have a harder time completing physical activities, or can experience pain without tissue damage.

The good news: we can change the way that our brains light up through treatment interventions used in physical therapy. Education, manual therapy, trigger point dry needling, physical activity, and modalities are all ways that physical therapists can modify brain inputs to help people experience less pain and increase our ability to perform functional activities.

If you’re in pain, don’t wait any longer! Click here to make an appointment at your nearest clinic.

In Health,

Ted Carter, PT, DPT, OCS, TPS, CSCS, Cert. DN

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

 

Most people work around eight hours a day while sitting at a desk. This can put a lot of long-term stress throughout multiple regions of the body and can also create tight muscles through the hip musculature.

Three of these muscle groups that get very restricted and tight after sitting for long durations are the hamstrings, hip flexors and gluteal muscles. If these muscles become tight, they can contribute to pain or discomfort through the hips, inner thigh and even in the low back.

Stretching these muscle groups can be simple, effective and efficient during the work day. They can also give your body much needed movement after you have been sitting at your desk for a long period of time.

Here are three stretches to target the gluteal, hamstring and hip flexor muscle groups at your work:

  1. Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
    For this stretch, start by standing at your desk and put one leg in front of the other. Slightly bend the knee of the leg in front while moving your hips forward over the front leg. While this motion is happening, take both arms and reach over your head while looking at the ceiling. This should cause a stretch to be felt through the upper thigh of the leg that is behind you. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds for both legs.
  1. Seated Hamstring Stretch
    To begin this stretch, scoot yourself to the front of your chair. Straighten one of your legs while the other leg stays bent to help stabilize you. Bend your back and reach down to touch the toes of the foot that is extended. This should cause you to feel a stretch through the back of your upper leg that is extended. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds for both legs.
  1. Seated Figure Four Stretch
    Start this stretch by sitting upright in your chair at the desk. Cross one of your legs to where the ankle of that leg is resting on top of the knee of the leg that is still in contact with the ground. Take both hands and rest them on the knee of the leg that is crossed. Then gently bend forward. You should feel a stretch through the back of the hip of the leg that is crossed. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.

The stretches described above should not cause pain, but should help stretch tight muscles through the hip region. These stretches can help keep your hips from becoming tight and can also help with preventing hip and low back pain that can be caused from sitting for a long duration. If you already have hip or low back pain and these stretches are not enough to help with decreasing it while you sit at your desk at work, there may be more of an underlying issue at hand and you may benefit from seeing a physical therapist to help with addressing the issue.

Do you have lower back or hip pain from long days of sitting at work? Find a Foothills Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy clinic near you to get your move back and start feeling your best at work!

A strong and well-conditioned back is much better prepared to bear occasional stress than a weak back is.  Nonetheless, athletes are at a high risk for back pain and injury due to the frequency of strain on their bodies.

According to health reports, up to 20% of all sports injuries involve the lower back or neck. Runners, for instance, are prone to injury of the lumbar spine (lower back) due to repetitive impact with each stride. Contact sports, on the other hand, tend to put the cervical spine (neck) in risk of injury.

After injury has been sustained, back pain therapy in AZ is a proven solution to improve your health and reclaim your ability to function and exercise as comfortably as possible. Physical therapy for back pain can also prevent injury from worsening.

When suffering from back pain, try these exercises to relieve your discomfort. It’s best to consult a physician or physical therapist to discuss your condition and whether these exercises are right for you.

  • Ankle lifts
    • Lay on your back. Alternate lifting your ankles up and down off the floor. Repeat x 10.
  • Cat/Cow stretch
    • Lower yourself to your hands and knees. Slowly round your back upwards into an arch. Then, slowly drop your abdomen toward the floor, pushing your shoulders up and stomach down. Repeat, slowly and smoothly moving between the positions. Repeat x 15.
  • Heel raises
    • Stand up straight with your weight evenly distributed. Slowly raise your heels off the ground until you’re standing on your toes. Slowly return them to the ground. Repeat x 20.
  • Knee-to-chest stretch
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Using both hands, pull your right knee into your chest and hold it there for 15 to 30 seconds. Lower your right foot back to the floor. Repeat on the left side. Repeat x 10.
  • Shoulder squeeze
    • Sit on a backless surface. Tuck in your chin and square your chest, then stretch your shoulders backwards to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds, release. Repeat x 5.

For more tips on achieving optimal fitness and well being, turn to Foothills Sports Medicine’s physical therapy centers for compassion and expertise. With 15 locations throughout Arizona, we provide communities with the most convenient, restorative and personalized experience possible. Call us today to schedule an appointment!

about the author

Does your neck hurt reading this? Spending alot of time on the computer can cause shoulder, neck and mid-back tightness and pain. That can lead to other problems like pinched nerves, compensations and muscle degeneration. Other times you might experience muscle tightness and spasms from a sports injury or ‘over-doing it’ either in the gym, on the playing field or just in the garden!  Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN) can alleviate chronic and acute pain.

TDN is a treatment for muscular tightness and spasm which commonly follows injuries and often accompanies the degenerative processes. This muscular tightness and spasm will cause compression and irritation of the nerves exiting the spine. When the nerves are irritated, they cause a protective spasm of all the muscles to which they are connected. This may lead to carpel tunnel, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, decreased mobility and chronic pain.

How does TDN work? Small, thin needles are inserted in the muscles at the trigger points causing the pain referral. The muscles then contract and release, improving flexibility of the muscle and decreasing symptoms.

This is definitely a helpful therapy technique that relieves pain for many people. If you think it might help you, contact Foothills Sports Medicine–North Central Phoenix or Old Town Scottsdale for a Rapid Recovery® assessment.  https://foothillsrehab.com/contact-us.html

Our backs are involved in everything we do and are the foundation for every movement we make.  We cannot sit, stand, walk, or reach without involving our back. And, since approximately 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, it is crucial that we understand our backs better.

So, how do you know when your back pain really needs professional attention or when it’s okay to just stick-it-out with an ice pack? Here are some guidelines that may help:

How much does it hurt?

If you are experiencing back pain for the first time, congratulations, you are old.  Not really.  It is common for 1st episodes of back pain to occur in the mid-twenties to early thirties.  They often resolve quickly but may be associated with more trauma since most of us tend to be more active in that age range.  If you have one or two occasions a year when your back hurts, don’t wait for the next one.  This could mean that your spine has some significant mobility issues that need to be addressed.  You don’t want to put off getting your back examined because those one or two episodes could turn into three or four occurrences or one big incidence of back pain that can really leave you immobilized.

Where is the pain located?

If your pain is localized to a small area of your low back it is likely that your injury is not as severe.  If, on the other hand, your pain travels down into your buttocks and into the back of your thigh or leg, then you should consult a healthcare professional.

Is your back irritable?

You can often tell something about the severity of a back pain by how irritable it is.  If you find that every movement bothers your low back then it is definitely more severe than someone who only has pain when they bend to one direction.  Try to pay attention to which movements trigger your pain because it can help your doctor and physical therapist determine the problem.

Snap, crackle, pop!

Some back pain episodes are precipitated by a pop or significant pain.  Next, the pain goes away only to come back intensely the next morning.  This often suggests that chemical irritation (which takes time to develop) has occurred and a significant inflammatory process is occurring.  This is a good instance where you should see a healthcare professional.  They need to determine the extent of the damage and possibly control the inflammation.

Is it getting better?

If you notice steady improvements day by day then your body is naturally healing.  Try to be careful though, you don’t want to justify mild improvements.  If you haven’t seen a total recovery in one week then you should consult a professional just to be sure.  If you are noticing a regression then, obviously, your back does need some help

We need to be vigilant about taking care of our backs now. Let’s face it; we only have one spine and a long life to live with it. If you aren’t sure – be proactive. Foothills Sports Medicine offers free Rapid Recovery® injury assessments. Call or email us at www.foothillsrehab.com/contact/ to schedule a visit with a physical therapist.

Visit our blog next week and learn the ‘Core Essentials’ – 3 great exercises to keep your back and abdominals strong.

Hint: It has nothing to do with a gun.

A trigger point usually consists of a small band of muscle which feels knotty. It is sometimes painful when touched, but the pain is often referred to another area of the body. A trigger point in the shoulder, for example, might cause a headache.

What causes a trigger point? Acute trauma or repetitive micro-trauma may lead to the development of stress on muscle fibers and the formation of trigger points. Trigger points are thought to be due to an accumulation within deep muscle of the waste products of physical activity. This causes localized muscle tension and spasm which may make the points feel like small nodules.

Patients may have regional, persistent pain resulting in a decreased range of motion in the affected muscles. These include muscles used to maintain body posture, such as those in the neck, shoulders, hip and pelvic girdle.

Trigger points may manifest as tension headache, jaw pain (TMJ), tinnitus (ringing in the ear), decreased range of motion in the legs, low back and neck pain. Trigger points have also been found to be related to shoulder pain, carpal tunnel, sciatica, hip/knee pain and foot/ankle pain. Usually, a physical therapist will ‘feel-out’ a hypersensitive bundle, or knot, of muscle fiber associated with a trigger point. Hands-on pressure of the trigger point will elicit pain directly over the affected area and/or cause radiation of pain toward a zone of reference and a local twitch response.

Physical therapy has been shown to be one of the most effective treatments to inactivate trigger points and provide prompt relief of symptoms. Physical therapy treatment, such as the strain/counter-strain technique, ischemic compression, cupping, massage, myofascial release, active release techniques, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, joint mobilization therapy and corrective exercises, are used to ease the tension, numbness and pain associated with trigger points.

The key to success with trigger point symptoms is to be consistent with therapy and to know what caused the tightness in the first place so that you can avoid it in the future.

Our backs are involved in everything we do and are the foundation for every movement we make.  We cannot sit, stand, walk, or reach without involving our back. And, since approximately 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives, it is crucial that we understand our backs better.

So, how do you know when your back pain really needs professional attention or when it’s okay to just stick-it-out with an ice pack? Here are some guidelines that may help:

 How much does it hurt?

If you are experiencing back pain for the first time, congratulations, you are old.  Not really.  It is common for 1st episodes of back pain to occur in the mid-twenties to early thirties.  They often resolve quickly but may be associated with more trauma since most of us tend to be more active in that age range.  If you have one or two occasions a year when your back hurts, don’t wait for the next one.  This could mean that your spine has some significant mobility issues that need to be addressed.  You don’t want to put off getting your back examined because those one or two episodes could turn into three or four occurrences or one big incidence of back pain that can really leave you immobilized.

Where is the pain located?

If your pain is localized to a small area of your low back it is likely that your injury is not as severe.  If, on the other hand, your pain travels down into your buttocks and into the back of your thigh or leg, then you should consult a healthcare professional.

Is your back irritable?

You can often tell something about the severity of a back pain by how irritable it is.  If you find that every movement bothers your low back then it is definitely more severe than someone who only has pain when they bend to one direction.  Try to pay attention to which movements trigger your pain because it can help your doctor and physical therapist determine the problem.

Snap, crackle, pop!

Some back pain episodes are precipitated by a pop or significant pain.  Next, the pain goes away only to come back intensely the next morning.  This often suggests that chemical irritation (which takes time to develop) has occurred and a significant inflammatory process is occurring.  This is a good instance where you should see a healthcare professional.  They need to determine the extent of the damage and possibly control the inflammation.

 Is it getting better?

If you notice steady improvements day by day then your body is naturally healing.  Try to be careful though, you don’t want to justify mild improvements.  If you haven’t seen a total recovery in one week then you should consult a professional just to be sure.  If you are noticing a regression then, obviously, your back does need some help

We need to be vigilant about taking care of our backs now. Let’s face it; we only have one spine and a long life to live with it. Be proactive and consult your physician or a physical therapist on what you can do to avoid back pain.  There are many facilities that offer core conditioning classes that will strengthen and develop your trunk muscles which may help curb pain and/or prevent back injury.