There are many exercises that can be done which may alleviate the discomfort or even eliminate the onset of serious musculoskeletal disorders (MSD’s). MSDs cover any injury, damage or disorder to the joints of the upper/lower limbs or the back. Work-related MSDs develop over time and can also result from fractures sustained in an accident. Symptoms include muscle spasms, cramping and stiffness, pain and numbness in the joints, numbness or weakness in one leg, pain in the back or buttocks and repetitive strain injury. Causes of MSD’s include keyboard work and repetitive actions, working in tiring and awkward positions, manual handling (pushing, carrying, lifting), climbing stairs and standing in the same position, such as in retail and conveyor factory work. Repetitive work, without allowing time for sufficient recovery can cause muscle fatigue and inflammation.
Since performing exercises whilst at work is likely to cause interruptions, they would need to be performed during work breaks. Breaks should allow workers to vary their posture and should be taken before workers start getting tired, as it is more difficult to bounce back if one is already severely fatigued. Short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than prolonged occasional breaks. The prevention of MSD’s could be overcome by appropriate work place design and the scheduling of short breaks and stretches. Task variation during periods of repetitive work, such as postural changes, may significantly help reduce muscle fatigue. Breaks that include physical stretching of the body may be more beneficial than just passive breaks.
Whether using a computer work station or at some other sedentary task, one of the first areas to elicit pain is the eye area, due to straining at the screen or at some close object. Exercises to alleviate pain include blinking the eyes more frequently and focusing on distant objects (causes less strain than focusing on nearer objects). If the neck is kept in a certain position over longer periods, upper limb disorders may develop. Neck glides are suggested to alleviate any discomfort. To do this, one should sit up straight, and glide the head back as far as it will go. Then glide forward and repeat 3 times. Shoulder shrugs can be done to help. To perform a shoulder shrug, one needs to sit up straight and bring the shoulders up towards the ears and repeat 3 times. Upper back stretches consist of raising the hands to rest on the shoulders, using the arms to push shoulders back. Keeping elbows down, this should be help for 15 seconds and repeated 3 times. For the hands, a forward press of the hands include gently unlocking ones’ fingers and keeping the psalms away from the body, gently stretching the forearm muscles, fingers and the muscles between the shoulder blades.
Even though some exercises may result in the work flow being interrupted, it is imperative to consider a way of integrating them into the daily work plan. Even though some of these exercises are conspicuous and may cause some embarrassment (especially when doing them in a busy office!) there is no doubt that some kind of frequent daily stretching can increase circulation, productivity and alertness.