Ergonomic desk set-up diagram

Setting up an Ergonomic Workstation

This post is intended to help you set up an ergonomic workstation at work or home. Sitting at a desk for hours during the workday can be a killer for your body. No matter how well a workstation is designed, problems can arise if you don’t pay attention to the way your body is situated. Working at a computer often involves very few changes in body position and your body was made to move around and not to be sitting in a chair for hours on end.

Help your body by setting up a workstation that is more ergonomic

Here we go through a few ways to create a more ergonomic or more efficient and comfortable working environment. At the bottom of the post are some suggested stretches to help your body move and avoid any muscle pain or strain that can set in.

When creating a more ergonomic workstation it’s important that you adjust the furniture and equipment to suit your individual needs. This will place you in a good body posture while also reducing muscle strain and fatigue. You most likely sit in a chair so let’s concentrate on that first.

Adjust the chair’s backrest height, either up or down, to support the lumbar curve (small) of your back. To find your lumbar curve, hold your arms behind your back and comfortably clasp the opposite forearm near the elbow. When sitting at the computer, ensure your back is straight with your bottom at the back of the seat and make sure that the seat does not touch the back of your knees. This creates the correct position for your spine. If you can have a small foot rest to place your feet on that will take some stress off your lower back and legs.

Next let’s look at your desk position. Ensure that the top of your desk is high enough to allow your legs to fit comfortably underneath. If you use a computer then you more than likely use a keyboard. Position your keyboard so that it is in direct alignment with the computer screen. Make sure that the keyboard is flat to avoid typing on an angle which would put more stress on your wrists. The computer screen can be adjusted, or tilted, to a position that is about an arm’s length from your face and at an angle that your eyes are level with the top of the screen. Position the screen to minimize the glare and harsh reflections on your eyes.

Now that your workplace ‘fits’ you better, let’s look at some simple movements and stretches that are a healthy addition to your working day. When we are busy working we often don’t realize how much time has passed but it is recommended that you take a short break for 5-10 minutes for every hour spent at a workstation. If possible, stand up and walk for this time. This stretches out the legs and lower back, gets the blood moving around the body a little more, and changes your body’s position. It also gives you a short mental break from the work.

Some stretches can also be done: Reach both arms up over the head and push them to the sky while seated or standing. Hold the stretch for 5 to 7 seconds. Relax and repeat 3 to 5 times. This stretches the back, shoulders and arms. Next, take your hand and hold your fingers with the other hand. Slowly bend your wrist down until you feel a stretch on the top of your wrist. Hold the stretch for about 5 seconds. Relax and repeat 3 to 5 times. Change it up a little and slowly bend your wrist up until you feel the stretch on the bottom of your wrist. Hold and relax as you did before.

Be sure to reassess your workstation and adjust it to fit your needs and comfort level regularly and be sure to get up and move around.

Please feel free to check out more posts and tips on stretching and health here!

Check out our recommended ergonomic workstation products:

 

            

         

healthy food

What to Eat to Avoid Inflammation

You are special and your body knows it. Your defense mechanism, your immune system, is actively fighting off foreign microbes, pollen, and chemicals which, in turn, cause the inflammatory response. Small doses, defined as acute inflammation, protect your health. This is completely normal.

The issue lies with a chronic and persistent inflammatory response which is unhealthy. It can cause problems in almost every organ in your body and is linked to major diseases like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, depression, and diabetes. Doctors are continually learning about new approaches to inflammation and how to treat it. One of the best approaches is to focus on what you eat. There are so many foods that can help you reduce inflammation and you can buy them at the store today. Help your body from the inside with these healthy anti-inflammatory foods:

Tomatoes

Contains phytochemical and lycopene which have impressive anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Olive Oil

Oleocanthal is a compound found in olive oil. This prevents the production of enzymes that cause inflammation. To gain the most benefits it is best not to heat this oil as it breaks down the compound.

Berries

There is a compound in berries called Anthocyanins which possess anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins are also responsible for the distinctive colors of red, blue, and purple in berries. So go colorful today and grab two healthy handfuls of your favorite berry. Eat fresh, frozen, or blend to make a smoothie.

Green Leafy Vegetables

Spinach, kale, and collard greens are perfect examples which all contain significant concentrations of vitamins and other nutrients that have been found to reduce chronic inflammation. Heating can destroy some of the nutrients, but can also make these easier to heat. Whatever way you like them, eat your greens!

Nuts

Very nutrient dense, nuts give us a high percentage of good, healthy fat and provide elements which have a major anti-inflammatory effect. Go ahead and eat a few handfuls of almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and peanuts to provide you with an excellent source of vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant and has been proven to reduce inflammation. What a perfect snack idea!

Fatty Fish

Fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, or trout all are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids which has been proven to lower chronic inflammation.

Eat these foods on a daily basis and heal your body from the inside. Happy eating!

Weekend Warrior Injury Prevention Tips

bird dog yoga pose

What is Prehab?

Hate getting injuries that stop your daily routine? One way to help stop them from happening is to start a solid prehab routine. Prehab you say? What is Prehab?

Pre-habilitation, or prehab, is the process of helping yourself steer away from preventable injuries and working on your areas of weakness which can evolve into an issue down the exercise road. Prehab is often overlooked simply because one might see it as something they don’t need right now or it’s a waste of time, but when injury hits, you can only wish you had invested a little of your time into the things which can get you back to neutral.

The best way to increase fitness over the months is to be consistent in your routine and one of the main factors towards that is staying injury free and continuing your work without interruptions. This often means spending time working on joint mobility, stability, and strength. Prehab prepares your body for the long-term and the exercises strengthen the areas that often see the most stress in our everyday movements: your hips, core and shoulders. By strengthening these areas, you will improve your posture and alignment, allowing your joints to move more efficiently. By committing to prehab you’ll be less likely to get those horrible aches and pains that can cause chronic or even debilitating pain.

When working on your prehab exercises you have to focus on correct form. Without correct form, you may as well not be doing the exercises. Be patient and be diligent with these exercises and your body will love you in the long term and you’ll be able to continue doing what you love.

You should be aiming to perform prehab exercises between two to six times a week and the best time to perform it is near the start of a workout as part of your warm-up routine. Many movements can be done without equipment so there’s no excuse! Get your body to neutral and complete these two vital prehab exercises for your lower back, shoulders and core strength:

Bird Dog

This is a key prehab movement. Start on your knees and hands, also known as the table top position. Then, maintaining a neutral spine and tight core, extend opposite arm and leg to full extension. Hold for one second remembering to maintain consistent breathing throughout. See blog post image.

RKC Plank

This is similar to a traditional plank exercise, only tougher. Get into the plank position which is on your toes and forearms. Feet together and face towards the ground. Clenching your hands into fists aim to widen your shoulder blades apart. Now this is the good part of this exercise.

trigger points body diagram

What are Trigger Points?

The term ‘trigger point’ is something you have most likely heard of, but probably know little about. If you have ever had someone treat your trigger points, you know they are a painful annoyance and very tender when worked on.

Basically trigger points form because of muscle injuries, strains, and trauma. When the fibers of the muscle, fascia, ligaments, or tendons become damaged, overworked, overstretched, or inflamed there are tiny tears which occur in the tissue. When the tissue is healing it contracts and becomes twisted and knotted. Blood supply is often restricted in these knotted fibers and a shortening of the muscle fibers is a kind of defense mechanism to protect itself from further injury.

Stress, either physical or emotional, can also influence muscles which can result in a knot or trigger point, resulting in a decreased range of motion and restricted movement around the area. Trigger points can feel like a hard, rope-like or knotted band in the muscle. Picture a string with a knot in it. Your body is more or less 40% muscle fibers so there is a lot of opportunities for these dreaded trigger points to cause you pain.

If you have knotted up muscles and your therapist starts working on ironing out those trigger points, then they will essentially aim to stretch the muscle fibers out and release the pain. You can get your fingertips, thumbs, fist, elbow or whatever feels easiest and most comfortable to you if you want to attack them yourself. For harder to reach spots you might try a tennis, golf or lacrosse ball. Using one of these balls will focus on the point and do a lot better job than a foam roller which is used for a broader area approach to muscle therapy. The goal of this type of self treatment is to achieve a “release”. Aim to stimulate the trigger point by applying a medium, not overly painful, pressure on the point. The trigger point may feel sore for a few hours after you have self treated it, but soon calm down within 24 hours and you should notice a reduction in tightness.

After the release it is a great time to start stretching out the muscles. You should feel some good relief from the stretching, but if you don’t and it even increases the pain then go back to trying to release the trigger point again. You may need to do this cycle several times before you know that you have essentially untied that knot in your muscle.

Relieving your pain from these trigger points and knots is one thing, but you really have to find out why they occurred in the first place so you can stop them from always returning.

close up of fascia

What is Fascia and Why is it so Important?

Have you ever had myofascial release? Lots of people have had it done, but what exactly is ‘fascia’? Why do I need it ‘released’? And why is it so important to keep healthy?

 Your body, as a unit, is supported and protected by fascia as well as your muscles and organs. It plays an important supportive role to the musculoskeletal system as it provides a strong protective sheath around our entire body. Think of fascia like an orange, yes the fruit. Your skin would be like the rind of the orange and if you peeled back that rind you’d see a thick, white, fibrous layer. That thick white part of the orange encompasses the fruit and binds the rind to the center and this is exactly what the fascia does. So next time you peel an orange think of your fascia!

Our body is protected from head to toe with this fascia system that serves as a protective, bonding barrier to our deep soft tissue. Fascia can also be visualized as similar in appearance to a spider’s web. Not only is fascia covering our body right underneath our skin but it is densely woven and penetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and even the organs like our heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The stickiness and fine strong fibers of a spider’s web is similar to your fascia. So why is fascia so important then? It is important because it enables you to perform everyday activities as basic as sitting and standing. Do you need to keep it healthy? Without a doubt. What if the fascia gets damaged? Well fascia, in its normal state is relaxed and able to stretch and move without restriction, but when you experience physical injury the fascia loses flexibility and becomes tight, restricted, and tense. This is that pain you feel before your therapist talks about releasing the tension. Myofascial release is working on fascia linked to and within the muscle which becomes distorted and can pull, twist, and compress the body into misalignment.

Hopefully you can see how important fascia is and the most interesting part is there is still so much scientists are learning about it. Keeping this very important system healthy is vital for your overall health and wellness. Hydration is a big factor. Drink lots of water as it helps fascia deliver nutrients and remove waste and toxins from cells. Regular exercise obviously helps blood flow and muscle movement, but teamed up with a solid stretching routine can help decrease tension buildup in the muscles and fascia. Your body is amazing and your fascia system has a lot to do with that, so be kind to it and stretch, walk and hydrate to a healthier you.

foam rolling

Can Myofascial Release Help Back Pain?

Many people deal with lower back pain every year and in most cases it is mechanical or non-organic simply meaning it isn’t caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture, or cancer.

Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique that can help with that bad back of yours and get you doing the activities you enjoy again. There are several myofascial release techniques that can greatly improve the mobility of the back, as well as the knees, ankles and hips. The goal of these techniques is to manipulate the myofascial tissues, which are those tough membranes that wrap, connect and support your muscles.

Your back is influenced by other muscle areas and by releasing tension in tight glutes, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps it can help improve your back mobility and posture. Using a simple tennis ball or lacrosse ball on a hard surface can do wonders to loosen up those tight connecting areas. By laying on your back and placing the tennis ball on the glutes (commonly known as the ‘butt muscles’) and rolling on it to find that tight spot can release the tension. Reposition the ball on your lower legs just midway between your knee and ankle on your calf muscle and find another point. Roll the ball up and hit the hamstring area. Flip over on your stomach and do it again on the quadriceps which is located between your knee and hip. If you don’t want to lay on the floor you can try these techniques on the bed with the tennis ball on a hardcover book, or any other hard portable surface, to stop it from sinking into the bed cushion. To have added targeted pressure on those sore trigger points you might try a lacrosse ball as it is harder and slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

A foam roller can produce fantastic results for a tight back. It provides broad and superficial strokes like the hands of a trained massage therapist stretching the tissue in multiple directions. If you sit at work all day, you undoubtedly know about stiff upper back muscles, those pesky knots between the shoulder blades and a tight mid back area. Using a foam roller can help iron out those kinks. Firstly, position the foam roller at your mid back. Have your butt on the ground and cross your arms. Slowly extend back over the roller reaching your head to the ground if possible. Roll the foam roller to your upper back keeping your shoulder blades together. This will lengthen those back muscles and ease the pressure built up.

back walking massage

Back Walking Massage

Imagine laying face down on the massage table with your head in the hole. The massage therapist is hovering over you and kneading your back muscles with their heels of their feet working on those pressure points in your shoulders and back. It’s not your run-of-the-mill massage, but it is one getting more and more popular because of the large number of benefits it delivers.

There is a centuries-old massage technique growing in popularity in North America, one which gives increased feeling of well-being and stress relief among other benefits. Back Walking, also known as Ashiatsu, is a bare foot massage option for anyone looking for an extremely beneficial and relaxing deep tissue massage. The word Ashiatsu is derived from ‘ashi’, which means foot, and ‘atsu’ which means pressure. This ancient Eastern massage technique involves a trained therapist using their feet to walk gently up and down the back of a client. The therapist uses pressure to manipulate the muscles through long, flowing strokes, pushing, and pulling movements. The therapist’s own body weight helps obtain a deep tissue massage much more penetrating than that performed by the hands and clients quickly feel the benefits of this type of pressure. Controlled pushing, or kneading, of the muscles can loosen even the tightest areas and can free up all the tension for months of relief. With all of this deep tissue talk a person might think it would be painful or distressing, but it’s quite the opposite. The therapist is commonly holding onto a bar positioned above their head to keep a steady and supportive posture and therefore, doesn’t allow for full bodyweight to be applied on the clients back and body. The pressure is controlled and can be eased or elevated depending on the clients needs and it is always focused on the muscles, never pushing on the joints or spine. While the client gets a deep, relaxing massage the therapist can get quite the workout as the movements are gliding and pushing, similar to a slow dance.

There are many exciting benefits from Back Walking, or Ashiatsu, deep tissue massage that will elevate your well-being and work out those problem areas. Some of the benefits include:

  • Stress relief by providing deep muscle penetration
  • Lymphatic system stimulation to help move waste products from the body
  • Improve flexibility by elongating and kneading the deep muscle fibers
  • Improves posture by reducing stress in the back and shoulder muscles
  • Releases trigger point tensions
  • Help alleviate inflammation in the joints and muscles
  • Improve overall well-being

Want to help that chronic pain, those stiff joints, and tight muscles then walk out of the ordinary massage zone and let a trained Ashiatsu massage therapist walk on you.