Ergo Breaks: “Motion is Lotion”

Ergonomics March 23, 2021

Ergo Breaks: “Motion is the Lotion” with Dr. Bob Niklewicz PT, DHSc, CEAS II “The Ergo Whisperer”

Review of the Basics:
You have 209 bones in your body and where two bones meet is called a Joint. There are over 600 muscles and they do work by ONLY PULLING or shortening, they never push.    When muscles are shortened and tight, they have REDUCED CIRCULATION! This issue causes fatigue and a feeling of stiffness. Also, it MAY cause damage to the muscle tissue itself from reduced circulation.

Let’s look only at the Elbow for an example. When you are reaching for your morning cup of coffee muscles on the back side of your elbow PULL to make your arm/elbow go out straight. To get the cup to your lips the muscles on the front side of the elbow PULL to bend the elbow and move the cup to your lips. This system is true at EVERY joint. When you hold a joint in one position, the muscles are said to be in a STATIC position. This means they are shortened and holding tight. Thus, circulation is compromised.

In the big picture, when you are sitting at your desk, your muscles hold your bones steady for periods of time in specific positions.  Certain muscle groups will be held in a shorten position at the neck, elbows, front of the chest, hips and knees, and wrists. Dia 1.

Diagram 1

This is even worse when you are not in a neutral posture. Dia 2.   

Diagram 2

All of the same areas (neck, elbows, front of the chest, hips and knees, and wrists) are stressed with more tension due to the pull of gravity. It has to be countered by your muscles becoming MORE tense.  This is especially true at the neck, shoulders and low back. The shoulders, forearms and wrists take extra stress as they are now holding you up while leaning forwards to type. The neck also is stressed in diagram 2. The VDT (monitor screen) is too low and the keyboard is too high.

KEY CONCEPT:  The goal of the ERGO BREAK is to RELAX the muscles to allow circulation.

You can download our free ergo break poster in PDF at the bottom of this page in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

If you are ONLY sitting to do your job, the muscle groups mentioned above, NEED to be moved. Every 20-30 minutes is recommended. I suggest using the 12 and 6 positions on the clock as cues to change positions. The first CHANGE of positions is to STAND-UP!

“Well then, what are my options?”

REALLY???  This is a Newsletter from The Back School that promotes good Ergonomics.  If you have taken our classes you know about ERGO BREAKS!  Ergo Breaks are a good place to start. So, check out these Ergo Break sheets in English, Spanish and Mandarin on The Back School Website.

Of course, Ergo Breaks are not your only option. So, start with:

  1. Resting your eyes at least 15 minutes every two hours of computer use. Do a different task.
  2. Try looking away from the screen and stare into the distance at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  3. Enlarge the text on your screen.  Use the Control-Scroll feature on PC’s, or Command Scroll on Mac’s.
  4. Reduce the glare from light sources around you. Do not have a severe contrast between room light and VDT light.
  5. Try to keep the brightness intensity of the VDT close to the level of room light. This means do not place your VDT in front of a window. Also, do not place your back toward the window.  This will cause a glare from the window light behind you on your VDT.
  6. KEEP your glasses and screen CLEAN.
  7. Avoid displays that have a “flicker” to them.
  8. If you use a document holder, place it directly between your keyboard and the VDT. Angle the holder in order not to block your view of the VDT.
  9. Avoid: Artistic letter FONTS, dark backgrounds with dark colored font, small font sizes.

NOTE: In certain eye disorders, a darker background actually is better. If you have such issues, consult your eye care professional for what is best for you.

  1. See your eye care professional on a regular basis. If you are under 40 that should be at least every two years. If OVER 40, you should be checking in with them every year.

   Other options include:

  1. Blink often and use eye drops suggested by your eye care professional.
  2. Adjust the contrast on your VDT to at least 70% and as high as 100% for the sharpest image. In darker rooms the contrast may feel better at less than 100%.
  3. Adjust brightness to be balanced by the surrounding ambient light. The brightness varies but should feel comfortable at around 70-80%, depending on the light in the room.

 **NOTE: With a bright screen, your pupils will become smaller which will increase your depth of field. This means you can see more with improved sharpness.

  • Move your VDT to a distance where you can see the VDT(s) without leaning forward or turning your head more than 10-15 degrees. Using larger VDTs will require you to push them further away AND to enlarge the font at the same time.

In closing, the message is that you MUST NOT ignore or under-estimate the work you require of your body or eyes when working at a computer in STATIC postures. Too often computer users work too long before allowing their bodies and especially their eyes to rest and recover. Therefore, protect your body and eyes every way you can or risk being limited or disabled from eye strain, muscle fatigue, headaches, or worse. Those concerns could force you to stop all activities permanently. 

                       “The Eyes are the Mirror of your Soul”, don’t blur the vision.

You can find out more about adding movement to your work day in our recently uploaded webinar “De-Stress at Your Desk” as well as our new online course “Upper Extremity Injury Prevention in the Office.

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