Office Ergo Breaks with Dr. Bob Niklewicz PT, DHSc, CEAS II “The Ergo Whisperer”
Office Ergo Breaks- The “Chicken Neck”, “W” and “Gee” Exercises
One of the most common questions asked about Ergo Breaks is “Which exercises should I do during the Ergo Break?”
The second question is, “Do I have to do ALL OF THOSE???!”
The short answer is “Yes, you do have to do them.” The longer answer is, “In the office setting, there are some areas that should be focused on more often than others.” This means some areas need to be addressed every break while others can be done less often.
The muscles for the: eyes, neck, shoulders and breathing should get priority in the office setting over the: trunk, low back, legs and feet. I am NOT saying that you don’t have to do exercises for the second muscle groups. They are important too, but the first group needs more focus. Ergo Breaks should occur approximately every 30 minutes. Cycling through several exercises each break is desirable, but some exercises should have priority.
I will make this disclaimer up front as to my comments below: “You can do what you wish in your office.– The exercises below are based on my experiences and the anatomy/physiology of the working body that I have observed. –You should not experience discomfort/pain during your performance of them. Please STOP if you do and contact your healthcare provider. –If you have special needs and/or have worked one on one with other healthcare professionals, I will defer to that personal interaction and problem-solving recommendations made for you.”
Review of the Basics:
You have 209 bones 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. There are muscles outside and INSIDE your eyes that can fatigue. When muscles are shortened and tight, they have REDUCED circulation. This causes fatigue and stiffness. This MAY cause damage to the muscle tissue itself from reduced circulation. Therefore, we NEED to relax the muscle tissue and increase circulation. To do that we have to change our posture/position from sitting Dia. 1 to standing Dia 2. If you are already standing, sit down slightly forwards in the chair to do these exercises. Dia 3.
Dia 2a is the best starting posture for the back extension exercise shown later. Often, we tend to look like Dia 2b. You should endeavor to stand with your head over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, knees and ankles. This can be enhanced by “tilting” your pelvis to flatten your back and tighten your abdominal muscles as shown in Dia 2a. Dia 3 indicates that that if you prefer to do these exercises while seated you should sit forwards on the chair to do them.
KEY CONCEPT: The goal of the Ergo Break is to help RELAX the muscles and increase circulation by first tightening / shorten the muscles that were in static overstretched postures.
The “Chicken Neck” or “Double Chin “exercise is commonly called the “Chin Tuck.” This Ergo Break exercise moves the head back over the shoulders after being allowed to drift and hang forwards while looking at the VDT. Dia 4.
This will stretch the muscles in front of the throat and neck while relaxing the muscles at the back of the neck. Take a deep breath in as you tuck your chin in, hold 3-5 seconds then blow out as you relax. Repeat 3-5 times. The breath work is VERY helpful too. It provides extra oxygen for your body and an Ergo Break for your brain.
The “W” exercise is also called, “Shoulder Retraction” or “Neck Shoulder Stretch.” Dia 5. This exercise will stretch the muscles in the front of the shoulders and the chest wall. This also strengthens the shoulder muscles of the back and shoulder blades.
Dia 5. The forearms/hands are pointed upwards while the shoulder blades are pinched together. The “W” is shown in the blue lines. The brown area between the shoulder blades is being squeezed together. To really get the greatest benefit from this exercise, take a DEEP breath in as you start pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold for 3-5 seconds and blow out as you drop your arms down. Repeat 3-5 times.
Dia 6 is the “Back Bend” or “Gee” (Gee that feels good) back extension exercise. The starting position is standing as seen in Dia 2a above. The hands are placed where the pelvis joins the low back area. Lean back over your hands and you will experience a stretch of the abdominals, front of the chest and neck. Hold 3-5 seconds and repeat 5 times. This movement should not cause back or leg pain.
Lastly, office workers must not forget to exercise our EYES. In addition to muscles outside the eyeball that produce movement there are muscles inside that adjust the tension on the lens to control the focus. Looking at the same distance over time (like viewing at your computer or television screen) will fatigue both sets of muscles. When the muscle fatigues it will lengthen and your vision will blur. In addition, your eyes may feel dry because you do NOT blink as often when staring at a fixed distance. Blinking and keeping your eyes moist is an exercise too.
The automatic response to these issues is to move your head forwards in order to refocus your view. The Ergo Break exercise for your eyeballs is commonly called the: “20-20-20 Rule” exercise. “Every 20 minutes, look at an object that is at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. I borrowed the following graphic from the University of Maryland for my example and tickler.
These were a sample of some Office Ergo Breaks for the eyes, neck, shoulders and respiratory muscles that should be done on a regular basis. Doing the above exercises among others, will improve your circulation and reduce fatigue. Participating in a full range of Ergo Break exercises for the whole body is strongly recommended. When your Ergo Break time is short, doing the ones we have reviewed will go a long way to keep you healthy, happy and productive.
Remember it is YOUR body. Use it correctly or you could lose it.