We all have one thing in common: we were not designed to sit continuously for long periods of time. So, what can be done about this, while still being able to get our work done? One simple way to get more movement into your work day is to pause at least once an hour to stretch. What kind of stretches, you ask?
Bob Anderson has provided his book “Stretching in the Office” (copyright 2002, ISBN – 13:978-0-936070-29-2) a guide for stretching within the office environment. It reviews basic ergonomics of the computer workstation, describes how to stretch safely, details 43 basic stretches that can easily be done in an office setting, and it provides stretching routines that can be done in a variety of situations, even when waiting by the copier or while on the phone.
When considering any exercise program, stretching included, one should always be in good health without pre-existing injury. This book is not for the person who already has a repetitive strain injury, rather it is meant for those wishing to prevent injury. Persons with pre-existing conditions should consult their healthcare provider prior to performing any stretching routine. Some stretches can actually cause harm in some situations. For example, forward trunk bending can cause pain and other symptoms to worsen if a disc bulge or herniation is present.
This book contains easy to understand instructions and diagrams with sound knowledge on how to stretch, including important instructions like not to bounce or push through pain. The stretches overall are gentle in nature; however, caution should be exercised with any stretches in this book that require trunk or neck rotation or pulling/holding a limb while stretching. For example, when stretching the neck while moving the ear to the shoulder the arm on the same side as the stretch can be held, but care should be taken not to pull the limb. When rotating the trunk or neck care should be taken to not over rotate, which may cause injury. The author does advocate different stretching durations (anywhere from 5 to 20 seconds) for stretching different muscle groups; however, for very stubborn or stiff muscles up to 30 seconds may be necessary to release muscle tension. Lastly, care should be taken to read the instructions in the front of the book as to how to use the book. Detailed instructions on how to safely perform each stretch is found in the later part of the book.
So, get ready, set, and safely stretch, but remember don’t forget to move!
Sandra Thomsen, PT, is EWI Works’ Work Rehab Consultant and has provided our clients expert ergonomic assessments, particularly specializing in Return to Work assessments.