October is National Safe Work Month and this year's theme is 'A moment is all it takes'. A safety incident can happen at any moment in any workplace. This month encourages Australian workers to think ahead to prevent harmful situations and also incorporate simple movements into the working day to avoid potential injuries. Approximately one in two Australian workers spend 55% of the day seated , highlighting the urge for Australian office workers to look after their physical health even more. Sitting down for extended periods of time can lead to back and neck problems due to poor posture or awkward sitting posture. If left unresolved, it can result in painful chronic conditions. Leading Spinal Surgeon, Dr Michael Wong shares his top tips on what Australian workers should do regularly to prevent negative physical impacts on their body.
Reduce sedentary behaviour with breaks throughout the day
"Prolonged sitting and a lack of physical activity results in an immense toll on the body and are connected with a number of health problems such as premature degeneration of spinal discs, inflammation of joints, connective tissues and nerves. In a desk environment, it is important to get out of the chair and stretch out limbs and joints every 30-45 minutes. It is helpful to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, which can be facilitated by standing desks or standing while speaking on the phone. You may want to explore creative ways of doing more physical activities at work. For example, keeping a cup of water next to you will encourage you to get up to walk to the toilet while at the same time, keeping you well hydrated."
Regular exercise or movement
"It is essential to move or do simple exercises throughout the work day as it has been proven to reduce muscle discomfort and eye strain. There are a number of quick stretching exercises that can be done to help your upper and lower back. Do neck stretches - keep your chin tucked in, lower your ear to shoulder and hold for 10 seconds and then repeat on either side. Chin tucks consist of straightening your neck, tucking your chin in, moving it upwards and repeat it several times. Another exercise is shoulder rolls, which consist of moving your shoulders in a circular position forwards twice and then backwards twice. Repeat this action a few times. Lastly, there are elbow stretches. These consist of intertwining fingers and palm outwards, straighten the arms and hold for 10 seconds and repeat with the other arm."
Ensure correct sitting posture
"Having the correct sitting posture is often overlooked or commonly forgotten about as people get stuck into their daily work routine. Make sure the computer screen is adjusted to eye level to minimise neck strain. Your elbow should be at a right angle on the table to reduce shoulder, arm and wrist pain. Place your thighs parallel to the floor and support your feet adequately with or without a footrest. Utilise good lumbar support by using a back rest to support the lumbar curve."
Think before doing potentially risky physical tasks
"It may sound obvious, but think before doing. Before proceeding with tasks that requires more intense physical movement, consider the potential risks, hazards and outcome. Also consider different methods to perform that task and choose the best solution with minimal risk involved. It is important to remember that people are more likely to make mistakes and get hurt when they are tired. Therefore it may be best to plan important activities in the morning, when you are less tired, to minimise risk. Whether it is lifting heavy objects or moving furniture, ask for help. Get someone to give you a hand to avoid unnecessary strain on your body."
For more information, visit www.drmwong.com
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