5 Ways to Help Keep you Fit, Happy and Healthy at Work
A patient asked recently, ‘Edd, what can I do to help reduce the risk of re-injury and becoming a patient again?’
This was a great question. Often we focus on treating a problem and reacting when it presents but actually the best way to try keep healthy is to think ahead and to try and avoid the problem occurring in the first place. We look left and right when we cross a road so as not to get run over yet we often carry on regardless with daily tasks feeling our bodies are invincible…… until pain strikes!
I have put together a few suggestions below that you will hopefully find achievable and help you. It is important to understand that we are the creators of our own destiny and we do indeed have the ability to manage our own life and reduce risk of harm to ourselves.
1. Variety is the Spice of Life’ and 2. Balance your body Movements
So let’s say you spend a good portion of your job sitting still, standing still or bending down low repeatedly with little change or variety of posture or movement. Your muscles, joints, ligaments and nerve systems are then placed in a frequent position that they may become tired of. On bending forward, the spine, muscles, ligaments and nerves over the back of the spine are placed in a stretched position and at the front the tummy muscles are slackened .The front half of the discs in the spine have more pressure placed on them when we slouch or bend forward. Alternatively, perhaps you stand up straight for long periods well then the back section of your spine (joints and discs) is in a loaded position. Put a stopwatch on the amount of time you perhaps spend in one position then those tissues accumulate strain. ADD VARIETY to your body positions and activities and these forces are shared amongst different structures through your day and the total accumulation on one area or structure is therefore reduced.
Summary: look at your daily tasks and try and vary the load and postures frequently from sitting/ standing/ walking/ bending and stretching up.
3. Know your Limits
So let’s say you are feeling short on time and you need to get a task done ASAP. You see a big train of trolleys that need moving back and if you can do it in one run you won’t need to come back. Problem being the task is harder than you had thought and the effort to manoeuvre the trolleys results in a back sprain later that day or overnight. The task was too much and has now resulted in pain and despair. Take note of what tasks you have managed in recent weeks and know that you are not trying to double the effort and workload this week. The body can indeed strengthen and adjust to new and bigger forces in time if gradually exercised and given time to recover and strengthen. Don’t expect the muscles, joints, cartilage to all of a sudden cope with big increases in force, they are more likely to become irritated or harmed.
Summary: Know your strength limits and activity levels from previous weeks and keep close to this, within your threshold of ability.
4. Keep Conditioned
Would you expect a sports person who needs speed and strength to achieve their best and avoid injury by not exercising and conditioning their body? The same goes for each of us. If we need to manage most of our day pushing, pulling, walking, standing, lifting, sitting then we should condition ourselves to cope with these forces. Fitness exercises, classes, resistance and flexibility training to a level that allows us to be conditioned to cope with our work activities will reduce risk of strains. If your job involves pushing, pulling or lifting consider joining a gym or joining a fitness class that involves similar activities and gradually increase your tone and strength fit for purpose. If you job involves static standing or sitting for long periods focus on a Pilates class approach looking at posture control and endurance exercises. If your job involves stretching and twisting into small spaces, consider joining a yoga class and improve flexibility.
Summary: Keep your body conditioned for your usual daily tasks.
‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. It is obvious to say that if you do not tell your team/ line manager if you are having a problem with any given task then help and support to find a solution will unlikely be offered. Identify and report any issues early, be it a physical task that you struggle with or a niggle that is building up and effecting your activity. Your employer has a duty to listen and offer constructive support and 9 times out of 10 will have a good plan to assist you and help keep you on track and healthy. Such support may include a better way of managing a task, or advice to follow a work procedure or to be referred for assessment and advice through HR or Occupational Health.
There is no positive outcome in having an unhappy and unhealthy workforce so together you can get on top of issues early and keep on track.
Should you notice a discomfort that is affecting your ability to perform your work tasks, let your line manager know early on. Should it be required, your line manager can refer you for assessment with the physio team here at work where we can offer you advice to help keep you healthy and on track and give your line manager advice too about how best to manage your activity.