Written by Rachel Algra, Certified Pilates Instructor/Owner of Firehaus Pilates
The number of workers suffering from a repetitive stress injury or disorder (RSD) is on the rise — mostly because of the increased use of computers in the workplace. You may or may not be surprised to find that Wikipedia now has an entry entitled “Computer-induced medical problems,” described as “various problems a computer user can develop from prolonged and incorrect computer use.” If this doesn’t seem too hard to believe, there was an article written in the U.K. recently entitled “I-pad Hand.” The article looks at the rising number of complaints that doctors are receiving regarding pain in the arms and hands associated with increased usage of I-pods, I-pads and I-phones! A sure sign that we are a computer based society.
Though there are many advantages to computer technology, there is a growing concern for the increase in work-related musculoskeletal disorders (or muscle pain and tightness) associated with prolonged computer use. Nearly half of the U.S. currently uses a computer at work. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries published an article stating the top “work-related musculoskeletal disorders” consist of:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (the compression of the median nerve in the wrist).
- Epicondylitis (swelling of the tendon at the elbow).
- Rotator cuff syndrome (swelling and tearing of the tendons around the shoulder).
- Sciatic pain (pain radiating from the lower back to below the knee).
So how can Pilates help you avoid the aches and pains associated with our computer-based world? The focus of a Pilates workout is posture and efficient movement. Texting, typing and surfing the web, are activities that can result in postural “meltdown” (for lack of a better word)! A forward head position, shoulders rounded, and a “slouched” or rounded back. Each one of the above creates unnecessary stress on the muscles and underlying structure, causing overstretching to some muscles and tension in others! Put all of them together and you are greatly increasing your risk for pain.
At Firehaus Pilates, we try to incorporate postural exercises into every workout, targeting the areas prone to stress from computer work. Strengthening the upper back, stretching the pectoralis muscles and proper shoulder stability are a few areas we address first. Most importantly, we educate our clients so they are more aware of their posture and give them tools to correct it on a daily basis. Computers are definitely not going away, so learning to stay pain free while using them is incredibly important! Add Pilates to your routine, your body will thank you!
Get started on correcting your posture NOW by following these 5 simple steps while sitting at your computer!
- Sit close to the edge of your seat with your feet flat on the floor
- Lift the chest as if to be lifted up towards the ceiling by your sternum, opening the shoulders, widening the collar bones
- GENTLY slide the shoulders down away from your ears (imagine you are sliding your shoulder blades down your back into your back pants pockets)
- Grow taller, lifting out of the top of your head – imagine the ceiling is slowly sinking and you have to press it back up with the top of your head
- Lastly, gently draw your belly button in towards your spine
*Test yourself throughout the day to see how long you can maintain this posture!
*Get more answers to your questions about posture and pain associated with prolonged computer use at Firehaus Pilates located in Denver’s Highland / LoHi neighborhood www.firehauspilates.com