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San Clemente Journal

Stress on the Job

May 05, 2005 03:05PM ● By Don Kindred

    Everyone knows that the easy jobs are the ones in which one sits all day. After all how stressful can that be? I would suggest that what “everyone” knows is not necessarily correct.
Sitting is not often viewed as a health and safety concern. Still, most have felt stiffness in their back, pains in their neck or shoulders and tingling in their toes after sitting for prolonged periods. In fact, people who sit at work for extended periods of time run a high risk of low back pain and injury, second only to people who perform heavy lifting tasks. 
    Office workers, teachers and call-centre operators are increasingly joining builders, miners and other industrial workers as victims of crippling workplace injuries. Those who sit for extended periods of time at a desk or behind the wheel of a car - law enforcement officers, school bus drivers, dental hygienists and even school children – are all at risk, particularly if their daily lifestyle is a sedentary one.
    As a doctor or Chiropractic I have seen hundreds of people injured due to sitting related stress. It has convinced me that the millions who make a living while sitting, needlessly endure pain and stress in their lives because these maladies are thought to be a necessary progression of the automation age. 
Risk factors of sitting and what they do to the body. 
1) Those required to sit for extended periods are exposed to numerous risk factors like poorly designed seating systems and work areas. These are often coupled with poor posture and awkwardly held postures. The body was designed for movement. Static and prolonged postures held in awkward positions reduce circulation and create stress on the musculoskeletal system.
2) Localized contact stress such as a tight workstation will put pressure on the legs. Repetitive motion will add stress and strain to the joints involved. Extreme temperatures, drafts and vibrations also contribute. Combine these elements with poorly designed sitting stations, and you have a formula for injury.
3) Sustaining any static posture, like sitting, increases demands on the muscles, ligaments and other soft tissues of the musculoskeletal system. This in turn leads to overall discomfort and pain in the back, neck and shoulders. Other common symptoms reported by workers who sit for most of their workday include: eye strain, headaches, fatigue and even numbness and tingling in the limbs. 
4) Sitting alters the normal curvature of the spine and puts pressure on the discs. With prolonged sitting this pressure can cause herniated discs, premature deterioration of discs and overall spinal degeneration. The resulting chronic back pain and possible nerve damage impacts a workers ability to perform everyday functions both at work and home and may lead to permanent disability. 
5) Excessive sitting restricts the circulation of blood to the lower extremities resulting in swelling, pain, numbness and tingling in the legs and feet. Other potential health concerns include edema, varicose veins and blood pooling. Blood clots can occur in the veins and if these become mobile may result in blockages in the lungs, brain or heart, which in turn may have fatal consequences.
Reducing the stress on the body due to excessive sitting is crucial to minimizing injury. This would include changes in your workstation and stress reduction while on the job, as well as keeping the body physically more fit. 
Minimizing or eliminating the risk of injury from sitting.
    In the workstation a properly fitting chair can reduce much stress and strain. Arranging the workstation to accommodate those activities done most often to eliminate excessive reaching or bending, is also helpful. The use of headsets and footrests and the redirecting of vents to avoid drafty conditions, can help too.
    Reducing stress while on the job can also be accomplished with deep breathing, positive imagery and stretching.
Deep Breathing: Simply sit up comfortably erect and breathe in slowly through the nose. Hold for a few seconds and let breath out slowly through the mouth. Repeat several times.
Positive Imagery: Sit back relaxed with slow even breaths. After a couple of moments picture a relaxing image from your experience and picture yourself in it. Notice as many details as possible and continue until you feel the tension leave your body. Open your eyes, do a light stretch and you will be ready to go.
Stretching: Reaching your arms straight up overhead, sit with your legs outstretched and bend your upper body forward between your legs to stretch the back. Bending from side to side while standing will help circulation and relieve tension.
    An area of prevention most often neglected is proper care of the spine and nerve system. Regular Chiropractic checkups will greatly help reduce the stress on your system by catching nerve irritation early.
    Eating a balanced diet, exercising and stretching regularly, and getting proper rest are huge factors in injury prevention.
These are just of few of the many things you can do to reduce the stress of extended sitting. Activity will be your best friend. Prevention is the best approach. Stay active and reduce the stress on your body with chiropractic care, exercise and proper nutrition. Avoid creating a problem by having a workstation that is designed to work for your body type and the type of work you do. Lastly have a positive mental attitude. Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness. b 
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