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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ergonomic Breaks

Any type of repetitive movement can be taxing on your body, and the type of work we do is no exception. To prevent serious problems later in life with musculoskeletal disorders and the like it is best to make sure you take care of your body prior to the pain. Some things that may help save your hands are simple changes to your work habits and a few short exercises.

Everyone has been told to sit up straight at some time in their life. Sitting up straight for work, even at home, is no exception. A few things you should keep in mind while working are that your back should be in contact with the back of your chair and either straight or reclined, your feet should be flat on the ground or on a footrest or elevated platform, elbows at your side and your wrists straight. Having good posture while working can not only prevent discomfort, but it can also make you more efficient in the end.

I used to type straight through a file before I stopped to go through and proof it. However, I have found that taking the time to go back through and proof every five minutes or so makes me much less uncomfortable at the end of the day. I now take small breaks while I am typing to look over my work. Resting for short periods of time can reduce the pain you may feel later on without having a negative effect on your productivity. The change from typing to resting, even for a few minutes, can do wonders for your body.

Many audio players, such as Express Scribe and Start-Stop, offer a bookmark feature to mark your place so you know where to start proofing when you take your next break. I have also found that the small break usually increases my accuracy when I start up again.

A few easy exercises can also help in keeping any pain at bay and, as an added bonus, improve your dexterity and subsequently increase your speed. Below are a few exercises you are able to do at your desk, laying in bed or just about anywhere else.

  1. - Lightly make a circle with your pointer finger and your thumb.

    - Hold briefly and then stretch your fingers out straight and spread them apart.

    - Repeat with all fingers on both hands.

  2. - Make a loose fist with your palm facing upward, and use the other hand to gently press down on the fist.

    - Hold your fist steady under the pressure of the other for five seconds while keeping your wrist straight.

    - Turn your fist downward and press your knuckles against the open palm of your other hand for five seconds.

    - Turn your fist so it is thumb-side up and press down on your other palm for five seconds.

    - Repeat with your other hand.

  3. - Keeping your fingers relaxed, rest your forearm over a flat surface with your hand over the edge and bend your wrist upward and downward.

    - Slide your wrist back so that your knuckles are on the edge with your fingers hanging over. Move your fingers up and down while holding your wrist straight and your fingers straight and together.