By Samantha Benati, BBB Team Lead on Health and Safety Committee
Soft-tissue injuries are frustrating for many. Strains and sprains to the back, neck, wrist, shoulders, knees, and ankles are at the top of the concerns of working in an office environment so it's important for everyone to be aware of the 3 critical keys to preventing these injuries.
Balance is not just about preventing slips, trips, and falls where balance is "lost" and there's hard contact is made with the ground. Balance can become a problem just by leaning forward or back or sideways, where the weight of the upper body isn't squarely over the lower body. This quickly translates into greater whole-body tension due to muscles firing more than they'd otherwise have to resist gravity's pull. This tension often accumulates, potentially building into micro tears in ligaments (sprains) or muscles and tendons (strains.). It's important to remember to use your legs when lifting a box. When sitting at your desk, remember to keep the items you use most close by to avoid over-extending yourself unnecessarily. Finally, remember to sit up straight on your chair and do small stretches. The BBB's Health & Safety board in the BBB kitchen has some useful diagrams in case you have forgotten your Health & Safety orientation.
Many people hold their breaths during tasks (without even noticing it). If you hold your breath during tasks, that builds up cumulative tension and reduces our "buffer area." Sudden unexpected changes result in forces entering the body that can be safely absorbed if there's enough slack in the body—or, if not, alternately build toward soft-tissue injuries when tension increases. For example, small tasks can happen if objects shift or hands momentarily lose grip; exhaling on exertion can help to protect us from soft tissue injuries. There are many simple, easy-to-do breathing practices that you can to increase awareness of your breath and increase soft-tissue safety. Breathing also has another benefit: it increases our ability to have a clear head when making decisions.
How people we hold ourselves in space—whether when sitting stationary, standing, or moving—clearly changes the amount and direction of forces entering the body. Bearing is much more than just the shape of the spine. Bearing refers to how every joint aligns to transfer forces transfer in the body. Hint: Be sure to sit and stand with the head directly over the neck and shoulders, not jutting forward or with the nose up in the air. The BBB Kitchen has some simple diagrams on how to adjust your workstations to ensure we are sitting in a way to avoid injuries in the long run - remember that most of us do sit for long periods of time in an office environment so it is important to take these small steps to protect ourselves.
The 3 B's are effective watch-points for moving and working stronger, safer, and more in control. And because it feels better to have strong balance, relaxed breath, and solid bearing, practicing these methods is both self-reinforcing and prevents soft-tissue injuries.