Staying Clear Of Workplace Health Maladies
By Richard G. Ensman, Jr.
Yich. Your eyes are watering from the dry temperature. Your back is strained from standing all day, crouching over a major pump repair, or arching over a computer screen. And if all that weren't enoug...
Yich. Your eyes are watering from the dry temperature. Your back is strained from standing all day, crouching over a major pump repair, or arching over a computer screen. And if all that weren’t enough, you feel bone-tired and ready for bed … but it’s only 1:30 p. m. on the day shift!
If you’re at work in this 21st century era, you might easily fall prey to any one of those common workplace health maladies: eye strain, tension headaches, backaches and more. What to do?
Here’s a summary of the most common workplace health and fitness complaints — and commonsense remedies. Try one or more of these remedies and you might chase the malady away, and become happier and more productive in the process.
First, a caution: any persistent health complaint can be a symptom of disease or injury. So, while it’s usually okay to ease discomfort with casual remedies, be sure to seek care from a medical professional if your health symptoms are painful or persistent!
Now, let’s get fixed up….
• Back pain. You feel it: a dull, throbbing ache in the lower back. Every time you move or get up you feel that dull pain. Remedies: Avoid sitting in a stationary position for a long period; get up and stretch every half-hour or so. When you do sit, use a straight-backed chair or a chair specifically designed with lower-back support. Avoid bending over to pick things up; bend at the knees instead. Apply heat if you’re feeling ongoing aches. And, very important: exercise! If you experience acute back pain or long-term pain, get medical advice.
• Eye strain. ‘Tired eye’ can result from fixing your gaze on a computer screen or other close-up work for long periods of time. Remedies: Tilt your computer slightly, so that you’re viewing it at a slight angle, or install an anti-glare screen. Also, don’t forget that almost all computers contain a brightness control. Move the control knob down to minimize brightness. If your eyes are bloodshot, you may need a moisturizer to keep sufficient water in your eyes.
• Fatigue. You might feel a sense of deep exhaustion during the day. Or just an unsettled sense of vague hunger and weakness. Remedies: Get moving. Take a brisk walk. Get up, stretch, and move around your work space. Instead of calling or e-mailing a colleague, get up and walk to your colleague’s work space. Important: stay hydrated — keep a glass or bottle of water nearby and sip regularly! Hint: avoid carbonated beverages.
• Hiccups. Although you might laugh at first, these spasms of the diaphragm can quickly become uncomfortable and, if you’re at work, even distracting. Remedies: Try drinking a glass of hot water fast. Or hold your breath for as long as you can while staying as calm as you can. Or take a spoonful of sugar, or a small amount of some other sweet or tart substance.
• Neck Ache. Your neck feels tight, or even throbbing. Remedies: Keep your work items at least a foot or two away from your body. And be sure to sit or stand straight!
• Noise. You can’t help but hear the rumbling machinery, conversation and dull roar of the modern workplace. At the least it’s distracting; at times, the noise is stressful. Remedies: Use proper hearing protection or even simple earplugs to block the noise.
• Respiratory ailments. The air in your facility seems stale. You feel as if you can taste the impurities in the air around you. Remedies: Be sure the vents in the room are unobstructed and clean. Dust regularly. And, of course, keep yourself hydrated. If these don’t help, try an air circulator; available at most hardware stores, these devices increase air flow.
• Stomach upset. No, you don’t really feel sick — but your stomach feels upset and your body feels ‘off’. Remedies: Enjoy a light snack — a piece of fruit or vegetable. Eat a light, low-fat lunch with a healthy dose of protein. And avoid caffeine; it can lead to stomach blahs and low energy hours later.
• Stress. You feel a sense of jitteriness and uncomfortable anxiety. Remedies: Take a few minutes and breathe gently and deeply. Get up and move around. Even more important: get regular exercise outside of work; the physical and emotional benefits will extend into the workplace.
• Tension headaches. You know the feeling — a dull throbbing on one (or both) sides of the head. Remedies: Ordinary aspirin can work wonders. Also, try heat or ice. Some people that find light exercise, such as a walk, reduces the severity of headaches. Since many headaches are associated with loss of sleep, one of the best remedies may be to get enough rest.
• Wrist strain. One or both wrists ache because of repetitive movement. Without care, the ache can turn into carpel tunnel syndrome. Remedies: When working at a keyboard or a workbench, adjust your work surface or chair so your elbows are at a right angle. Position your wrists so you can minimize bending them. And place your wrists on a keyboard rest.
Richard G. Ensman, Jr., is a regular contributor to Machinery & Equipment MRO.