ergonomics Newsletter


June 17 2007 Ergonomics Newsletter

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The Neck & Repetitive Strain Injuries

Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) from computer use or desk work can cause headaches, eyestrain, and pain through the neck, shoulders, arms and back. "The Neck" is the first of a series taking a closer look at the mechanism of injury and injury prevention techniques for specific pain areas.

To Relax Tense Muscles When Stressed:

Many of us hold tension in our shoulders. If you notice that your stress level is starting to rise, here are two quick and easy ways to relax those tense muscles: 1) perform large shoulder rolls, emphasizing the backward and downward movements; 2) Take 3 or 4 deep breaths emphasizing diaphragm expansion on the inhale and muscle relaxation on the exhale.

Heat and Cold:

I often get asked which is better, heat or cold. Both heat and cold can help reduce pain.

Benefits of Cold - To control swelling, relax muscle spasms, minimize acute pain or for a new injury. Cold reduces blood flow to an area causing less inflammation. If a particular or repetitive activity, such as typing all day, causes or re-aggravates symptoms, try using cold packs immediately after the activity and stretch often while performing the activity.

Benefits of Heat - To relax muscles, ease tension, minimize chronic pain and increase flexibility. Heat increases blood flow to an area bringing in nutrients and oxygen for healing. Arthritic pain usually responds the best to heat unless the joints are hot and inflamed.

If pain control is your goal, try both. Your body will usually let you know what it needs. Be cautious with the use of heat and cold if you have any sensation loss. To avoid burns, don't use extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, and place a layer of toweling between the pack and your skin.

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Marji Hajic, Ergonomics Editor

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