From the desk of Kristen Lutz, LMT, MS…
You have ‘graduated’ to the next section of Occupational Hazards! As I said in my previous post Occupational Hazards 101 (February 9, 2010), your job should come with a warning. The demands of your job – whether you sit at a desk all day or walk around the city wearing a sandwich board – can affect your body’s health, comfort and productivity. So let’s use this time to address the risks (hazards) associated with your job function, provide some solutions (remedies) and offer some self-care practices for ongoing support. Each entry will feature a different job or occupation. My hope is to help increase your awareness of how you move your body relative to your job responsibilities each day. In doing so, you can work towards preventing discomfort and ward off injuries so that you have more time for the fun things in life!
I am open to requests! If you’d like to have your job featured, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Job: The Health Care Worker.
This entry is definitely going to hit home. Many of us at OMBE have physically demanding jobs and are involved in patient/client care; whether it’s massage therapy, yoga or Pilates instruction, personal training, or chiropractic modalities to name a few. Physical demands come with the territory. This featured job extends its reach to those that work in other patient contact settings; hospital nurses, medical assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, exercise physiologists, physicians, EMTs, paramedics… the list goes on and on! While this entry is not intended to replace any OSHA or ergonomic training sanctioned at your health care facility, it simply provides some ideas to help bring you closer to occupational bliss… or something like that.
Check out the U.S. Department of Labor website on Healthcare Hazards and Ergonomics.
The Hazard: Being on your feet all day is taxing on your whole body. Most people do tend to feel the stress settle in their low back, hips, legs and feet. OK, so this is not necessarily something you can avoid. You have 6 patient beds you must care for and unless you can shout “go go gadget arms!” there is no way you can do what you need to do without being on your feet.
The Remedy: I’m going to provide a few different options here. The first is to take a good look at your footwear. Here is a website you can check out: http://www.standingcomfort.com/shoes/shoes-for-standing.html. I would definitely recommend NOT wearing shoes that do not have a back to them. Test out the shoes and make sure that if you are not satisfied with them, you can return them and get your money back. Oh, and while you are at it, schedule a FREE alignment check for insoles with our very own Erik Vose, chiropractor extraordinaire! Most people have some degrees of hyperpronation and/or arch issues and these inserts can do wonders to help get your body back in balance. Second, when you do take a break, elevate your legs for 3-5 minutes. You don’t have to go into Trendelenburg position or anything, simply rest your lower legs and feet on a seat of equal or greater height. Third, do the opposite of what a desk worker would do. Find reasons to sit when you can. Utilize the times you need to enter lab requests, read a patient’s file or call for a referral to rest your body.
The Self Care: Take a seat and grab a tennis ball. With your shoes and socks off, place the tennis ball on the floor and simply roll your foot over it. The great thing about this is that you can adjust the pressure you place on the tennis ball. When you hit a sore spot, slow down and take your time with small circular motions. Remember not to overdo it. The intent is not to make your feet more sore, but to alleviate the soreness that has built up over time.
The Hazard: Leaning over patient beds, machines, desks, etc.
The Remedy: When possible, reposition your body so that you widen and stagger your leg stance. If you are moving along a bed or machine, try shifting your body weight from your back leg to front leg in a moving lunge position. If you are leaning straight in front of you try lowing your body so you are closer to what you are doing.
The Self-Care: While standing, imagine that your pelvis is like a bowl of water. When the spine is in a neutral position, the water stays in the bowl. When there is too much forward lean or an exaggerated lumbar (low back) curve, the bowl tips forward and water pours out the front. When there is too much of a “flat back” posture, the bowl tips backwards and water pours out the back. The goal is to keep the water in the bowl. So check your posture often during the day and keep this metaphor in mind. Remember, don’t spill!
The Hazard: Lifting and moving patients.
The Remedy: While this can cause many bodily aches and pains over time, let’s focus on the low back. The lifting and moving can cause excessive stress on the low back and can lead to postural imbalances especially when we do not lift from our legs. What we can do is strengthen an important muscle that can help protect our backs and prevent injury. It’s called your transverse abdominus muscle and it acts like a belt that cinches right around your waist.
The Self-Care: Be aware that the following movement is very small, but it reaches deep down to the transverse abdominus muscle. Lie on the floor with your back flat, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your lower abdominals, just below the naval, and place your thumbs touching the naval. Now pull your naval in towards your spine. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Relax, take a deep breath and repeat a few more times.
Kristen Lutz, a Nationally Certified Licensed Massage Therapist, is a graduate of Cortiva Institute – Boston (formerly Muscular Therapy Institute) in Watertown, MA. As a member of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and Cambridge Who’s Who Among Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs, her work is centered upon supporting clients in achieving optimal health and well being through listening and understanding individual needs . She integrates various massage techniques into each personalized session. These techniques include Swedish (relaxation), deep tissue, sports massage, neuromuscular (trigger point) therapy and myofascial release along with stretching, range of motion and breath work.
Clients benefit from Kristen’s approach that each client is unique and no one treatment is alike. This customized approach leads to a more effective treatment. Kristen, a New England native, has been living in Boston for the past six years. She graduated with a B.S. in Exercise and Sport Sciences from Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH while playing collegiate women’s volleyball. She continued with her education and graduated with a M.S. in Clinical Exercise Physiology from Northeastern University in Boston, MA and has worked in the health and wellness field as an exercise physiologist.