Be thoughtful about workplace safety

Apart from our homes, the workplace is where we spend most of our time.  Most of the tasks we are conducting at work are repeat tasks – Sitting at a desk, driving a vehicle, lifting boxes, hammering nails or a countless list of other duties that make up our day to day work life.  The danger lies in repeat movements and sedentary postures.  As benign as they may seem, patients with workplace injuries would tell you otherwise.Nearly 100,000 claims for workplace injuries were accepted in 2009.  Over 50% of these injuries are attributed to back and other body strains.  Most, if not all of these accidents are preventable if we take the time to stop and be considerate about our workplace environment and situations.  Do you feel alert and ready for work?  Have you taken a few moments to “warm up” before lifting boxes or conducting other physical activity?  Do you have the right equipment available for a safe day at work, including an ergonomic chair or keyboard?  If these questions bring up concerns, it may be time to address them with your employer.  Happy, healthy employees are productive employees – all good things that your employer benefits from.Of course posture, taking frequent breaks and stretching before work are all excellent preventative methods.  Perhaps the most important prevention step of all is simply stopping to think about your actions before you start.  Is it really a surprise that the day you have a huge deadline and are flustered with the details is the same day you accidentally sent an email to the wrong recipient?  It could also be the day that you reach for that box in the mail room that is on the highest shelf.  Not allowing yourself enough time to consider your plan of attack can be hazardous.  There are no deadlines in this world that are more important than your safety.All of us are guilty of “not thinking” at one time or another and chances are it has resulted in an injury.  If you do find yourself in a bit of a sore spot [pardon the pun], it is a good idea to talk to your family chiropractor about recovery options.  Injuries that are caught early are less likely to become chronic.  Let’s not forget, what affects us at work is going to follow us home and impact the activities in life that we enjoy.Getting hurt also gives us pause to stop and think about how we can work safer.  Remember, the things that you do to make your workplace safer benefit everyone.  Now, are you ready to speak with your boss about getting you that ergonomic keyboard?

What does excessive weight really mean to your joints?

It is common knowledge that being overweight is associated with many negative health outcomes.  Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are linked to obesity and are usually the diseases we jump to first.  There are also other very real dangers to our muscles and joints that often present before these diseases manifest as a result of the extra weight.For those who are overweight, there is significantly more stress on the musculoskeletal system.  The demand on the muscles, joints and bones increases exponentially as body mass increases.  In one example, Dr. Michael Lyon, MD, who is actively involved in research around diet, nutrition and weight loss, suggests that every extra 10 pounds contributes to at least 40 pounds of added stress per knee.  Consider that your spine is made up of 24 bone and their related joints.  This extra weight is amplified throughout each of these joints, causing severe strain on your muscles, facets, vertebral discs and nerves which could result in arthritis, stenosis or other mobility issues.Extra weight also throws off your centre of gravity due to far from optimal body mechanics.  Your spine, joints and muscles need to adjust to this change that impacts balance and mobility.  Simply bending down to lift a box is much harder than it once was and puts overweight individuals at a higher risk of injury.The second factor working against your joints and muscles is the activation of the body’s inflammatory response.  This is a biochemical reaction involving the vascular and immune systems that is triggered when the body senses injury or infection.  Essentially, the body believes it is in a diseased state.  Inflammation around the joints contributes to pain, swelling and loss of mobility and is ultimately a precursor to very serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.Once your vascular system is impaired, blood has a difficult time supplying the tissues of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they need.  Nerve, muscle and other body systems suffer as a result of poor circulation.  Your muscles may feel more tired, you will most likely grow physically weaker and breathing with be more of a chore.Of course, most people do understand the risks and negative aspects of being overweight.  The difficult part is overcoming and maintaining a healthy body weight after suffering from obesity.  Statistics from 2011 suggest that approximately 1/2 of the adult Canadian population self reported as being overweight or obese.  Plus, our country is on track to see these numbers skyrocket in the near future.  It’s a huge problem that most people struggle to overcome.  Dr. Michael Lyon is featured on the Empowered Health show (Mondays at 8:30pm and Thursdays at 4pm on ChekTV or check local listings)  in a two part series highlighting the challenges we encounter when trying to lose weight and more importantly, keep it off.  He offers several suggestions on how to work with your body, rather than against it.

Give Your Back a Holiday

Vacations can be a great opportunity to relax and recharge. Whether you’re flying to a tropical destination or simply heading up to the cabin, holidays are always a welcome event. Despite the time away, I often see patients after their recent vacation or a long weekend. Why? Because they didn’t consider their back during their vacation. Here are a couple things that are far too often overlooked that will help you remain injury free during your next holiday:1) Pack it Light – It doesn’t just apply to your child’s backpack. Be considerate of what you pack in your suitcase as it follows you around for the duration of your holiday. A heavy suitcase can wreak havoc on your spine.2) Watch those lifts – One of the most common causes of back and spine injury is lifting. This includes picking up those bags and placing them in and out of the trunk of your car. Lifts over the head put you at an increased risk of injury so be extra careful when lifting your luggage in and out of the overhead storage containers on airplanes.3) Vacations usually involve long commutes. If you are travelling by car, take advantage of some rest stops along the way to allow yourself and your passengers to stretch. When taking a trip by plane, get up every so often to stretch and walk the aisles [once the captain switches off the seatbelt sign of course!].4) Keep well hydrated. Our bodies are at least 60% water so it makes sense that we need to drink plenty of water. Bring bottles of water or fluids along with you for especially long commutes.5) Stay calm and try to relax. Travelling can be stressful. Keep your eye on the prize… your destination ahead or if you’re heading home, think of all of the wonderful new memories that you made.