If you're working from home or long hours in an office, I'm glad you're taking a little time out to read my article because you may save yourself a lot of time and money from medical appointments or potential surgery further down the track.
Working in front of a screen can be tiring. I understand. But have you actually asked yourself why this happens? It's not just your vision, especially if you wear glasses, but it's actually mainly your body that gets fatigue.
Now, let me explain why. First of all, we need to understand the fundamentals of the human body. Congratulations if this is your first biology lesson. All the muscles and joints in our body have a threshold. Just like how you may have a tolerance to how much your little brother or sister can annoy you, before you explode.
Put too much pressure on your muscle or joint in a very short amount of time and you will end up with either a broken bone, a tone ligament or a Grade 3 muscle strain, also known as an 'acute trauma', which usually requires immediate medical attention. If you're more of a visual learner, refer to the graph below.
In contrary, if you put a sustained pressure or load on the same muscle over a longer period of time, and it is beyond the muscle's normal working capacity; overtime your muscle will start to give and an injury may occur. This is also known as repetitive strain injury. It is common in workers whose job requires them to do repetitive tasks, for example, sitting at a desk with poor posture, working on a keyboard or even playing a musical instrument.
To avoid injury, we want to keep the amount of work that we do at a comfortable load and a reasonable time span, which means taking 20-30 seconds of break after every 20-30 mins of work. If we can keep our workload within the no injury region (i.e. shaded area of the graph), we should be safe from sustaining an injury over the long run.
So what exercises can we do while we take a break from work? Here are my top 5.
1. The Bobble Head Exercise
Stretch your neck! Up, down, to the side
and turning your head slowly to look over your shoulder.
Imagine yourself like a bobble head. You should be able to do these neck exercises fairly easily without any pain.
2. The Double Chin Exercise
Looking straight ahead, tuck your chin in to create a double chin effect. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax. Repeat this 5-10 times.
3. The Tall Tree Exercise
Standing on your tippy toes, with your fingers interlaced, straighten and reach up to the ceiling as high as possible. You can lean slightly from side to side if you like. Hold this for 5-10 seconds before returning to standing.
4. The See-saw Exercise
In a standing position, lift and stretch one leg out to the side. Hold for 3-5 seconds and return to the standing. Repeat on your other leg.
5. The Potato Twist Exercise
In your chair or in standing, slowly turn your shoulder and body like you're trying to look behind you as far as possible. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on the other side.
And a little bonus for you for reading this far..
Having the door or window open for some fresh air could do wonders to your body. Your brain will thank you for that extra oxygen as you find that you feel cognitively more sharp and alert and subsequently more productive.
Also last but not least, spend a little time on your tummy! Working on your laptop in this position, whether it is on the couch or on the floor can be a good stretch for your spine. This is why babies spend so much time on your bellies - because it also helps build strength in your shoulders, neck and back. Time to pretend you're a little baby again and get those muscles pumping!
Olivia Ting is an in-house telehealth physiotherapist at Travel Physio. When she's not writing or treating clients for Travel Physio, you'll probably find her chasing sunrises or sunsets on a beautiful mountain somewhere.