Archive for February, 2012

Whine Decrease Alert! Ergonomics for Kids

“Sit up straight! Quit slouching!” Sound like a familiar refrain when watching your kids at the computer? Have your kids spent time complaining about being uncomfortable when working on the computer, maybe they complain a little extra when it comes to homework done on the computer? Children spend more time at the computer every day. And for many of them, taking a break to stand up and walk around is not a habit, so they stay in positions that increase the pressure on bones, joints, muscles and other soft tissues for long periods of time. As you probably remember from being young, the body at that age can take a lot of abuse in terms of posture, activities, injuries, etc. before it manifests as pain or discomfort. Take a little time now to think about how your children use the computer at home and at school.

Kids deal with ergonomic issues every day. They live in a world where most things are big-people sized and they try to use all sorts of things sized for adults rather than kids. Computers and laptops are no different. The ergonomic requirements of a child are not much different from those of adults at a workstation. There are some key postural points here:

  •  The back is supported by the chair (in other words, no slouching)
  • The head sits directly on top of the spine (not pulled forward or tilted upwards to see the screen)
  • The upper arms and elbows stay close to the body (no reaching out to get to the keyboard)
  • The elbows flex at 90 degrees or more (keeps the shoulders down)
  • The feet rest on a surface (so that they aren’t dangling)

But for kids, this can be a huge challenge. In most cases, the keyboards are set up too high, the monitors are so high kids crane their heads back to see the screen, the legs dangle and don’t reach the floor, and the keyboards are at the wrong angle to protect the wrist. (pictures from Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments – http://www.iea.cc/ECEE/guidelines.html)

In the posture above, her elbow is extended out from her body, away from her side, she slouches forward from the back of the chair and has to reach forward to use the mouse and look upwards to see the screen. The poor placement of the screen and the keyboard are key in this situation. To correct it, we need to look at a few things: 1) keeping the screen at her eye level or below means she needs to sit higher in the chair, and use some pillows to support her back; 2) she also needs to lower the keyboard – or more accurately here – raise herself so that she can work with her elbows flexed at 90 degrees or higher; 3)  Build up a foot rest for her and she’ll be in much better shape. Here’s an example of how to do that using pillows, chair height and a foot rest:

 There are many great resources for ergonomics for adults. For kids, you’ll just need to put together a setup that can get your child into a comfortable position to work on the computer. Use pillows and blankets for support, or even phone books could be used to make a foot rest for the kids. Think about a computer desk with a keyboard tray – especially one that tilts to a good angle to keep the hands in a nuetral position as much of the time as possible.

In addition to computer work at home, children spend time on the computer at school. The same requirements hold true at school, but it’s much more difficult to get them the tools and props that might help them adjust a workstation at school so that they can use it comfortably. Work with teachers and the computer lab professionals to talk about options in positioning kids in computer labs at school in a more ergonomic fashion. You can even use this resource http://www.iea.cc/ECEE/guidelines.html to  help explain your concerns and get them on board.

Just remember, the key to position that is easy on the body is keeping the eyes level with the screen, the shoulders down and close to the body, and keeping the keyboard/mouse at a good height for children. And if you’re sharing a computer between children or adults, remember to make adjustments in the chair height, pillow support and keyboard/monitor height between users. It’ll help!

Teach your kids to take frequent breaks, every 20-30 minutes, when they are working on a computer. And make sure they know that they need to get up and stretch, move around and walk around to release some of the tension that builds up from working on a computer. Maybe lead them by example and start taking frequent breaks when you’re working on the computer for a long time. I’m sure you’ll see the benefit in your own body in just a few days if you start taking breaks while working on the computer. And if they don’t listen, try distracting them every half-hour or so to get them off the workstation for just a second.

Photo credit: from Fooyoh Entertainment: http://fooyoh.com/iamchiq_living_lifestyle/5032367

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Breathe: You Are Online

I’ve been a Facebook fan of Thich Naht Hanh for a while now, and today, he posted a picture that I would love to see on a T-shirt, but one that is a gentle reminder to me. Be in the moment. Even when you are surfing, even when you’re IMing with friends, and even when you’re Facebooking with others: remember to breathe.

From the Thich Naht Hanh FB page: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150572533114635&set=a.136121339634.110120.7691064634&type=1&ref=nf

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Video: Examples of Lymphedema Exercises

Last week on my Facebook page, I posted an article from a fabulous blog I’d recently found. The author of the blog is Joachim Zuther, a lymphedema specialist who started the first school for lymphedema treatment in the US. Because I have some videos on lymphatic drainage massage techniques you can use on yourself on my blog, I get a lot of questions from people through email, YouTube and Facebook asking for additional resources. To that end, I’ve used the article, “Decongestive and Breathing Exercises for Lymphedema” as a source to demonstrate the techniques he describes in the article.

As always, before doing these techniques, you must consult with your lymphedema specialist and your health care team to determine if these techniques should be a part of your self-care routine. Your specialist can custom design a set of exercises for you based on the area  affected by your lymphedema, other associated symptoms or issues you’re having and other conditions you may have.

These exercises may be only part of what your lymphedema specialist creates for your treatment plan. You may also be asked to do some self-lymphatic massage or some strengthening exercises to create a comprehensive treatment plan.

The most important thing you can do is to add the deep diaphragm breathing to your day. This one technique, breathing deep into the belly, uses the diaphragm muscle to facilitate lymphatic flow in the both torso and the lower half of the body – pulling fluid up into the main lymphatic duct in the abdomen.

For more information, go to www.lymphedemablog.com or head to the Lymphedema Guru Facebook page for some of the best resources I’ve found on the net.

Photo credit: Flickr.com CCL: User: sportsandsocial

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Fast Relief of Jaw Tension

In my last post, “Easy Relief for Eye Strain” I covered a relaxation technique to use for individuals with eye strain. The technique is less a massage technique and more a touch-assisted relaxation technique. In it you use the fingers as a point of focus to relax and open the tissues around the eye. This video will cover how to do the same with the jaw.

Many people come in to see me with jaw issues. Some of been diagnosed with TMJ syndrome, others grind their teeth at night. Still others have problems with tension and pain in the jaw referred from other areas – the back of the skull or the lateral/anterior neck. What’s common in all these cases is that the jaw muscles and the muscles around the mouth become tense and tight over time.

While self-massage of the jaw is an excellent option to treat these issues (see my video about “Acupressure Points for TMJ Syndrome”), another way to relieve tension in the face and jaw is to use this relaxation technique.

Just as we did for eye strain, you’ll place your fingers at different points on the jaw and face, and take a deep breath. As you inhale and exhale become aware of all the tension stored underneath your fingers and let it drain out from under your touch as you exhale.

A very important component to this technique is keeping the tongue relaxed in the mouth. Think about where you tongue is in your mouth right this moment. Glued to the roof of your mouth? Now relax the tongue and pull it away from the top of your mouth. Now, touch just the tip of your tongue to just behind your front teeth and let it rest softly there.

Did if feel like your face melted a bit? Now, while that’s relaxed, take a few moments to try this technique to relearn what “relaxed” feels like to your jaw, mouth and face.

Photo credit: Flick.com CCL:

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