Monthly Archives: May 2013

Top Nutritional Tips to Keep You Alert at Work

Looking for natural ways to feel more awake during work hours? If you find yourself feeling sluggish, tired or drained when what you really need is to stay focused, alert and energized, consider the following nutritional tips. Not only can the foods you eat cause your energy levels to drop but eating the right foods can elevate your mood and give you the strength and endurance you need to get through the most grueling of shifts and the longest workdays.

Here are some expert food tips to kick-start your day and help stay at the top of your game:

  • Drink Plenty of Water: Drink at least 1-2 liters (8-9 cups of water) or more daily since insufficient water reduces oxygen circulation to the muscles, making you feel tired and lethargic. Purified, spring or distilled water offer healthier choices than tap water.
  • Eat Energy-Producing Foods: A regular diet of the following foods will fill you up more quickly and give you longer-lasting energy: complex carbohydrates (i.e. fruits and vegetables, whole grains (i.e. quinoa, brown rice), leaner proteins (i.e. fish, beans/legumes, nuts)
  • Eat a Good Breakfast: Jumpstart your day and keep your energy levels steady by eating a
    breakfast consisting of lean proteins and complex carbs. Skipping breakfast will only cause you to eat a larger meal later in the day, which in turn will make your energy levels drop. Consider eating salad greens with eggs for a healthy balance or adding raw kale into a fruit and protein packed breakfast smoothie.
  • Avoid High-Fat, High-Sugar Foods: High-fat, sugary foods will give you a short burst of energy, however they will ultimately leave you feeling tired and lethargic (and may cause heartburn and indigestion)
  • Zero carb, zero calorie stevia is the healthiest natural sweetener available. Grown and used as a sweetener in South America for hundreds of years.
  • B-Complex Supplement: Chronic fatigue may be a symptom of being low in B-complex vitamins; a B-complex supplement will help your body actually make energy
  • Maca Root is rich in B vitamins, high in energy and non-caffeinated. Increases brain and memory power and balances your mood.
  • Magnesium: Whether you take a magnesium supplement or boost your magnesium levels naturally by eating more fish, whole grains, almonds, cashews and hazelnuts, your body needs magnesium to break glucose down into energy
  • Omega-3: Omega-3 fats are known to keeping your brain cells healthy, helping you feel more energized and mentally alert; examples of foods rich in omega-3 are fish, nuts, and flax seed, canola oil, olive oil, and cod liver oil
  • Vitamin C: Since Vitamin C helps the body turn fat into energy, be sure your diet includes enough Vitamin C-rich foods (i.e. bell peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes, oranges, and broccoli) or take a Vitamin C supplement
  • Coffee/Tea: Using caffeine healthfully and strategically – i.e. drinking green tea or coffee early in the day so that it does not interfere with going to sleep at night – boosts alertness and increases work capacity; however avoid sodas, diet sodas, and coffees sweetened artificially
  • Avoid Energy Drinks: While most energy drinks deliver what they promise – a quick burst of energy – do not depend on energy drinks to keep you alert since your energy levels will quickly come crashing down afterwards, leaving you feeling lethargic and craving another energy drink
  • Dark Chocolate: If you need a rush of endorphins and an energy boost, snacking on dark chocolate will give you enough caffeine to keep you going in the wee hours of your shift
  • Chia Seeds: Ever since the days of the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, chia seeds have been known to increase strength and endurance; to boost your energy levels at work, add chia seeds to your favorite recipes or snacks
  • Food Intolerances: If you find yourself feeling sluggish after eating particular foods, you may in fact have food intolerance, causing your energy levels to drop, headaches, and stomach issues. Consider taking a break from dairy or gluten products for 3-6 weeks and see what you notice.
  • Iron: Iron helps carry oxygen to all parts of the body, thereby boosting energy levels; be sure your diet includes enough iron-rich foods such as beans or red meats, or take an iron supplement
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight puts an extra strain on your body, which can cause you to feel drained and less energetic; follow a healthy weight-loss program to feel better and boost performance
  • Avoid Eating Big Meals Before Work: After eating a big meal, your body has to work harder to digest more food at once, using up a lot of your energy and causing you to feel tired; by eating four to six smaller meals, you can sustain your energy levels throughout the day
  • Have Your Thyroid Checked: If you suffer from chronic fatigue and have not succeeded at no heavy foodsboosting your energy levels naturally, you many suffer from hypothyroidism or a thyroid condition, slowing down your metabolism and draining your energy; have a doctor test your thyroid and learn ways to treat this condition with or without drugs.
  • Have healthy snacks near your desk for grab and go energy i.e. fruit, water, energy bars, seeds, nuts.

By following these simple and healthy eating tips, you can look forward to feeling great and staying alert on the job and in your daily life.

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

Ergonomic Practices During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman. Pregnancy and Workplace Safety

More than half of all women work outside the home, with many working late into their pregnancies and returning to work less than three months after giving birth. While much attention has been paid to the importance of ergonomics in the workplace, practicing good ergonomics will provide comfort and support a woman’s health throughout the duration of her pregnancy. Decreasing the ergonomic risk factor by implementing reasonable accommodations are essential to make the workplace safe and comfortable for expecting moms.

Ergonomic Hazards for Expecting Employees

For any employee, sitting 8-10 hours a day behind a desk or in front of a computer screen can lead to back and neck injuries, stiff muscles and joints, poor circulation, worker’s fatigue, and more. However pregnant women face even more challenges, as pregnancy alters the shape of the body and the way women interact with their workspace. For example, a growing abdomen alone causes backaches, progressive posture problems, and reduced agility and coordination. Similarly, to accommodate the growing fetus, joints in the spine become less stable, while hormonal changes affect ligaments and increase the risk of injury.

As pregnancy progresses, women must lift items further away from their bodies, having to reach 15-20 inches to access their workstation. Since the growing fetus alters the center of gravity, pregnant women are also more susceptible to falling. In addition to affecting balance, lifting tasks, and posture, studies suggest that there is a link between ergonomic stressors and unfavorable pregnancy results. Things to avoid are standing for long periods of time, working long hours, and repetitive lifting.

Pregnancy and Lower Back Pain

Expecting mothers often develop a curvature in the lower back (also known as an accentuated lumbar lordosis) due to weight gained in the lower abdomen. In fact, each pound a woman puts on during pregnancy can creative five extra pounds of pressure on the hips, knees, and lumbar spinal joints. Moreover, elevated hormone levels (Estrogen and Relaxin) lead to increased ligament laxity, predisposing pregnant women to joint instability and an increased risk of strains and sprains.

Ergonomic Accommodations for Pregnant Workers

To accommodate pregnant women, both employers and expecting moms themselves are advised to take make ergonomic friendly workplace modifications. Here are some expert tips to ensure the safety and comfort of working women during pregnancy.

Advice for Pregnant Employees

  • Neutral posture brings daily comfort: elbows level with the keyboard so your shoulders are relaxed, feet flat and supported, avoid awkward postures

  • Take frequent breaks from sitting, walking and stretching to increase circulation in your legs and feet, which are prone to swelling and possible blood clots during pregnancy

  • Invest in an adjustable ergonomic office chair with excellent lumbar support and well cushioned seat to support growing body and possible sensitive tailbone, or add a thin lumbar pillow for extra support and comfort to existing chair

  • For stable posture comfort, feet flat on floor or supported with a footrest. Use a footrest to reduce swelling and reduce pressure on the joints

  • To accommodate your growing abdomen and the increasing curve in your spine, adjust the height of your monitor and desk

  • Use a softer wrist rest with your keyboard to prevent the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome caused by increased fluid in the joints during pregnancy

  • Avoid heavy lifting (10-25 lbs or more) and do not lift items directly from the ground

  • The ability to go from sitting to standing increases oxygen intake and circulation. Invest in a sit/stand desk or a Sit Stand Ergo Unit

allowing you to alternate between sitting and standing positions throughout the workday; this very change of position is a mild form of exercise which helps prevent stiffness, swelling, and varicose veins

  • Know your rights: Study the laws pertaining to the treatment of pregnant employees in your state and don’t hesitate to ask your employer for special accommodations

Advice for Employers

Protect pregnant employees by:

  • Providing adjustable ergonomic office furniture.

  • An ergonomic evaluation will help address poor habits and necessary changes for healthier working environment and increased productivity throughout pregnancy and beyond.

  • Installing foot rests if needed

  • Being flexible with work schedules

  • Assigning fewer physical tasks

  • Limiting standing time on the job

  • Allowing for more frequent short breaks

  • Removing obstacles from under desk

  • Providing work areas with ample space for moving around

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

Image: José Manuel Ríos Valiente/Flickr.

Galaxy S4 Ergonomic Features

Galaxy_S4The Samsung Galaxy S4 has drawn a lot of attention for it’s innovative and ergonomic features. The bigger visual screen and scratch resistant glass make viewing easy on the eyes. The GS4 phone is much larger than most consumers have grown accustomed to when it comes to mobile phones. Apple’s iPhone 5 prides itself on its minimal size and other manufacturers have followed their footsteps (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches). At 5.38 x 2.75 x 0.31 inches, the GS4 has earned the title of a “phablet” which is a combination of phone and tablet.

Is it too big?

Naturally some people will wonder if the GS4 is too big to be comfortable. The device was designed to fit in the palm of your hand and this works well for most adults. For children or people with smaller hands, this may not be the best practical solution.

Form Factor

You will notice that the Galaxy S4 phone has beveled edges and a curved chassis designed to fit ingalaxy s4 in palm the palm of your hand. Phones with a flat edge design do not rest as comfortably in your hand because the natural resting state of your hand is curved and not flat, as if you were giving a high-five.

Screen Size

Samsung GalaxyS4 shines when it comes to the new larger easy-to-read screen size and smaller footprint. Other phones with a 5-inch screen, such as the HTC Droid DNA haven’t been able to match the smaller size.

Weight

The GS4 design still manages to weigh less than the S3. From an ergonomic standpoint, having a phone that can fit in your hand comfortably and maintain a reasonable weight (4.59 ounces) is a huge plus because the lighter design puts less strain on your hand. All in all, the size and weight of the phone, clarity and larger screen size along with shape of phone add up to positive benefits for a person who spends lots of time on their phone. Samsung offers some well thought out ergonomic benefits to consider when purchasing your new phone.

 

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

Driving Ergonomics – Take Care While You Drive

If you thought ergonomics was limited to office settings and to sitting properly in front of your computer, think again! Driving, especially for long periods of time, puts significant stress on the back and neck. Small cars often don’t fit tall drivers, while other cars may not support all users. If you have to crank your neck to look through your mirrors, twist or turn your body to enter and exit your vehicle, or if you tightly clench the steering wheel while sitting in a hunched-over position, driving your car may be a musculoskeletal injury just waiting to happen.

The good news is that there are many ergonomic tips for driving which will allow you to drive comfortably, safely, and injury free. With a few adjustments and even some innovative ergonomic car accessories, you can prevent neck and back pain behind the wheel and enjoy the ride.

Proper Sitting in Your Car

Follow these ergonomic strategies for driving:

  • Adjust the seat height so you have a good view out the windshield but avoid hitting the steering wheel with your thighs.
  • Check that your feet can depress all the foot pedals without your back coming away from the seat back or move your seat closer to the steering wheel
  • Recline the back of your seat so your shoulders are behind your hips maintaining an upright, relaxed posture.
  • Many car seat designs force rounded back posture. To support the natural curvature of your spine, invest in a thin lumbar cushion or full backrest to reduce rounded shoulders and back postures.
  • Set your seat height and seat angle to support your bottom and thighs evenly to prevent uneven, circulation-restricting pressure points on your glutes and thighs.
  • Hold the steering wheel with your hands at the nine and three o’clock positions, rather that at ten and two o’clock, leaving your arms and shoulders in a relaxed and healthful position
  • Adjust your mirrors so that you can see without excessive twisting or turning of your neck
  • Check that you have ample room to get in and out of your car easily; enter your vehicle by sitting first and then swinging your legs in; exit your vehicle by sliding your legs out first and then standing up (decreasing strain to the low back)

Ergo Driving Breaks

To reset your spine and alleviate pressure caused by prolonged sitting, take advantage of red lights or sitting in traffic by doing some simple stretches, such as reaching your hands up towards the sky.

After two hours of driving (if not sooner), get out of your car for a stretching or walking break. Not only will this prevent stiff muscles and strain to the back, but also relieve the stress in your wrists and hands. Holding a steering wheel in awkward postures or too tightly can give rise to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Ergonomic Car Accessories Review

Here are some of the latest ergonomic car accessories hitting the markets:

  • Magnet Bubble Seat Cushion, Acu-Bead Magnetic Cushion: These economy seat cushions feature molded foam bubbles, magnets and acubeads for pressure points. For best value and support, consider buying higher quality: Nikken, ObusForme
  • Comfort Lumbar Support: is a favorite for poorly designed car seats. This supports healthy lumbar supportposture of the entire back, relieve aches and pains, and tension to avoid rounded shoulders and back
  • Wooden Bead Car Seat and Bamboo Car Seat: Allows air to circulate, keeping you cool when driving. With mixed reviews about the comfort and quality of these, a bigger concern is the compression to your bottom and legs.
  • For healthier seating posture, wedges can improve spinal alignment and reduce back pain from the scooped bucket seat design.
  • Ergonomic children’s car seats: Feature a lightweight design, comfortable handling, and adjustable seats and back/head/shoulder rests to fit the physique of each child

 

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

What’s New in Dealing with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

It’s All in the Wrists

In some sports, it’s all in the wrists – and typing on a keyboard and using a mouse are no different. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is fast becoming one of the most common injuries in the workplace settings as a result of poor ergonomics and biomechanics. Ergonomics is how your work environment is set up and how that can affect your body posture. Biomechanics is how your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments work together to produce movement. Often these movements consist of repetitive motion, doing a task over and over with misaligned posture. Have you ever noticed how hard you are pressing on the computer keys and holding your hand in awkward positions for 8 hours a day? Poor working postures are going to have an affect over time. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that CTS affects almost five million Americans and is the cause of approximately 50% of health claims and lost productivity.

Anatomy of the Wrist

To understand what CTS is and how to treat it, it’s helpful to understand the anatomy of the wrist. Between the forearm and hand, eight carpus bones form a curved tunnel-like structure, referred to as the wrist. Moving through this tunnel are a number of arteries, nine tendons, and the median nerve.

When misalignment of the wrist and carpal bones cause irritation or there is compression to the median nerve, CTS may occur. Many factors can add to the nerve compression, including constant flexion and extension of the wrist resulting in inflammation. Because the median nerve controls sensation and nerve function to the thumb and first three fingers of the hand, there are recognizable symptoms that begin to happen.

CTS Symptoms

Those who experience CTS report feelings such as burning, tingling, pins and needles, pain in the wrist radiating up the arm, and weakness in the thumb and first three fingers. In extreme cases, the constant wrist pain and muscle atrophy can lead to loss of grip strength, resulting in people dropping things.

Latest Innovations in Preventing Carpal Tunnel: A Floating Mouse

If a mouse that floats in mid-air sounds like a page from the farfetched future, think again! One of the latest innovations in preventing carpal tunnel syndrome is the soon-to-be-launched BAT kirbadin design bat mousemouse, a Kirbardin design. The BAT mouse literally suspends in midair and is reported to eliminate awkward mousing postures. Since this possible CTS miracle worker is still in development, let’s look at simple steps you can make TODAY that will bring relief.

A big contributing factor is the mouse and how it’s being used. The repetitive motion of the mouse, mouse placement, your hand posture when using the mouse and prior injuries all play a part in this. Simple solutions include increasing your mouse speed under the computer system preferences. This will minimize wrist movement. Place the mouse right next to your keyboard and take the time to learn the short cut keys for the programs you’re using to reduce repetitive movement.

Other ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome include taking regular and periodic breaks so that your hands and wrists are not overly fatigued, learning about proper postural alignment, and practicing exercises which strengthen the forearm, neck, shoulder and back muscles. Regular stretching, proper sleep and diet, and stress reduction are also recommended as part of the protocol.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments for alleviating CTS symptoms, including:

  • Ergonomic evaluation to position body in neutral postures

  • Ergonomic education to learn healthy posture habits.

  • Massage sessions which loosen/relax the forearm

  • Stretches to relax the forearm muscles

  • Ice to reduce inflammation of the area

  • Heat to ease muscle tension in the area

  • Acupuncture

  • Yoga

  • Anti-inflammatory meds to reduce swelling and nerve irritation in the tunnel

  • Arm splints which reposition the wrist

  • Physiotherapy (to strengthen weak regions supporting the wrist)

  • Chiropractic

  • Naturopathy

  • Vitamin B6 Supplements

  • Corticosteroids

  • Surgery (also requires changing current posture and biomechanical habits)

CTS Advice

Keep in mind that repetitive stress injuries occur when muscles, nerves, and tendons are placed under stress OVER TIME. That is, while the strains may at first seem mild or inconsequential, they eventually give way to wear and tear which damages the soft tissues of the body. Since awareness is the key to prevention, learn all you can about proper hand and wrist ergonomics and decrease your risk for this type of injury.

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.

Pain Free Trail Biking With Ergonomics

Cycling Benefits

The health benefits of cycling are well known: Riding a bicycle provides a great cardiovascular workout, builds muscles in the legs, quads, hips and core, increases spinal stabilization, and is a fun outdoors activity for people of all ages. Furthermore, whether you enjoy mountain biking, city biking, or sports cycling, new technological innovations have made cycling faster and more efficient with the introduction of electronic gears, intelligent shocks, carbon frames, and more.

Cycling and Poor Ergonomics

And yet, despite these impressive advancements, studies indicate that over 80% of bike riders complain of aches and pains. The cause: incorrect ergonomics and the wear and tear resulting from a constricted range of motion. Not only does overuse of certain muscle groups lead to stiffness, pain and injury, but poor ergonomics leads to a waste in energy, speed, and efficiency.

Causes of Cycling Back Pain

  • For many riders, cycling is associated with back pain. According to the experts, bike riding back pain can be caused by:
  • Poor cycling posture
  • Poor bike fit
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Taut hamstrings
  • Rough terrains (which jar and compress the spine)
  • Weak core muscle strength
  • Leg length discrepancies
  • Musculoskeletal conditions (i.e. spinal misalignment)

Good Cycling Ergonomics

When it comes to good cycling ergonomics, the first rule of thumb is: Use as many muscle groups as possible, never sticking to a single posture. Furthermore, actively change contact points with your bike to relieve pressure on three key body parts: your hands, feet, and buttocks, which can become stressed, fatigued, and injured when muscles adopt a rigid posture.

For example, as you ride, lift your buttocks off the seat occasionally, or deliberately vary the position of your grip on the handlebars. Similarly, if you begin to feel strain in certain body parts after riding for a long time, learn to adjust your bike to support these areas, i.e. by raising/lowering your seat, raising the handlebars, shaking your hands out one at a time, etc. Practice pedaling smoothly and rhythmically by taking full advantage of your bike’s gear-shifting options. Finally, take periodic breaks by getting off your bike and walking a few meters, giving your body parts a chance to relax.

Mountain or Trail Biking

Keep in mind that different bikes are made for varying types of cycling, each of which puts a different strain on the body. In particular, mountain or off-road cycling takes a heavy toll on the hands and wrists and therefore may not be suitable for anyone suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Similarly, the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders must share the load to support this active riding style, while the entire body needs to be conditioned to transmit power to the pedals while riding long distances. The key is use an ‘ergonomic eye’ while carefully choosing your bike.

Ergo Innovations in Bicycles

Since the bicycle you choose will affect your entire body and your comfort level throughout your cycling experience, it pays to invest in ergo products designed to offer you the ride of a lifetime.

  • Bike Seat: Listen to your body when choosing a bike seat, keeping in mind that wide, padded, s shaped seatcomfortable seats will prevent sore and tender rumps on and off the road. For proper ergonomic seating, the seat-to-handlebar position should angle your pelvis such that your spine takes on an “S” shape with a slight natural hollow, as opposed to a rounded back with a less resilient spine
  • Handlebars: Select a multi-position handlebar which features curved ends (‘cow horns’) and ergo handle barwhich allows you to ergonomically change hand positions and tension levels. For different grips you can also add ‘bar ends’ to normal handlebars, or add ‘adjustable bar ends’ to curved handlebars, a cutting-edge innovation featuring a ball-and-socket joint which allows you to customize the position. Furthermore, keep in mind that the position of the handlebars is what determines your posture as you ride, so choose a handlebar height and angle which is right for you
  • Backpacks: New cutting-edge designs in cycling backpacks feature carrying straps which are separated from the backpack itself by an integrated ball joint. This highly engineered product allows for unrestricted torso mobility and ensure that backpacks stay in place regardless of how rough the terrain is or how vigorously you are riding. Moreover, the packs and carrying systems are fully customizable to suit different body shapes and sizes. Consider getting one that has good ventilation

More Tips on Preventing Cycling Back Pain

  • Have a professional adjust your bicycle to properly fit your body
  • Invest in bike accessories such as gloves, shock absorbers on the wheels, and shock-absorbing seats and handlebar covers
  • To further prevent injury, add yoga and back-strengthening exercises to your cycling routine

Enjoy this great Ergo Trail Bike Video by Ergon Promoting Their Grips

Author Byline

Karen Burke is the President and Founder of Kare Products. Karen has over 30 years of expertise creating ergonomic furniture that helps avoid injury and promotes health for all types of discomfort and body sizes.