The Freakanomics of Ergonomics

How many of you out there have an iphone, droid, ipad, macbook, notebook,  etc that you use constantly?

 Yeah, I thought I wasn’t alone in this. So, this is being written for many reasons, and is applicable to all of us, but what finally made me sit down to put this together was my disbelief at trying to find a new laptop where the screen size is appropriate for use! I currently use a 17” screen, and upon looking at Amazon and Best Buy it was almost impossible to find another one with the same size screen. Did you know, the Laptop displays range from 10 to 17-inches, and tablets 7 to 10-inches for the most part, with the average size people buy/use being 14.1 inches. Do you know what that looks like?

ipod nano
actual size!
I love this picture too of evolution, but it only brings us to about 15 years ago when things weren’t so small, the last picture should be a man trying to use an ipod nano, which by the way is 40 millimeters (it can’t be measured in inches!).  I own one and loved it until I put it through the washer it was so small I didn’t see it. Of course, to keep up with technology, I bought another one. But why, I ask, do we desire our electronics to be smaller and smaller and be so impressed when they can fit everything we need into 7 inches or less? Did you know the size of the average adult hand is 7.2 inches? So we’re talking about a screen the size of your hand. Isn’t that amazing?
Yes, yes it is until you start to have neck, back, and shoulder problems, every day, every time you use your electronics. Especially since “more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain at a cost of around $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine.” You can say the increase is due to obesity, decrease in exercise, poor diet, etc…but where do all of those come from? Sitting at a computer all day long. No one has been willing to find out or admit exactly how many of those millions have back pain from hunching over a computer, but I’m betting it’s a big number. It is, of course, the number one reason people call in sick to work after all….so they can stay home and play games on their phones…just kidding!

How do we fix this epidemic of everyone from kids to older adults using tiny computers and phones for everything? Besides the obvious, which is going with bigger computer screens and limiting ipad and phone use and getting your work station set up like this or standing at it—workstation
Who can really do that though? All the time? I don’t know about you but I have 6 games, instagram, facebook, ESPN score center, email instantly, and all my contacts in my iphone, and I can trust all of that because I have icloud. I see a long line at starbucks and I think it’s the perfect time to beat my brother on hanging with friends. Out running errands and I get an important work-related email? I’ll answer that on my iphone. So, what can we actually do? Stuck at the airport? I can kill at least 10 games of Sudoku and all on my smart phone.
All hope is not lost…I’ve put together some exercises we can do that combat all the hours we spend sitting, bent over our electronics. Obviously, if you spend 10 hours at your electronics of choice, and 10 minutes of exercise, it won’t be able to help you much. But…if you can get up and do one or two every hour or so? Well then we have a chance! Here goes:
The “Touchdowns”
ergo exs 17

First Picture: Abs are tight, his elbows are bent 90 degrees, lining up with his shoulders
Second Picture: Keeping his abs tight, his extends just through his mid-back (note: there is no low back arch), arms lift same amount and maintain same position as first picture
Third picture: He extends his arms like a ref in football would to declare a touchdown, he keeps his shoulders from lifting up towards his ears, when he pulls his arms back down he imagines pulling down a heavy lat bar and draws his shoulders together

The criss-crossed extensions:
ergo exs 14
First picture: Start with the pulley’s crossed and up as high as you can place them, do one set with one arm on top, a second set with the other arm on top, stagger your stance (at your feet).
Second picture: Keep elbows straight and pull downward, as you do so squeeze the shoulder blades together and downward. This will get your rhomboids, triceps, and lower trap primarily- the opposite of working at a computer.

Isometric, to full rotation on a ball:
ergo exs 15First Picture: There is a pulley system with about 3 pounds, and I’m just holding my position straight, while the pulley tries to get me to rotate left. This is isometric rotation in neutral spine. Note there is no rounding or arching to my spine.
Second Picture: If I want to make it harder, I can actually from the first position rotate. The opposite hip (in this case the left hip) will try to lift off the ball, press down firmly, make sure the rotation comes from the spine and not the hips.

Serratus push-ups:
ergo exs 16First Picture: As we hunch away at our computers and smart phones, our scapula or shoulder blades wing out and make the shoulder itself tight, but the shoulder blade unstable, so start in plank, keep abs tight, and drop only in the shoulder blades:
Second Picture: Then, press back up through the shoulders until you feel like your mid-back is rounding, keep abs tight throughout. It’s easy to drop your stomach instead of the shoulder blades, if this is the case, modify    by doing them on your knees.

Opposite arm and leg on ball:
ergo exs 7

You sit on a ball that’s about the size allowing your knees to be bent about 90 degrees (this ball is a little big for me), try to lift at the same time one arm and the opposite leg…easy right? Not so fast, you can’t hike your hip up off the ball. Try again without leaning or moving the ball. Now were talking.

The Posture Corrector:
ergo exs 10
This one can be done along a wall corner as well, but so you can see what I’m doing I’m using a foamroll. You want a little space between your lower back and wall corner or foamroll, now keeping your abs tight try to decrease any space between your mid-back and the wall corner or foamroll. Interlace your fingers over your stomach, and without arching your back and legging go of your abs, squeeze your shoulder blades around the wall corner or foamroll. Try to keep the back of your head against it also, however, if your head is stiffly forward from the rest of your torso and it hurts to press it against the wall or your chin lifts in your attempt, then allow some space between the back of your head and the wall.

Of course stretching, and ab and back workouts are also necessary as well as being active when you aren’t at the computer. This is meant as a starter, and does not take the place of actual medical advice or seeing a medical professional. All of my exercises also assume you are otherwise healthy. Now after hours writing this….I’m going to do some of these exercises!

 Contributed by Dr. Katie Addis 


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