Yoga Chairs and Orthopedic Solutions against Back Pain
Today’s world is becoming increasingly unhealthy. Various factors such as incorrect sitting postures, multi-tasking, long working hours at the computer, talking on the phone while typing, irregular eating habits, rigorous travelling, night work and odd working hours promote health hazards.
Our lifestyles have contributed immeasurably towards diseases such as obesity, diabetes, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart diseases, backache, cervical cancer, depression, osteoporosis, thyroid problems etc. Musculoskeletal disorders, often chronic, are only one group of very common ailments associated with the unnatural lifestyle, which most people are leading today.
Dealing with lifestyle diseases reduces the overall enjoyment of life as well as productivity at work, which is why increasingly employers, governments and doctors promote lifestyle modifications.
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs, also referred to as Repetitive Stress Injuries/ Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs), Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs), Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs), Cumulative Trauma Injuries (CTIs) or ergonomic injuries) describe a variety of conditions affecting the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs; causing discomfort and pain, which can interfere with everyday activities such as walking and even sitting. They can affect all major areas of the body, including the neck, shoulders, wrists and back. Since MSDs mostly result from unnatural movement or repetitive and forceful motions, awkward postures and other work-related conditions and ergonomic hazards, they have been increasingly prevalent at work for the past decades.
MSDs and back pain are the leading cause of occupational disability in the world and the most common causes of sickness absence from work having affected over 1 million people per year since in 2005 and the number is rising. Up to 2% of the UK’s gross domestic product is accounted for by the direct costs of such disorders every year, with a total cost due to sickness absence across Europe of £219 billion and an estimated total cost of MSDs to UK society of over £7 billion a year.
MSDs account for 49.9% of all absences from work lasting three days or longer and for 60% of permanent work incapacity.
With the population ageing and our lives becoming more sedentary, this situation is unlikely to change. As office work, physical labour and repetitive physical routines, whether in the occupational or social/private realm, are not likely to become a thing of the past, ways have to be found to change people’s lifestyles in order to ensure their health.
Preventive and non-allopathic treatment against MSD-related back pains
Preventive and non-allopathic treatment against MSD-related back pains has been prevalent for a long time. Increasingly, researchers recommend work-focused healthcare with particular stress on exercise and accommodating workplaces.
In light of the current research, policymakers, health care professionals, commissioners, employers, and individuals focus jointly on how to remedy the situation in the work force and beyond.
Such initiatives are often preventive and can include health and safety programs focusing on changing the way work products can be transported, changing workstation layout by adjusting the work environment, changing work practices and management policies, such as work rotation or the reduction of working hours, and lastly health programs to prevent MSDs.
Orthopedic Solutions to Back Pain
Orthopedic solutions have been recommended since the 1980s. There are shock-absorbing heel inserts against back pain and viscoelastic insoles for the reduction of shock loads.
Lumbar support in the form of belts or cushions is also an effective part of non-allopathic treatment.
Studies as far back as 2003 have stressed the importance of the right kind of mattress to sleep on in order to remedy chronic back pains. This has to be a firm one no matter the type of pain or cause for it.
Therapy, especially once the ailment has become chronic, suggests long-term treatment, which may also include nerve blocks, behavioural interventions and, less frequently, placement of implantable devices to alter the pain experience.
But even in chronic cases, the use of the above mentioned treatment possibilities as well as doing regular exercise and posture corrections is recommended.
Not lastly because chronic pains are often deemed incurable, preventive treatment is becoming increasingly widespread; this includes regular strengthening and stretching exercises as well as appropriate biopsychosocial education.
Acupuncture is also widely practised as adjunct treatment for MSDs and lower back pain, amongst many other ailments.
So can a yoga chair help?
First off, you do not need to buy a new chair for this. There are many ways in which your current chair can be utilised for regular yoga breaks at work and in which it can be adjusted to get the best out of your posture. If you feel that your chair isn’t good enough, but you don’t have the option to exchange yours for a yoga chair, don’t panic. Contrary to popular belief the chair is less important than your posture is. Don’t lean against your chair’s backrest, if you have a chair which isn’t suited to you; and make sure that your chair isn’t too high or low for you. Are your feet firmly on the ground when you sit? And of course, sitting straight is key.
The are various effective aids to help your posture: wedge pillows will relieve the pressure on your spine and are especially beneficial for acute lower back and leg ailments. The pillow tilts your pelvis to the optimal degree in order to bring your spine into its natural position. They are not just ideal for an office environment, but also a great support during long car journeys.
Dynamic sitting heavily encouraged!
I addition to wedge pillows, there are mobile cushions, which correct your posture by promoting dynamic sitting. These are our personal recommendation, if you’re not only looking to correct your posture, but also to strengthen your body. Here is why: through the mobile cushion’s air-filled, concave shape, you are forced to sit not just in your natural, upright position, but also to engage your pelvic floor, core and spine, thereby strengthening the back, legs and foot muscles. The cushion also dampens the load on the discs and maintains overall balance.
The over 100-year-old German brand Russka provides such cushions (www.russka.de/index.php?id=44&pg=0&artikel=148) and they are much handier to carry around with you than a yoga chair will be. So if you travel a lot for work, or if you don’t have your own office chair at work, a mobile cushion (the size of a frisbee) or (the slightly lighter) wedge pillow are a great way for you to ensure constant support for your spine.
It’s the Posture, Stupid
The most important thing to remember is that even without pillow aids or a specially designed yoga chair, there are very simple ways in which you can ensure a correct sitting posture at your desk:
Sit upright on the edge of your chair with both your feet firmly on the ground and hip-distance apart.
Ensure that your head is straight, i.e. not tilted to the side or too much towards your chin or towards the ceiling.
Whenever you are not typing and do not need your hands, keep your arms by the side of your chair, palms facing forward, and slightly squeeze your shoulder blades.
When you are typing, ensure you don’t rest the heels of your hands on the keyboard. Instead, hover over the keyboard to ensure adequate weight distribution. Your hands and forearms will thank you for it.
Whether you want to prevent or cure MSDs, a combination of different yoga exercises as well as the right posture (both seated and standing) which you constantly adjust are essential. So is taking short breaks away from your desk. Yoga chairs and orthopaedic cushions can serve as an aid, but the most important thing is to be aware of how to sit properly in order to take pressure away from your spine and strengthen your muscles. Enough sleep and drinking enough water is crucial for your body to function properly, too.
For managing existing ailments, provided they are not at a very severe and/or chronic stage already, all of this should help you lead a more comfortable and healthy lifestyle.
Bibliography and further reading
Annalee Yassi FRCPC, Repetitive strain injuries, in: The Lancet, Volume 349, Issue 9056, 29 March 1997, pp. 943 – 947.
Stephen Bevan, Eleanor Passmore, Michelle Mahdon, Fit For Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders and Labour Market Participation, London, September 2007, http://www.theworkfoundation.com/DownloadPublication/Report/44_44_fit_for_work_small.pdf
S. Bevan, T. Quadrello, R. McGee, M. Mahdon, A. Vavrovsky et al., Fit for Work? Musculoskeletal disorders in the European workforce, London 2009, The Work Foundation.
Kim A. Burton, Nicholas A.S. Kendall, ABC of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 3rd Edition Musculoskeletal Disorders, in: BMJ 2014, 348 (g1076).
T.H. Tveito, M. Hysing, H.R. Eriksen, Low back pain interventions at the workplace. A systematic literature review. Occup Med. 2004, 54, pp. 3-13.
S.J. Linton, M.W. van Tulder, Preventive interventions for back and neck pain problems. What is the evidence?, in: Spine 2001, 26, pp.778-787. A. Lahad, A. Malter, A.O. Berg, R. Deyo, The effectiveness of four interventions for the prevention of low back pain, in. JAMA 1994, 272, pp. 1286-1291. US Preventive Services Task Force. Primary Care Interventions to Prevent Low Back Pain in Adults: Recommendation Statement. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2004. (www.ahrq.gov/clinic/3rduspstf/lowback/lowbackrs.htm). G. Young, D. Jewell, Interventions for Preventing and Treating Pelvic and Back Pain in Pregnancy, Cochrane Review, Issue 4, Chichester 2003. M.N. van Poppel, B.W. Koes, T. Smid, L.M. Bouter, A systematic review of controlled clinical trials on the prevention of back pain in industry. Occup Environ Med 1997, 54, pp. 841-847. C. Brisson, S. Montreuil, L. Punnett, Effects of ergonomics training program on workers with video display units, in: Scand J Work Environ Health 1999, 25, pp. 255-263. W.S. Marras, W.G. Allread, D.L. Burr, F.A. Fathallah. Prospective validation of a low-back disorder risk model and assessment of ergonomic interventions associated with manual materials handling tasks, in: Ergonomics 2000, 43, pp. 1866-1886. S. Koda, S. Nakagiri, N. Yasuda, H. Ohara, A follow-up study of preventive effects on low back pain at worksites by providing a participatory occupational safety and health program, in: Ind Health 1997, 35, pp. 243-248. E.L. Wergeland, B. Veiersted, M. Ingre et al. A shorter workday as a means of reducing the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders, in: Scand J Work Environ Health 2003, 29, pp. 27-34.
P. Fauno, S. Kalund, I. Andreasen, U. Jorgensen, Soreness in lower extremities and back is reduced by use of shock absorbing heel inserts, in: Int J Sports Med. 1993, 14, pp. 288-290. R.E. Tooms, J.W. Griffin, S. Green, K. Cagle, Effect of viscoelastic insoles on pain. Orthopedics, 1987, 10, pp. 1143-1147. A. Mündermann, D.J. Stefanyshyn, B.M. Nigg, Relationship between footwear comfort of shoe inserts and anthropometric and sensory factors, in: Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001, 33, pp. 1939-1945. K Larsen, F. Weidich, C. Leboeuf-Yde, Can custom-made biomechanic shoe orthoses prevent problems in the back and lower extremities? A randomized, controlled intervention trial of 146 military conscripts, in: J Manipulative Physiol Ther, 2002, 25, pp. 326-331.
P. Jellema, M.W. van Tulder, M.N.M. van Poppel et al., Lumbar supports for prevention and treatment of low back pain, in: Spine 2001, 26, pp. 377-386.
F.M. Kovacs, V. Abraira, A. Pena et al., Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial, in: Lancet. 2003, 362, pp.1599-1604.
Prof. Michael A Ashburn MD, Prof. Peter S Staats MD, Management of chronic pain, in: The Lancet, Volume 353, Issue 9167, 29 May 1999, pp. 1865 – 1869. See also: L. Hestbaek, C. Leboeuf-Yde, C. Manniche, Low back pain: what is the long-term course? A review of studies of general patient populations, in: Eur Spine J. 2003, 12, pp. 149-165.
J. Kool, R. de Bie, P. Oesch et al., Exercise reduces sick leave in patients with non-acute non-specific low back pain. A meta-analysis, in: J Rehabil Med., 2004, 36, pp. 49-62. F.J. Mendez, A. Gomez-Conesa, Postural hygiene program to prevent low back pain, in: Spine 2001, 26, pp.1280-1286.
Corrigendum to “How to prevent low back pain” [Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology 19 (2005) 541-555] A. Kim Burton, PhD DO Eur Erg, (On behalf of the COST B13 Working Group on European Guidelines for Prevention in Low Back Pain) Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology December 2005 (Vol. 19, Issue 6,Page 1095)
NIN Consensus Development Panel on Acupuncture, Acupuncture, in: JAMA 1998, 280 (17), 1518-1524.
What yoga and mindfulness can do for Child and Parent Wellbeing
As seen in Parental Choice, 18 March 2018
Yoga and mindfulness are the buzzwords of the year, maybe the decade: at the gym, at work, or even in the classroom. Everyone seems to love it, because everyone seems to be stressed these days. But is it all just hippie hype, or can yoga really help you and your child achieve mental well-being and become closer and more relaxed in a world which puts more and more demands on adults and children alike? Yes, it can! And here is how…
Yoga is not just about physical exercise but also voluntary respiration (called Pranayama), in which practitioners control the duration of inhalation, exhalation and retention of breath. The benefits of mindfulness – the practice of becoming consciously and fully aware of the present moment without judgment – are closely related to the scientific benefits of Pranayama. Indeed, the two work very well together, as discovered by molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction program) was formed in the 1970s and combines non-religious elements of Buddhism, yoga and zen. Amongst other things, it includes a seated meditative practice called “body scan” which is designed to calm the mind, reducing anxiety and depression and lowering your blood pressure and sugar levels. Like many yoga exercises, it also helps regulate emotions and physical awareness, and increases memory and concentration.
In addition to increased flexibility, muscle strength, injury protection and cardio and circulatory health, yoga can in this way strengthen one’s respiratory system both in the short- and the long-term. And with a more efficient intake of oxygen, subtle chemical changes take place in the body, including the production of calming oxytocin and endorphins. This is in fact supposed to occur naturally and automatically after a bout of stress but, because today most of us are in a permanent state of stress, our bodies are losing the ability to calm themselves: voluntary respiration helps activate the nerve that regulates this. In other words: we can learn how to trigger the hormones that allow us to regain and retain self-control.
Today’s world is full of stress factors, which our ancestors and even our parents’ generation did not have to deal with. My company, Pathak Yoga, was founded out of the growing recognition in the corporate world that less stressed employees are more productive employees. Accordingly, our main focus in on teaching yoga in offices, which helps make employees healthier and – therefore – employers happier. But children’s stressors have increased too: tablets, mobile phones, increased television consumption and rising demands at school (not to mention the stress we parents can cause them).
Because of this, a fresh trend is growing towards teaching yoga and mindfulness to children. The dynamic stretches of yogic movements as well as hand gestures train co-ordination skills; active stretches train children to hold a position rather than restlessly moving around, thereby calming their minds and letting them focus on deep breaths, which is a great tool for helping empower and de-stress children through a greater understanding of their bodies and emotions.
As with the broader practice of mindfulness, it’s important to note that none of this changes the situation you’re in: it simply helps change the way we look at – and therefore deal with – our experience of it. By recognising and accepting that “negative” emotions are just as much part of life as positive ones, we can take a great deal of their sting away. As a parent, it is not always easy to stay calm around your children, and what often compounds a feeling of stress is the fact that you end up revisiting situations in which you wish you’d reacted differently. By using the right tools, we can learn to forgive ourselves and accept situations for what they are, both at work and at home. It can also help us treat our children with more understanding and kindness when challenging situations want to hinder us from it.
Yoga, whether together with your child or alone, is a great way of obtaining those tools that let us relax, learn to deal with overwhelming situations, and to recharge our batteries – all of which makes it even more pressing to devote time to yourself and to give your children the same tools you are equipping yourself with. After all, being a parent is stressful, but so is being a child: not being understood by adults can lead to frustration and so-called “tantrums”. But children lack the experience and self-awareness to become calm without outside guidance. Give them the tools to do so and you’ll reduce stress on your children, on yourself, and in your working life. And you’ll have yet another regular opportunity to strengthen and deepen the bond with your child.
Also see us featured in:
April 17, 2018/ in Social / by Hebe O’Malley
A good work/life balance is very important for improving mental health and mindfulness. We spend most of our adult lives at work and our colleagues become our family. It is one of KAU Media Group’s main culture policies to make sure our team enjoy coming to work. One of our KMG slogans is: Gym Together, Win Together.
We have been enjoying Office Yoga for over a year now. It relieves the tension and stress of sitting at a desk all day. All the aches in our shoulders and twinges in our back. The stiffness in our fingers from typing and working hard. It allows us to stretch and meditate. Releasing all the toxins and focusing on our breathing ready for a relaxing evening. Office Yoga is so convenient as it can be done at our desks or in a space in the office. No faffing around trying to fit yoga into our out of work schedules. Guided meditation and chanting means that the team does not even have to get changed. The company that we use, Pathak Yoga, are very experienced in tailoring the yoga so that it caters for the ability of the team. It is something our team really look forward to and ask when the next session will be.
Bassanti at Pathak Yoga arrives with mats if an intermediate level session is arranged and will help the team with any personal aches they are suffering with. We have yoga regularly at the KMG HQ and could not recommend it enough. It’s a class that some may never have had the opportunity to try and it’s a great team building exercise. It can be a giggle too, as Bassanti is very flexible and trying to mimic her can be hilarious. This month we wanted to share our experience with Pathak Office Yoga as the sun was shining; so our session was outside. This was a beautiful hour amongst the trees. Pathak Yoga is so versatile and a bespoke package can be arranged that suits your company’s time schedule and needs. Achieving zen in our 9-5 has never been simpler for us.
If we’ve inspired your inner yogi, visit: pathak-yoga.com