Juliet’s guide to Health at Work

Stetching at work

This week we have been discussing workplace health.  On the whole, work is good for you – as long as it’s the right work.  This doesn’t mean that work is only good if you have your dream job, but rather that there has to be some consideration of a person’s physical capabilities and temperament when matching to a job.  For instance, you wouldn’t recommend that someone of a nervous disposition was a bomb disposal expert and nor would it work very well if someone with severe asthma worked in a cold, dusty warehouse.  However, for the majority of situations we can adapt & cope… even thrive.

Nonetheless some may be feeling some negative effects of the long hours, high stress, sedentary culture that has been blossoming in recent years in the work place.  Some may say that work is not good for them… so how can workplace physio potentially help with this?

The conditions that cause the most amount of time off work sick are stress, depression or anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders.  They accounted for 80% of new work-related conditions in 2011/12 according to the HSE.   One of the most effective treatments for all of these conditions has consistently been found to be exercise!  And that’s where I come in!

As an occupational physio I can help both specifically with musculoskeletal pain & injury, but also with manual handling, desk assessments & general lifestyle advice.   We spend so many hours a day at work this cannot be ignored as it will impact on your recovery or your injury may impact on your ability to work.  You may think that a desk worker has fewer issues than a manual worker, but consider what it is doing to your body sitting at a desk all day – I’m sure any desk workers will recognise neck stiffness as a common complaint when they have been working intensively – though not debilitating, certainly not pleasant!  There are many stretches and exercises that a physio can teach you specific to your needs,

Back stretch to do at work

but a few also that most of use would benefit from – see my pictures posted on our Facebook page recently.

When it comes to stress & anxiety exercise is so great because if burns off adrenalin, which is released with the flight or fight response.  It used to be that when we got stressed or scared it was because of a threat like an animal was going to attack us (think cave men) – so releasing adrenalin was a useful thing, it got us ready to fight the threat or run from it.  But now, what stresses us may be as un-physically threatening as a demanding email – we still get the fight or flight response, but the adrenalin is not so useful now, and isn’t burnt up, instead leaving us shaking/sweating/heart pounding/breathless etc.  But if we exercise, we can burn it off!  This is so important, because otherwise we risk being in a constant state of fight or flight, and this can lead to ongoing health problems like high blood pressure and impaired digestion and immune systems.

For depression, exercise has been shown to be as effective as some anti-depressant medications – due to the release of serotonin, the happy hormone!  As well as this, depression and anxiety often go hand in hand, so with exercise you are killing two birds with 1 stone.

Basically, what I am saying is that even though work can be good for us, this doesn’t make us infallible.  We need to look after ourselves to cope with daily stress & strain – this involves a healthy diet and regular exercise.  It also involves small, simple solutions, like good desk set up and regular breaks.  I’m sure many of you have heard this before – but that’s because it works!

Follow me, Juliet Hilton, Back in Action UK’s Workplace Physio, on Twitter @JulietPhysio

Check out our website for more info, like us on Facebook or emailme with a query: juliet.hilton@backinactionuk.com

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