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Reduce pain and prevent injury by improving your workspace

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How to optimize your workstation and posture to prevent pain and injury.

In the modern work world many of us spend our days sitting at a desk in front of the computer.  The human body however was not designed for this sedentary lifestyle and will get stiff and sore from lack of movement.  Even if you are active outside of work, sitting at a desk with poor setup and slouched posture can give you chronic aches and pains or exacerbate existing injuries.

Some common complaints that could be related to your posture include:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands
  • Shoulder pain
  • Upper back stiffness
  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica

Making some simple ergonomic adjustments to your workstation can help you feel more comfortable during and after your work day:

  • Ensure you have a good chair that is comfortable for you and adjusted properly.  Ideally you should be sitting with your buttocks to the back of the chair so that you are leaning against the backrest.  You may need to adjust the lumbar support or add a rolled up towel or small pillow behind the small of your back to support your spine’s natural curve.
  • Sit with both feet flat on the floor and the knees bent to about 90 degrees.  Adjust your chair height accordingly or add a stool under your feet if you can’t touch the ground.
  •  Adjust your computer monitor so that your screen is at eye level.  This can be as easy as putting a book underneath to raise it up.  You should not have to look down or strain to see your computer.
  • Have your keyboard at a comfortable height so that your elbows are bent to approximately 90 degrees and you are not reaching forward.  If you have a laptop, consider using an external keyboard so that you type in a neutral position.
  • Adapt your workstation to fit you.  Move things that you use frequently throughout the day (such as the phone, files, etc.) to a location that is easy to access so that you don’t have to reach or move awkwardly to get to them.  This will help you avoid sprains and strains from poor movement patterns.

Even with the perfect ergonomic setup, poor posture can catch up to you.  Some common habits to AVOID are:

  • Crossing your knees.  Sitting in this position twists your pelvis and lumbar spine, putting extra strain on the muscles, joints, and ligaments.  While it may feel good temporarily, you probably need to keep switching positions to stay comfortable because your body is not in a neutral position.
  • Perching on the front of your seat.   While you may think it is good to try to hold yourself up straight without using the backrest it is not realistic to do this for an 8 hour day.  Your postural muscles will fatigue quickly and you will end up slouching and feeling sore.
  • Leaning your shoulders forward and head down to look at your computer.  Think of all the extra strain you are putting on your neck and shoulder to hold your body in this position!  Try to remind yourself to sit up tall – Think shoulders down and back and head up.  Your spine should feel long and supported, but not rigid.

It is also important to stay active throughout the day and break up long periods of sitting in one position.  Here are some ideas to keep you limber throughout the day:

·       Set an alarm to get up and move every 20-30 minutes.  This could be as simple as standing up to do some stretches, taking a quick walk around the office, a washroom break, or going to get some water.  Interrupted sitting is the best way to prevent tightness from building up in your spine and soft tissues

·       Stretch at your desk.  There are lots of simple movements and stretches you can do as you work to keep your body feeling good.  Try to remember to move a little bit at least every 15-20 minutes.  Try stretching your neck side to side, moving your head gently in different directions, rolling your shoulders backwards, squeezing your shoulder blades together, stretching your legs out in front of you, and moving your feet and ankles.

We hope these tips have been helpful and have given you ideas that you can incorporate into your daily life.  Do not hesitate to call us and make an appointment.  An in depth one-on-one assessment with one of our physiotherapists will help address your specific needs for injury prevention or management.

Written by Stephanie Connolly

Click to visit Pursuit Physiotherapy.

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Alberta

Alberta government’s new smartphone restrictions won’t eliminate digital distraction in classrooms

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Paige MacPherson and Tegan Hill

Research has shown that simply having a smartphone nearby is enough to distract students from completing a task, and that it takes students 20 minutes to regain focus on learning after being distracted. And when schools removed smartphones from the classroom in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain, learning outcomes improved, especially for underperforming kids.

According to a new directive from the Smith government, beginning next September there will be restrictions on smartphones in Alberta schools. While the directive is light on details, one thing is clear—given mounting evidence that smartphone distraction can hinder academic performance, unless the province (or individual school authorities) ban smartphones in the classroom, students will continue to suffer the consequences.

Indeed, research has shown that simply having a smartphone nearby is enough to distract students from completing a task, and that it takes students 20 minutes to regain focus on learning after being distracted. And when schools removed smartphones from the classroom in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain, learning outcomes improved, especially for underperforming kids.

Moreover, the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report found a clear connection between smartphone distraction and declining student achievement, particularly in math. Specifically, 80 per cent of Canadian students report being distracted by the devices of other students in math class—and students who were distracted by smartphones in math class scored 15 points lower on PISA math tests than those who were not distracted. (PISA equates a 20-point drop in student test scores with one year of lost learning.)

Again, this is not just students distracted by their own devices, which are obvious attention-zappers for kids and teens. This is students distracted by the devices of other students. The research on digital distraction and its impact on student achievement makes clear that only a smartphone ban—with very few exceptions—will save kids from digital distraction.

And notably, Alberta’s PISA math scores have fallen 45 points in the last two decades, from 2003 to 2022, which PISA equates with more than two years of lost learning, with the decline predating COVID school closures.

The empirical evidence against smartphones in schools is mounting. But it’s also common sense, and people understand. The Alberta government’s own survey revealed that 90 per cent of more than 68,000 respondents—including parents, teachers, students and principals—had concerns about phone use in schools. This is consistent with other public opinion research in Canada. One survey showed 80 per cent of Canadians support banning phones in public schools. Another found that 51 per cent of Albertans said that phones should be banned in K-12 classrooms, and another 40 per cent said they should not be allowed unless directed by a teacher.

In 2019, the Ontario government issued a similar directive restricting smartphones in K-12 schools, which was nearly pointless because the government left the specifics up to school boards (just like the Smith government is now leaving the specifics up to school authorities in Alberta). Without being able to point to an overarching policy, Ontario teachers said they spent too much time surveilling and nagging in class, and many stopped trying altogether.

In its directive, the Smith government indicated there will be exceptions not only for reasonable health and medical needs (e.g. blood sugar monitoring) but also for “learning needs, and for educational purposes.” To actually eliminate digital distraction in the classroom, the provincial education ministry must support school authorities, who must support principals, who must support teachers to help enforce an actual ban.

While we should be skeptical of reflexive government “bans” in general, smartphones clearly impede student learning and socialization in schools. Banning smartphones in K-12 public government schools is the right move. But a patchwork approach, which accommodates endless exemptions, won’t free Alberta classrooms from the negative effects of digital distraction.

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Alberta

Alberta parents want balance—not bias—in the classroom

Published on

From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill and Paige MacPherson

74 per cent of parents in Alberta believe teachers should present both sides of controversial issues (e.g. sexuality/gender, climate change) or avoid them entirely.

With the Alberta government set to test its new draft social studies curriculum in September, a new poll reveals a clear consensus: Alberta parents of K-12 children want schools to provide balance—not bias—in the classroom. And when it comes to controversial material in schools, they want to make their own choices for their children.

Specifically, the poll (conducted by Leger and commissioned by the Fraser Institute) found that 88 per cent of Alberta parents (with kids in public and independent schools) believe teachers and the provincial curriculum should focus on facts—not teacher interpretations of those facts, which may include opinions. Only 10 per cent of Alberta parents disagreed.

Moreover, despite ongoing debates in the media and among activists about K-12 school policies, curriculum development, controversial issues in the classroom and parental involvement, according to the poll, the vast majority of parents agree on how schools should handle these issues.

For example, 74 per cent of parents in Alberta believe teachers should present both sides of controversial issues (e.g. sexuality/gender, climate change) or avoid them entirely.

An overwhelming majority of Alberta parents (86 per cent) believe schools should provide advance notice when controversial topics will be discussed in class or during formal school activities. This isn’t surprising—many parents may want to discuss these issues with their children in advance.

In fact, when controversial topics arise, about three quarters (73 per cent) of Alberta parents believe parents should have the right to remove their children from those lessons without consequence to their children’s grades. Of the minority who do not believe parents should have this right, most said “children need to learn about all topics/viewpoints, regardless of their parents’ bias.”

And almost nine in 10 Alberta parents (89 per cent) believe classroom materials and conversations about potentially controversial topics should always be age appropriate.

These polling results should help inform provincial and school-level policies around parental information, consent, school curricula and teacher curriculum guides. For instance, given that parents overwhelmingly favour facts in classrooms, curriculum guides should require the teaching of specific details (e.g. the key players, dates and context of specific historical events). Currently, teachers are allowed to interpret events based on their opinions, which means students may hear completely different interpretations depending on the particular teacher.

While the preferences of parents with kids in K-12 schools are often presented as contentious in media and politics, polling data shows a clear consensus. Parents overwhelmingly value balance, not bias. They want their kids taught age-appropriate facts rather than opinions. And they expect prior notice before anything controversial happens in their kids’ schools. According to most parents in Alberta, none of these opinions are controversial.

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