Want an easy way to avoid suffering office-related injury? Go to the bathroom once an hour.

That’s according to Dr. Arnold Markman, chief of occupational medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Service Area.

“Bodies are not meant to remain stationary for that long,” Markman said. “You cannot sit for eight hours a day. So stand up and stretch more, every 20 minutes at least. Take a bathroom break once an hour — that short walk can get the blood flowing in your body, which helps avoid injury. Instead of playing on your phone during lunch, take a walk. Your body needs to stay active or it cannot stave off injury.”

Office-related injuries are becoming more and more common in today’s modern working world with so many workers forced to spend long hours sitting in front of computers. That’s a prescription for bad backs and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Experts say it’s as important to treat such office hazards as serious health threats much like construction companies and manufacturers seek safe operating conditions and provide safety training and gear.

And both employees and employers share responsibility in warding off these injuries.

Taking frequent breaks can also protect against carpal tunnel syndrome, said Dr. Glenn Rankin, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in hand surgery at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Service Area.

“Carpal tunnel is the result of having the wrist in extreme extension for an extended period of time,” Rankin said. “So getting up and letting the tissues in your hand breathe and relax is a great idea. All of our parts are made of living tissue and they need circulation.”

Also important, he said, is learning proper typing technique.

“People not trained in classic typing technique will tend to have their fingers up away from the letters so they can find and seek the letters,” he said. “That is prolonged extension, which leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.”

Preventing office-related injuries begins at home, too.

Markman stressed the importance of regular exercise, noting that obesity or poor core strength can contribute to back injuries caused by sitting.

“If your muscles are soft, they will get hurt easier,” he said.

Employers need to do their part with proper office furnishings.

“The workplace needs to provide an ergonomic atmosphere,” Markman said.

An ergonomic atmosphere is defined as providing optimum comfort in the work place to avoid stress or injury.

Pacific Ergonomics of San Diego is among companies that specialize in furniture and accessories that promote a healthier office environment. This includes chairs with added lumbar support; electric tables that move up and down, allowing workers to switch from sitting to standing in a matter of seconds so they can stretch without work interruption; and keyboards that allow users to type at a more natural angle, reducing the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

A healthy and happy office is a productive one, said Jennifer Simmonson, CEO and founder of Pacific Ergonomics.

“Productivity and moral goes up and absenteeism and workers compensation claims goes down,” Simmonson said. “And when all that happens profits go up.”

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