EXPERT’S 10 TIPS FOR BUSINESSES & WORKERS TO TRANSITION OUT OF LOCKDOWN AS SOME OFFICES REOPEN…

Employers: Consider ditching ‘hot-desking’ trend as Coronavirus deep-cleaning priorities kick in
 
Employees: Get ready for ‘the new normal’ – desk-working back-to-back (not face-to-face)  
 
Home workers: Avoid awkward makeshift workstations like ironing boards, top back expert warns
 
All workers: Become accustomed to ‘blended working’, part-time office, part-time at home 
Homeworkers are risking back pain, migraines, sciatica and RSI by creating makeshift workstations from domestic appliances like ironing boards, sofa armrests and rickety garden furniture.
That’s the finding of one of the country’s leading health ergonomists and back-injury-prevention experts, who has conducted hundreds of home workstation assessments since lockdown began on March 23.
Nichola Adams normally tours top British companies’ offices around the country advising them on how they can minimise the risk of back injury in the workforce. Her top ten tips are –
FOR EMPLOYERS 
1 TIP ONE: CONSIDER DITCHING ‘HOT-DESKING’ It’s going to be essential when we return to the office to implement a new ‘single-desk-per-day’ regime, and to clean work surfaces, like desks, chairs, monitors, keyboards and mice, at the end of every individual worker’s shift. So, this does sound a death knell for the widespread cost-saving practice of ‘hot-desking’. If workers are nervous about continuing to hot-desk, you’ll need to respect their concerns.
 
2 TIP TWO: DOWNSIZE TO LOWER CAPACITY Because of the continuing rules on social distancing, companies with, say, 100 staff, will now only have capacity for 20-40 employees in the office at any one time. Businesses should plan ahead for this lower capacity. The need to radically reduce the amount of people in the office has already prompted many companies to rotate staff by day or by the week, to widen the spread between teams. A mix of homeworking and office shifts looks likely for the foreseeable future.
3 TIP THREE: GET BUSY SCREENING & CLEANING Screens or barriers may be needed around desks. Pods or self-contained units for workers will have partitions on all sides of the desk to stop the virus spreading when we cough and breathe. Covid-19 lingers longest on plastic, so the more porous your partition fabric, the more the virus is absorbed, meaning there’s less likelihood of transference. Workstations should be cleansed after every shift, also chairs, tables, monitors and office break-out furniture as the virus lands on many surfaces. If used, reception sofas should be cleaned after each arriving guest.
 
4 TIP FOUR: INCREASE SUPPORT FOR YOUR WORKFORCE A new Institute for Employment Studies (IES) survey of 500 homeworkers, found 75% said their employer had not carried out a health and safety risk assessment of their homeworking arrangements in lockdown. People are confused, need help, guidance and want to feel safe. Good advice is scarce. I recommend employers host health and wellbeing workshops, support employees’ mental health, and conduct fresh office ergonomic workstation assessments, which they’re legally obliged to if workstations move. Some staff may feel keen to return to the office, others nervous. Talk to individuals about their concerns.
5 TIP FIVE: DOUBLE EMPLOYEE ALLOWANCES Musculoskeletal issues like back pain and injuries, and neck and upper-limb problems, cost UK plc nearly 7 million working days a year. Part of the problem of homeworking is few people have the right equipment to work comfortably in the long term. In lockdown, many companies are offering homeworkers an allowance (average budget from £150) to buy work furniture. But with rough costs, (chair £100-£150), (table £60-£90), (keyboard £40), (mouse £20) adding up to £300, employers should double their allowance. Also, offer advice on what equipment to buy, or consider sending their office equipment home.
 
FOR EMPLOYEES 
1 TIP ONE: BEWARE ‘MAKESHIFT’ SET-UPS AT HOME The IES survey found, on average, a 50% increase in back-pain issues in lockdown. It’s crucial to seek advice on how to create your homeworking set-up correctly, warns Inspired Ergonomics Founder Nichola Adams. “I’ve seen makeshift workstations using ironing boards, drinks cabinets, coffee tables, bar stools, sofa armrests and old fold-up garden chairs and tables. Around 5% of people are slouching on beds. You can get away with it short-term but for longer-term homeworking, use tables and office chairs,” advises Nichola. “Adjust furniture to support a healthy posture. If there’s space, stick to tables and office chairs. Simple changes can have a huge impact.”
2 TIP TWO: THINK TOILET SEAT! Research on germs by UK ergonomics firm BakkerElkhuizen shows there are 45,670 more bacteria on an average computer mouse than there are on the average toilet seat; 20,598 more on a keyboard than on a loo seat. Returning to your office, take your keyboard and mouse with you so any germs are your own. Leaving work, wipe clean to avoid taking office germs home. Positioning equipment incorrectly can cause shoulder and neck strains, headaches and migraines.
 
3 TIP THREE: SWAP HANDBAGS FOR BACKPACKS Mrs Thatcher famously clobbered politicians with her handbag, but now heavy handbags can cause neck and shoulder injuries to women who haven’t been used to carrying them in lockdown. Out-of-condition muscles mean, to avoid injury, it’s wiser to distribute the weight of your belongings evenly using a backpack, preferably with adjustable, padded straps. As many of us may be avoiding public transport, backpacks are also ideal when cycling or walking to work.
4 TIP FOUR: WATCH YOUR BACK Government guidelines recommend that office workers should no longer be sitting face-to-face at their desks. Instead, employees social distancing correctly are being encouraged to sit back-to-back or side-by-side, and six feet apart. This may mean desks moving position, so a fresh ergonomic workstation assessment is recommended.
5 TIP FIVE: MAKE A STAND With companies reducing their capacity and allowing fewer employees in the office at any one time, work rooms will be less full. Provided you follow social-distancing guidelines, this new environment allows you to stand up and walk around more often, along the guided route. Take regular screen breaks, stand up and move about to help improve blood circulation, ease muscle tension build-up and prevent injury. Do this at home, too.
Nichola Adams, who has conducted hundreds of assessments remotely during lockdown, says: “A lot of businesses and employees with whom I’ve consulted now believe they may be going back to work in September or next January.
“There’s fear of a second wave and many employers are being very cautious about the health and welfare of their workforce in the office. Some tell me they’re worried they may be sued if an employee falls ill.
“With many of us facing up to another six months at home, there’s now a lot of confusion about what people should be doing, especially as there are still so many unknowns ahead.
“Homeworkers are struggling. One lady in her 20s, who works for a London law firm, was using her ironing board as a laptop desk and a rickety fold-up garden chair to sit on.
“The ironing board was too high, giving her severe neck and shoulder problems. The garden chair had a gap at the gap, so without support, she got lower-back pain – all compounded by her moving less than she normally would in the office.
“Others use dining tables that are too high, or their beds, slouching and craning their necks. One lady used her sofa arm as a mouse mat. People think they know how to set up a workstation correctly, but they need professional support and advice.”
Leading UK osteopath Gavin Burt, whose north London practice Backs & Beyond has just re-opened, said patients whose employers had arranged for their office chairs to be transported home were reporting the least back pain.
“I wasn’t expecting such a high number of patients telling me this,” he said, “but it seems that the small adaptation of having a proper office chair at home, even if only used at the dining table, has helped workers substantially reduce the amount of both neck and shoulder, and back pain that they have been suffering from since the beginning of the lockdown.”
Nichola Adams, MSc Health Ergonomics, Tech CIEHF (Technical Member of The Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors), Reg Member ACPOHE (The Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics), is the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics (inspiredergonomics.com) and one of the UK’s leading back-pain experts, advising companies on how to minimise the risk of back pain in the workplace.

ITS SLEEP SUNDAY – LET’S TALK ABOUT THE EFFECTS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION…

According to Wikipedia Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function.

According to an article on WEB MD Charles Bea, MD says that ‘there is a link between pain and sleep problems, exactly how the two conditions are connected varies from person to person. “You have to determine what is the chicken and what is the egg,” he says. “Is pain a manifestation of, or made worse by, a sleep disorder or is pain causing the poor quality of sleep?

Charles Bae, MD, a neurologist in the Sleep Disorders Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, puts it this way: “Pain can be the main reason that someone wakes up multiple times a night, and this results in a decrease in sleep quantity and quality, and on the flip side, sleep deprivation can lower your pain threshold and pain tolerance and make existing pain feel worse”.

So what’s the answer – Spine Health say that “Psychological techniques. Meditation, cognitive behavior therapy, and deep breathing exercises are some of the more common practices. Sleep medications. Specifically designed to help with sleep, these medications may be considered by themselves or along with other strategies in certain circumstances”, may help with your sleep pattern.

Arthritis Health says that “Positive bedtime habits and environment changes include:

  • Using a high-quality mattress with comfortable sheets and blankets
  • Eliminating light and noise from the bedroom, including glare and sounds from electronics; a sound machine that generates white noise may help mask outside noises (people will often use a fan for this purpose)
  • Lowering the temperature in the bedroom to 68 degrees or lower
  • Using deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation techniques (tensing and then relaxing muscle groups in sequence)
  • Using a biofeedback device to help individuals recognize signs of tension and actively work to relax muscles, slow breathing, and calm down
  • Going to bed at the same time every day
  • Getting up and doing something calming if sleeplessness sets in, returning to bed only once feeling tired

If you have any unique suggestions on how to get back to sleep after being woken up with pain then please let us know so we can all try it.

Other factors of course are that sleep changes with Age. You can see from the graphic below how it changes a great deal as we age. I probably only get about 6 hours of sleep maximum.

Many Fibromyalgia sufferers have sleep problems even if they have a rest during the day. But having a few ‘good’ hours sleep can make all the difference. I’m sure I am not alone in also suffering most days with an overwhelming feeling of fatigue. I can honestly say that sometimes I have felt so tired, that I thought I would fall asleep standing up. But even an afternoon nap is not the same as having a ‘proper’ night’s sleep.

Healthline explains 11 effects of sleep deprivation on your body with this great graphic and just shows how it really can affect your way of life big time.

 

 

 

I KNOW I’M NOT ALONE ON THIS FIBROMYALGIA AWARENESS DAY…

Isn’t it strange, how nature makes you forget,
That terrible pain you have and continually get.
It comes in waves when you least expect it,
And you think, please stop now and give me a rest for a bit.

With my batteries recharged, I’m ready for the next bout of pain,
Gosh, I forgot how it was driving me insane.
I keep my head high and everyone says I look just fine,
But they have no idea how I really feel at this present moment in time.

I may not have bandages and plaster anywhere on my body,
But believe me, it just keeps on coming back and driving me potty.
Now I’ve tried everything available in the book,
And yes, it helps but only with my foot!!!

I’m writing this poem as I just can’t sleep,
It’s that awful pain again from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.
I’m sure one day someone will find a cure,
But until then I shall just have to suffer some more.

So, while your sleeping like a baby in bed,
Think of me some time while I try again to clear my head!
I’m afraid that’s all I can think of, for the time being anyway,

MAY IS #FIBROMYALGIA AWARENESS MONTH…

 

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May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month and ProHealth say, ‘Help us raise awareness and dispel the myths about this disease’. Write your story of Fibromyalgia on their site Fibromyalgia Awareness Healing Story Meaning originally written by Rebuilding Wellness. 

Zazzle an American site has a number of Fibromyalgia Awareness Gifts from t. shirts to key rings.  T. shirts are also available from Cafe Press UK. Another brilliant site for anything Fibro related is Fibro Blogger a Directory of People who Blog about Fibromyalgia. So, if you blog about people join this amazing directory of Fibro Bloggers.

There is also a Facebook Site which is promoting May 12th as ‘International ME/CFS/& FM Awareness Day’ so pop over and give them a tick or a donation to help raise awareness of these diseases.

SIX FACTS ABOUT FIBROMYALGIA…

  1. It is a real disorder with measurable biological abnormalities.
  2. There is a specific set of diagnostic criteria developed by the American College of Rheumatology to be used for diagnosing Fibromyalgia.
  3. It affects men, women, and children of all ages.
  4. Several studies have revealed markers of inflammation in Fibromyalgia.
  5. Exercise, when done properly, can help to reduce Fibromyalgia symptoms.
  6. Although there is no cure for Fibromyalgia, it can be managed with the right combination of treatments and therapies.

Infographic 25 invisible symptoms of fibromyalgia

PROZAC, NORTRIPTYLINE & TRAMADOL – POPULAR DRUGS USED FOR CHRONIC PAIN…

One of my previous posts was about my new pain team suggesting that I came of all my pain relieving drugs except paracetamol as I have been on them for many years.

The idea was to see a couple of things (a) was my pain a lot worse without them? and (b) how did I feel mentally without the many side effects of the drugs listed above which I was taking.

My GP however suggested I go straight onto Tramadol hydrochloride/Paracetamol which was a mixture of both Tramadol and Paracetamol but the dosage was much lower than my usual Tramadol.

I had a follow up phone call 6 weeks after the meeting with the pain team which was last week. The team also told me to take Turmeric and we’re convinced some of my symptoms were Vitamin D deficiency so also sent me for a blood test and bone scan to check for Osteoporosis.

The blood test showed I was extremely Vitamin D deficient so I was put onto a large dose of it and told to continue taking it but just a normal dose from the chemist after I had finished the strong course. My bone scan was cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus.

So, for the last eight weeks I’ve taken Vitamin D, Turmeric and the Tramadol hydrochloride/Paracetamol which I’ve not had before and tried to get myself off the rest of my medication except for the paracetamol.

I have managed to get myself completely off the pure Tramadol like my GP suggested and I am now only taking 50mg of the Tramadol hydrochloride/Paracetamol which is a massive drop. I have reduced the Prozac to just three times a week but feel happy taking that small dose. I was unable to drop my NORTRIPTYLINE even by 10 mg as the pain in the night was just too severe and kept me awake. I still take up to 8 paracetamol a day for pain.

In conclusion the answer to question (a) my pain was much worse without my nortriptyline and (b) my head and mental state felt 80% more clearer and I hope to come off the 50mg of the Tramadol hydrochloride/Paracetamol soon. All in all I’m pleased the new pain team suggested this review on all my meds as you just take them without thinking when you are in constant pain and I feel so much better in myself without the side effects from the Tramadol.