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The ABC on MSDs

Who can relate to this guy? He sits at a desk Monday to Friday, and there’s never enough time in the day to grab lunch let alone do exercise. He dreams of the weekend so he can get out on the fells.

A lot of us, I bet!

Times have changed a little.

Remember the days when we went into work and, if we were lucky, had a nice ergonomic office chair to sit in?

If your employers were really on top of employee health and safety they would have carried out a workplace assessment to help you achieve maximum comfort when working, particularly for those of you who suffer from an MSD (Musculoskeletal Disorder).

What’s an MSD?

In simple terms an MSD is an injury or condition that affects the back, joints and limbs. Examples of an MSD include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and osteoarthritis. An MSD can be caused by, amongst other things, repetitive work, poor manual handling and long periods of sitting.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of us have an MSD resulting in millions of lost working hours. If you’re really unfortunate you’ll experience pain from more than one MSD so it’s crucial that we (and our employers) mitigate future problems by both managing risk and introducing regular movement and stretching into our working day.

But it’s not all doom and gloom because staying healthy at work is easier than you think! For starters speak to your supervisor about a workplace assessment. Your employer has a duty of care to ensure that you health is not placed at risk while you carry out your job.

However, many of us are working from home at the minute because of the present circumstances. Have you considered your home desk setup?

Simple Steps You Can Take To Stay Healthy

Your Workspace

● Adjust your laptop/monitor to ensure that your eyes are level with the top of your screen. Looking down onto a screen for long periods can have a detrimental effect on your neck and back. Laptop risers are a great little piece of kit that can be adjusted to suit.

● Similarly document holders will help you maintain the correct head and neck posture. Having papers scattered all over your workspace is not conducive to a healthy spine!

● Try and keep your wrists straight when typing; if you struggle consider purchasing a mouse mad with a wrist pad. Keeping a space between you and your keyboard will allow your wrists to rest when you’re not typing. Additionally, ensure you have sufficient room under your desk/table to allow you to stretch your legs regularly.

● Home working sadly means that you’re probably unlikely to have an all-singing, all-dancing ergonomic chair but if you do make sure that it’s adjusted to suit. If you don’t have one, find a chair that you can adjust or at least use one where you can place a cushion to protect the base of your back. Remember to take regular breaks and stretch those limbs before returning to your work space.

● If you can’t comfortably rest your feet flat on the floor then adjust your chair or use a footrest.

Your Body

● Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It’s a wonderful strategy that will save your mind as well as your muscles! Simply set a timer to take a 5-minute break after every 25-minute block of work. Use your break to get up and away from your laptop and move around.

● Do these simple and effective stretches when you start to seize up:


○ Sit forward from the back of your chair

○ With your thumbs pointing towards the ceiling, open your arms out to the side until you feel a stretch in the front of your chest. Ensure your shoulders are back and down.

○ Switch on the muscles between your shoulder blades by slowly drawing them together. You should not feel any pain when doing this.

○ Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat.


○ Perch on the edge of your seat and stretch your right leg out in front of you

○ Rest your heel on the floor with your foot pointing up

○ Lean forward slightly from the hips and look straight ahead. You should feel a gentle stretch along the back of your right leg.

○ Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, repeat 3 times and then swap legs.


○ Sit with your bottom right at the back of your seat resting against the back of the chair for support

○ Rest your forearms on your desk with your elbows sitting at a 90 degree angle

○ Keep your shoulders relaxed; don’t have them sitting up around your ears!

○ Keep your feet flat on the floor


○ Stand by your desk, placing a hand on it for balance

○ Standing on your left leg, raise your right heel back towards your right buttock

○ Grab a hold of your right foot with your right hand and hold. You should feel a gentle stretch along the front of your thigh

○ Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on your left leg

For the full list of useful stretches check out this Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) link:

You can download the PDF and print it off; share it with your work colleagues as I'm sure you're not the only one who needs to move and stretch from time to time!

This short guide can be referred to when you feel the need to switch up your working routine. If you can remember one thing, it’s to get up and move at least once every 30 minutes! Plus, it’s a great excuse to make a cup of tea!

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