Most of us are probably familiar with the concept that overuse of a specific body part can potentially result in an injury. Major league baseball pitchers experience this all the time – even little leaguers these days are all too frequently suffering from elbow or shoulder damage from too much throwing. Practice and repetition are good things, up to a point.
Those of us who work in the field of ergonomics often recommend breaking up long stretches of repetitive work at a computer as an effective strategy to prevent discomfort, which may lead to potential soft-tissue injury. We often suggest performing alternate tasks that require you to get up out of your chair and move around, or perhaps engaging in a simple stretch that can help to relieve localized joint fatigue. Commonly, we refer to these as microbreaks.
A fairly new concept in microbreaks, developed by Dr. Jeffrey Anshell – a well-known optometrist, is known as the 20-20-20 Rule: Take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes, and look at something at least 20 feet away. Studies have demonstrated the efficacy and effectiveness of taking regular, short-duration microbreaks. Not only does the rate of injuries decrease, the rate of worker productivity actually increases. Think of this as an opportunity to recharge your batteries throughout the day, as opposed to just slowly watching them run down.
The question is, how do you remember to take this short break every twenty minutes? A simple solution is probably sitting nearby as you read this: why not set your smart phone to alert you every twenty minutes when at work? This can likely be done in a variety of ways, depending on the type of phone you have. Having it play a short clip of music or a friendly voice reminder is much less annoying than an alarm or buzzer, particularly when you are in the middle of a critical task.
Oh, and that last part of the rule, looking at something at least twenty feet away, gives your eyes a vision break as well. We weren’t designed to operate in a twenty-inch world.
Give this a try and you might find that soreness in your wrist or shoulder slowly going away, and possibly even notice that you have more energy at the end of the day – to toss the baseball around with your kids.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.