PostureMinder’s Weblog

August 3, 2011

Gamer’s DVT death has wider implications for home and work computer users

As the story of the tragic death of gamer Chris Staniforth, 20, who would play his console for up to 12 hours at a time, starts to circulate, the importance of correct posture and taking regular short breaks to move around is thrown into stark relief.

Deep Vein Thrombosis illustrationChris Staniforth died in May from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) believed to have been brought on by his marathon gaming sessions. The coroner said a clot formed in Chris’ left calf before moving to his lungs. Once there, it caused a fatal blockage, known as a pulmonary embolism.

Whilst most people don’t go in for such high levels of computer game playing, plenty of us spend long periods every day using computers at home or work.

Chris’ father said: “After my research I saw there was no difference to Chris sitting at a desk on his Xbox and someone on a long-haul flight. Sitting still is literally the danger zone. Chris loved to play and would stay up all night. Millions of people worldwide are playing these games for hours, and there is a risk.”

But the exposure to the risk of DVT that ultimately ended Chris’ life is not something that is unusual or unique. With millions of people now working for prolonged periods in front of computers and also continuing their work, social networking or playing games at home, it is easy to see how many people could unknowingly be putting themselves at risk.

In the workplace there are recommendations in place from the HSE about ensuring computer workers take regular short breaks from their computers (which are also proven to improve productivity), but no regulations to enforce this. Even the advice on what constitutes a “regular short break” isn’t clear, although a 5-10 min break from the computer every hour is the most common advice. A break doesn’t have to be a complete break from work – it could be doing some other task, provided it means getting uo from your desk and moving around.

So employees must make sure they protect themselves at work by remembering to take these breaks, regardless of the pressure to be seen to be working hard and for long hours. Good hydration in the office is also essential for concentration and health.

PostureMinder break reminderPeople should also remember to apply the same principles when using a computer or games console at home. PostureMinder is award-winning software that can help by automatically reminding you when you need to take breaks, and also includes a hydration tool and micro-break reminders. It also helps computer users improve their posture to protect against back pain, neck pain, RSI and other computer-related health problems.

February 3, 2011

Back pain prevention: new version of PostureMinder on its way

Filed under: PostureMinder News — Dr Phil @ 8:43 am

Just a quick note to say we’ll be launching an update to PostureMinder in the near future, with improvements to the look and feel, user interface, support for running multiple instances from the same server, and other enhancements. Watch this space!

April 14, 2010

PostureMinder Welcomes ‘Fit Notes’ Launch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Phil @ 9:38 am

This week has seen the launch of the highly publicised ‘fit notes’ for workers who take sickness absences lasting longer than seven days.

The launch is the result of the overhaul of the sick note system announced a year ago by Dame Carol Black, the National Director for Health and Work, and puts the onus on employers to help staff return to work in some capacity following sickness.

With ill health currently costing the economy over £100bn a year it is hoped that this new approach will help drive this cost down in the coming years.

With the launch of fit notes the emphasis is on early intervention, and on evaluating what work an employee can do in order to return to work quickly. This has been welcomed by Dr Philip Worthington of PostureMinder who commented, “This puts extra responsibilities on employers to adapt work patterns and the office environment to the needs of the individual. Simple, early intervention with tools like PostureMinder can help prevent problems reaching the stage where major role and workplace changes are needed, or play a key role in helping returning workers recover from their problem and prevent it recurring”

“Of course, prevention is always better, and usually much cheaper, than cure, so using cost-effective tools such as PostureMinder to prevent common ailments such as back pain and RSI developing in the first place makes even greater financial sense”

Software could save NHS nearly £52m in Absenteeism Costs – recent press release

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Phil @ 9:36 am

With absenteeism in the NHS currently running at almost double that of the private sector, bosses have indentified this as a key route to achieve significant savings in the next 2 years.

NHS initiatives such as giving staff access to physiotherapy and counsellors to tackle back injuries and stress – both common problems in the health service – are part of a package of solutions designed to achieve this target. Whilst these measures help tackle the advancecd symptoms of work-related ill-health, they are expensive to provide, time-consuming, and poorly suited to cost-effective prevention and early intervention.

With some 212,000 managers and administrators currently employed by the NHS, the vast majority spending significant time working at computers, the cost of sickness absences due to computer-related back pain could be as high £51.9m. Other health conditions such as RSI, neck pain and headaches add to this, whilst the cost of poor productivity due to staff pain and discomfort whilst at work is estimated to be many times higher still.

PostureMinder is the leading solution to combat absences and lost productivity caused by back pain, RSI and other office-related health problems.

Dr Philip Worthington, creator of PostureMinder, commented: “until now there has been no cost-effective solution to address office back pain on a day to day basis. PostureMinder software promotes positive and sustainable changes of habits among computer users. By providing your staff with PostureMinder you will empower them to work in a healthy, sustainable and efficient manner to achieve maximum productivity and protect against absences.

“PostureMinder works because it helps employees take personal ownership of their wellbeing at work, giving them practical ways to improve posture and working habits to prevent fatigue, discomfort and injury. It protects employers from staff absences, lost productivity and compensation claims.”

October 11, 2009

Press Release: Back Care Awareness Week 2009 – PostureMinder Ltd supports campaign by offering free back pain treatment and prevention software for 100 employers

Back Care, the UK charity for back pain sufferers, has launched BackCare Awareness Week, beginning on 10th October, to focus on preventing and treating back pain in the workplace.

A study published just two weeks ago highlighted the EUR240 billion estimated annual cost of back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders across the EU. BackCare’s own figures point to a £5 billion per year bill for the UK economy for back pain alone

Back Care Awareness Week aims to persuade employers to recognise the problems around back pain so they can help sufferers and ensure employees can remain productive members of the workforce.

Office back pain expert, Dr Philip Worthington, inventor of award-winning PostureMinder, agrees that such awareness is vital: “We fully support BackCare’s aims in raising these issues with employers. Figures suggest anywhere from 4-7% of office workers take sick leave due to back pain every year, with the average amount of time taken off being somewhere around 18 days. But from our experience, and wider studies, for every person who goes off sick with back pain, some 15 others are suffering in silence. This must affect their morale and productivity at work.”

Dr Worthington added, “We’re particularly pleased to see Back Care Awareness Week focusing on early, proactive interventions by employers. However, we’d like to see it go a stage further – employers should really consider what they can do to prevent back pain as well as treat it.

“That’s where our award-winning PostureMinder software comes in – it actively helps people who work at computers to improve their posture and adopt healthy working habits. Used in conjunction with good quality office furniture it can really help users avoid developing problems in the first place, as well as helping existing sufferers recover from their back pain.

“Because we feel so strongly that prevention is better than cure, we’re supporting Back Care Awareness Week by offering 10 free PostureMinder licences to the first 100 employers who contact us via backaware@postureminder.co.uk. Our offer also extends to schools and colleges that want to encourage students or staff to improve their posture. This way, we can do our bit by helping 1000 computer users protect themselves from back pain and other computer-related ill-health”

For more detailed information please visit the PostureMinder web-site at http://www.postureminder.co.uk

October 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Phil @ 12:22 pm

Press release in response to new EU study:

Prevention is the key as new study highlights €240 billion annual cost of back pain and other MSDs

A new EU-wide study by The Work Foundation (www.theworkfoundation.org) has found that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as back pain, neck pain and RSI-type conditions, account for nearly half (49%) of all absences from work and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the European Union.

The estimated cost to society in Europe is up to €240 billion every year, with 100 million European citizens suffering the misery of serious MSDs. Of course, these figures do not take into account the pain, misery and costs associated with the much larger number of people who suffer back pain and other ill-health without seeking treatment.

The research suggests that prevention and early intervention in MSDs ultimately reduces the burden on governments’ health and disability budgets, improves the lives of citizens, and improves employees’ performance. It suggests that governments consider more than simply the up-front costs of medical expenditure and incorporates wider socio-economic considerations – such as work productivity – into the financial and medical evaluations for preventing and treating MSDs.

Office back pain expert Dr Philip Worthington, inventor of PostureMinder, an award-winning posture correction and well-being software application, agrees: “This pan-European study reinforces previous national surveys that have highlighted the scale and cost of MSDs. It’s a real wake-up call, and the message is clear: prevention and early intervention are key.”

“It’s simply not feasible to treat 100 million people for back pain and other MSDs every year. We have to start trying to get these numbers down by addressing the causes, before people reach the stage where it starts to affect their work or they need to seek expensive treatment.”

In response to the study’s findings the EU is launching a pan-European Fit For Work campaign which calls for coordinated action from policymakers, healthcare professionals, patients and employers.


-ENDS-

-FOR EDITORS-

PostureMinder:
PostureMinder is an award-winning software package developed to promote good posture and healthy working habits amongst computer users, both at home and work. Its key innovation is to use any low-cost webcam, such as those built in to most modern laptops or purchased for video conferencing, to automatically detect the user’s posture. Whenever the computer user sits in a damaging posture for a prolonged period, a friendly on-screen reminder appears to encourage them to correct it. This helps directly reduce time spent in damaging postures, and gradually helps the user break their poor posture habits.

PostureMinder also includes comprehensive ergonomic training materials, reminders to take short breaks – or switch to non-computer-based tasks – at recommended intervals, plus video-guided stretch exercises and a hydration tool to encourage good hydration throughout the working day. PostureMinder is available for home, work or educational use, and won a 2007 British Safety Industry Federation Innovation Award. It can be used preventatively, or as a part of a rehabilitation programme for existing sufferers of back or neck pain, RSI and other computer-related health conditions.

Back pain and MSD statistics:
As more and more people move from manufacturing jobs to working in an office, many commentators expected the prevalence of MSDs to go down, but that’s not been seen to be the case.

Long hours spent at a computer keyboard, both at work and home, combined with the more general problems of lack of exercise and obesity, have had the opposite effect.

Recent surveys by the British Chiropractic Association have shown an alarming increase in back pain amongst children, with 45% of 11-18 year olds reported to suffer back pain in the 2008 survey, a 55% increase in just 6 years on the 29% figure found in an identical survey in 2002. The most significant change during that period has been the growth in social networking websites, which has led to a large increase in computer use by children in recent years.

Previous studies have shown that 80% of Americans will seek treatment for back pain in their lifetimes.

The main preventative measure for office workers in the UK has been requirement to train computer-based staff under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992. However, the Health and Safety Executive’s 2007 report into the effectiveness of these regulations found that half of UK companies do not provide the required training, and that in any event such training had not significantly reduced the incidence of MSDs amongst UK office staff.

June 23, 2009

Poor computer posture may cause raised blood pressure!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Phil @ 11:44 am

Just stumbled upon a New Scientist article from a couple of years ago (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12457-bad-posture-could-raise-your-blood-pressure.html) that reports on some research in mice suggesting that there’s a link between neck muscle activity and blood pressure and even heart rate.

Not had chance yet to follow this up to see if there’s more detailed research been published, but if there’s anything to it it’s certainly interesting.  As the researcher says, “The pathway exists for bad posture to really have an effect.” 

And you thought it was just Windows driving your blood pressure through the ceiling!

Dr Phil

June 21, 2009

Free PostureMinders for UK and US schools

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Phil @ 9:16 pm

Prolonged computer use can have a negative impact on children’s posture and health.  This is particularly the case if they use laptops or netbooks that encourage users to hunch over their keyboards.

A survey last year by the British Chiropractic Association found that 45% of 11-18 year old UK schoolchildren had suffered from back pain in the last year.
Disturbingly, this figure jumped from 29% in a similar survey in 2002.  The only thing that can account for this rise is the increase in computer usage amongst kids, due largely to the explosion in social networking.

For the first time the BCA also surveyed 6-7 year olds – 32% said they’d experienced back pain.  I’m sure similar surveys in California would show similarly worrying trends.

Back pain and other computer-related health problems cause misery.  Back pain is estimated to cost the US economy over $100bn per year, while as long ago as 1995 the UK Health and Safety Executive estimated the direct costs to UK businesses at £5.7bn.  Back pain also restricts individuals’ ability to work, and their motivation to keep fit and active.

For the last 5 years I have been developing award-winning software, called PostureMinder, to help computer users improve their posture and adopt healthy computer habits.

PostureMinder Ltd is currently preparing a major initiative to offer our award-winning software free to UK and US schools to encourage good posture habits from an early age. This blog post is advance notice of our plans in this direction.

If you’re a parent, teacher or politician and are concerned about protecting the health and well-being of schoolchildren in your charge, please contact education@postureminder.co.uk for details of our schools initiative.

Let’s work together to help kids grow up with good posture and pain free!

Dr Phil

October 23, 2008

World Spine Day – Frightening new stats, and concern for our children’s future

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr Phil @ 7:12 pm

A survey released by The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) on 16th October 2008 (World Spine Day) showed the scale of back pain, and particularly childhood back pain, in the UK.

Previous academic studies, notably by the University of Edinburgh of 4000 11-15 year old Scottish schoolchildren, have shown that plenty of our children are starting to suffer pain from an early age, and also found a clear link between the level of computer usage and the risk of suffering problems.  They reported 15% of regular computer users and gamers suffer frequent backache, and 40% suffer neck or shoulder pain.

Those figures are bad enough, but the BCA’s finding that 32% of 6-7 year olds report suffering back pain is frightening, which is why it’s been reported in major UK newspapers (The Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Express).

45% report suffering some back pain by the time they reach 11 years old, up from 29% amongst 11-18 year olds in 2002.

The sources of this enormous increase include increasingly sedentary lifestyles, more time spent on computers or playing games, and the ongoing problem of carrying heavy bags to school.

The survey comes at a time when average computer use in the UK is reported to have risen by 400% since the early 2000s, presumably as a result of changing work patterns, more computers in schools, and the growth of broadband access.

Interestingly, I found an article the other day (sorry, can’t find the link just now – should have bookmarked it at the time) in which the UK Schools Minister admitted that, despite the billions of pounds being spent on re-building British schools, the majority of school IT classrooms are equipped with furniture that would be illegal in the workplace!

Alright, so kids typically don’t spend hours in front of the computer at school, and are normally made to take a break by lesson changes – but even so, this isn’t exactly joined up thinking. If you don’t encourage children to sit properly at their school computers, what chance is there of them doing so at home?

We have to start taking children’s posture seriously, otherwise we’re going to end up with a population that’s suffering near continuous pain, with huge numbers being unable to do their jobs – not to mention vast treatment costs and compensation claims.

Check back on the blog soon – we’re planning a major announcement on the education front to enable schools to benefit from using PostureMinder to encourage better posture in the classroom. In the meantime, if you’re a teacher, headteacher or concerned parent, please get in touch with your thoughts.

Dr Phil

May 14, 2008

CBI/Axa sickness absence figures…

Filed under: PostureMinder News,Why is Posture Important? — Dr Phil @ 8:27 am

The annual CBI/Axa sickness absence survey for the UK is just out, and shows a very small reduction in the number of sick days taken by UK workers:

The CBI press release

The Guardian

Probably the key quote from my point of view is: “Long-term absence (20 days or more) also continued to be a serious concern for firms. Although only 5% of absence spells became long-term, they accounted for a massive 40% of all time lost, costing £5.3bn. Long-term absence accounted for half (50%) of all time lost in the public sector, but under a third (31%) in the private sector.”

Long-term absences like this are overwhelmingly due to musculoskeletal disorders and stress. Taking early action to stop aches, pains and short-term absences turning into long-term sick leave has to be a priority, as Dame Carol Black’s recent review also highlights.

Prevention or early intervention with PostureMinder will really help on this front – at the first complaint of back, neck or shoulder pain, RSI or other aches and pains, install our simple software and advise the user to follow its advice closely (more importantly, give them the permission and support to take regular short breaks – don’t scowl at them when they do so!) Set all of PostureMinder’s settings to help them really focus on their health for a few weeks (e.g. fast posture reminders, short times between breaks etc. – the user can back these off later once they’ve felt some initial benefits)

www.postureminder.co.uk/business

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