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An Ergonomic Stretch

Excerpted from the Washington Post

Tuesday, June 13, 2006; Page HE02

Move, Please You've heard it before -- get up from your desk occasionally to shake out the kinks -- but really, who's got the time? You do, say the makers of ergonomic software, if you want to prevent repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. When the software is installed on a computer, it generates reminders to stretch at whatever interval the user selects.

Lead by Example A recent Google search of "ergonomic software" drew more than 7 million hits. Experts say that when you're doing repetitive motions such as typing, stretching exercises can help prevent injury. Most programs urge computer users to stretch periodically and provide written instructions as well as an on-screen animated figure who demonstrates each stretch.

Stretch Break, made by a Costa Mesa, Calif., company called Paratec, recently released a new version of its software, available at .

The product includes 36 stretches -- six times as many as it did in 1995, when it was first introduced -- and lets computer users control the frequency, duration and sequence of stretches. These involve the wrists, back, legs, neck and arms; it also offers breathing and eye exercises.

In the "Hands Overhead" stretch, for example, Stretch Break instructs the computer user to "interlock fingers and extend over head. Lean to one side and then another," as an animated man in a green polo shirt demonstrates.

Muscle Management Anything that gets sedentary computer users moving is a good idea, said Lee Ann Rhodes, medical director of pain management at Washington Hospital Center. Using ergonomic computer software can help combat stiffness and decreased range of motion, Rhodes said.

"This is great because so many people have a workplace that is computer-based," Rhodes said. "All of this is quite important on a day-to-day basis to try to prevent pain."

Paratec said its clients include many businesses that offer the software for use by employees.

-- January W. Payne


 2006 The Washington Post Company

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