Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | March 11, 2015

Posture Perfect: Are Smartphone Habits Taking a Toll on Your Body?

Texting Neck             Is your smartphone being a pain in the neck? These days, your smartphone could literally be causing you pain due to an epidemic known as “text neck.” Although you may not realize it, being so focused on your smartphone actually gives rise to “text neck.” Looking down at the screen causes you to hold your neck and upper back in abnormal positions for a long period of time.

A human head weights about 10-12 pounds in neutral position, but tilting your head downward and forward actually increases forces on the neck by five times or more. According to Jacque Wilson of CNN,  looking at a smartphone in your lap in forward posture creates conditions where the neck is really holding up 20 or 30 pounds. This results in poor posture, as well as dull aches/sharp pain in the back, neck, and shoulder areas. So, to help straighten you up, here are some tips:Toll of Texting

1. Posture Follows Vision: Kenneth Hansraj, M.D. and orthopedic surgeon, suggests that instead of slouching and blindly staring at your phone for hours, carry your smartphone at chest height with your head up. Rather than tilting your head, move just your eyes downward.

Neck Stretches


2. Remember to Take a Break: Although it can be easy to forget, your neck needs a break too! When your neck is stuck in one position for a long period of time, this can eventually lead to muscle weakness and nerve damage. Every so often, pause your game or save the texting for later and remember to stop and swivel your head – up and down, then side to side.

3. Help Support You: According to Dr. Michelle Collie, director of Performance Physical Therapy, using a docking station as well as wrist guards can help support the weight of a mobile device. Furthermore, an app was created by Fishman’s Text Neck Institute that actually lets you know when you’re at risk for “text neck” by shining a red light on the top left corner of your phone. When the phone is held at an acceptable angle for viewing, a green light appears instead.Phone Stand 1

Although your smartphone may seem like your best friend, these phone habits can take a toll on your health. So remember, always keep your head up and even if it seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day, sometimes a break from your routine is the very thing you need.



Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | December 31, 2014

Texting Turmoil: Are you a Text-a-holic?

While technological advances are aimed at improving efficiency, productivity may actually be taking a hit.  Through distraction and poor ergonomic design, devices like smart phones create conditions that encourage injury.

Texting Thumb


SmartPhone blues: Texting causes added stress on the thumb joint, muscles, and tendons due to repetitive use on a daily basis. This repetitive stress injury is known as texting thumb.  Especially alarming (and avoidable!) is the risk of tendonitis in the thumb: thickening and eventual inflammation of the flexor tendon.


Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Cubital tunnel syndrome may also result from constantly bending your elbows while using your smartphone device.  Typically, cubital inflammation results in pain and soreness inside of the elbow and forearm.  It can occur after a few years of wear and tear.

To prevent texting thumb and cubital tunnel syndrome:

  1. Vary the hands or fingers you use to text.
  2. Don’t text for more than a few minutes without a break.
  3. Straighten your arms at the elbows every 30 minutes
  4. Avoid positions that keep your elbows flexed when possible.

Or if you are tired of texting… call the person! You may also use a wireless bluetooth to prevent bending your elbow on calls.

Driving while texting is obviously dangerous, but what about texting while walking?  Healthline News published an article stating injuries are often under-reported when associated with texting and walking.  The various hazards include bumping into walls, falling down stairs, and stepping into traffic.   Dr. Dietrich Jehle reports that at least 10% of pedestrian injuries in the hospital result from distracted phone use.  Spending more time on your phone texting increases your risk of injury.

So how do you determine if you are a frequent texter?

Texting Sign 1


According to an article in the American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, frequent texters send 1209 text messages a month on average.  That’s at least 40 messages per day! Frequent texters have larger tendons than infrequent texters and are more prone to developing tendonitis.  Count your text messages during the month and find out if you are a frequent texter.  Keep your head up and take a break if you plan to text.  You don’t want to end up a pedestrian pancake for a message like, “K, see you later.”




The Wall Street Journal

Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | November 6, 2014

Office Space – It’s All Relative

Desk Design November Blog

One desk, two desk, red desk, blue desk… abundant options for office décor and space make sifting through the infinite possibilities a great task when creating a harmonious workplace. So what are the secret ingredients that give your office workspace the edge?

According to Rachel Feintzeig from the Wall Street Journal, “where you sit matters.”  Forever making our lives more efficient, technological advances on the office space front are available to help piece together the perfect layout.  Companies use the software OfficeSpace to relocate or build an efficient work space for employees.

But, what about personality types?  What kind of productivity steam engine will you create if Negative Nancy is sitting next to Temperamental Tom? According to Mike Michalowitz, CEO of Provendus Group, it is important to acknowledge personality or work style differences between employees.

In a nutshell you are looking for 3 things to create workplace harmony:

1. Ergonomic equipment and design to minimize injury:

An efficient workspace always includes good ergonomics.  It promotes productivity by limiting injuries and pain associated with repetitive tasks.

2. Recognize employee personality and work-ethic differences:

Office Space November BlogThe “pragmatistand theperfectionist: hard workers, but may have personality clashes.  To avoid tension between these two define a strict distinction of duties, and if possible place them at different places in the office.

The “drivervs. the “coaster”: Type A personality meets Type B.  The “driver” is ambitious and a self-motivator whereas the “coaster” lies back until pushed.  A “driver” personality will feel comfortable and inclined to push the “coaster”, creating tension and resistance.  Ways to address these two personality types in the workspace: the “driver” works best in an independent project whereas the “coaster” excels when assigned a less “intense” team leader on a collaborative project.

3. Balance collaborative work and solo work:

The Office- Water Cooler- November Blog

According to the Wall Street Journal meeting rooms that are “stand-only” result in shorter more efficient meetings and exchange of ideas.

Reduce injury, including physical and interpersonal (fights and gossip at the water cooler) by building a workplace that emphasizes harmony, good design, and ergonomics.


Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | September 24, 2014

Sneak A Treat: Clues to Work Happiness

Candy Corn

It’s time for a little Halloween happiness this year!  Break out the candy corn and get knee high in this year’s “ways to work happy.”

Fall is such a delectable time of year.  The aromas of butternut squash, hot-cocoa, cinnamon spice and pumpkin are an immutable part of our collective memories.  While they invoke a calm feeling of nostalgia and happiness, the holiday season can be a little stressful.  This is especially true when juggling family, work, costume and party planning.

The last thing we need is stress at work! Make these changes and reap positivity that will leave you ready for the change in seasons:

  1. Make the choice: Believe it or not, happiness is a cognitive choice. Mental exercises assist you in creating an internal microcosm of tranquility.  Visualization meditation is the practice of mentally simulating an environment of your choosing with your senses: sight, touch, smell.  Take a 10 minute mini-mental vacation to a deserted island or camp out in a warm robe in front of a roasting fire.  See the sun set or rise for that matter; hear the birds sing, and all in the comfort of your workspace.

Take a piece of advice from this wise woman:

“Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.”~ Maya Angelou

Witch brewing in cauldron

  1. Avoid Negativity: Avoid negative conversations and people at work.  If duty calls and working with them is part of your role, set limits to avoid participating in negative conversations.Although it is beneficial to avoid negative conversations, sometimes a co-worker does need a sympathetic ear.  Decide if the issue they are facing is legitimate or just a way to “stir the pot.” You may listen to their work woes or recommend they visit HR.  Either way, don’t let the “fire burn, and gossip bubble.”
  1. Find the eye of the storm: workdays sometimes go from start to finish with a hurricane of emails, meetings, and deadlines. Make sure to take a breather and reach your happy place or enjoy a healthy snack before continuing.  Taking the time to do even a small thing you enjoy during every day will increase happiness.

Prepare for  Halloween and the holidays with cheer and don’t let stress spook you!


Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | April 17, 2014

Are You “In-Touch” With Your Phone?

Zoolander's Phone

“Turn off MY phone?”

One size fits all in the cell phone market would be perfect! If it were true…  While that mini phone may seem like the sleekest style and easiest to handle, it could be too small– our hands are different shapes and sizes.  Likewise, a 7-inch screen on your cell phone might be too big.

According to Geoffrey Fowler of The Wall Street Journal, “even a few millimeters can make a difference in grip comfort.”  Choosing a phone that is considered ergonomic for your hands is easy if you know your measurements.

Forward Flexion While Texting

Although hand size is an important controlling factor for the cell phone you should use, it is also important to note that smaller screen sizes make texts harder to see.  Forward flexion of the neck following cell phone use is common as people struggle to read texts or emails on smaller phones.  Even with the zoom-in option, many Americans still suffer from a condition known as “Text Neck.”

According to Forbes Magazine, 53% of mobile phone users suffer from numbness or neck aches.  A study conducted at the Center for Muskoskeletal Research found that out of 859 subjects using mobile smart phones, 90% of them flexed their necks forward by 10 degrees.  Even more astonishing, muscle tension in neck and shoulders increased while participants believed they were fully relaxed.  A word of advice, keep your head up!  Avoid looking down at your phone for long periods of time while playing games or texting.

On a similar note, perhaps the computer mouse you use at work is not the true culprit to hand pain.  Phone sizes that fail to complement our natural grip length increase discomfort as we strain to hold and navigate the device.


ToneFone- 2-3lbs

While there are risks of neck and hand injury associated with using smart phones, a new product out on the market seeks to turn your phone into a fitness machine! The innovative ToneFone transforms your mobile device into a weight for toning arm muscles.  So get it done while having fun! Take a business call and buff your biceps at the same time.


The Wall Street Journal: Is Your Phone the Right Size for You?

Forbes Magazine: How Texting Can Give You a Permanent Pain in the Neck.

Have a Healthy Heart

According to new research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the average 45 year old man has a heart age six years older than he is.  Check your heart age right now by using the calculator.

Heart healthy foods can do wonders to increase the health of your heart:

Lowers LDL cholesterol so they are very good for your heart, reducing the risk of heart disease. Extra phosphorous in almonds also helps bone strength, and important risk reducer for fractures after a fall.


Salmon– Stocked with Omega-3 fatty acids, these lipids also reduce risk of heart disease.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)– Great on salad tossed with a little lemon, salt, and pepper.  Rich in LDL-lowering mono-saturated fats, EVOO reduces your risk for heart disease.

Berries– Berries are full of antioxidant and polyphenols that aid in fighting cancer and heart disease.  Sprinkle a few over yogurt or morning cereals.

Like Clockwork

        Another bonus of a healthy heart is a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.  The brain requires 20% of the oxygen supplied to the body from the heart (Columbia-Neurosymposium).  High levels of cholesterol lead to poor heart ejection fractions.

       Ejection fraction is the amount of blood that leaves the heart after each contraction.  High levels of cholesterol lead to heart artery blockages which can significantly decrease the amount of blood pumping through the heart for every heart-beat.  Decreased amounts of blood flowing to the brain means decreased levels of oxygen and this can deteriorate brain function.

      According to The Franklin Institute, micronutrients specifically found in fruits and vegetables are used by the brain to safeguard its cells from damage and dysfunction.  Low intake of fruits and vegetables is not only unhealthy for the heart, but increases damages within the brain that result from cellular metabolic activity.  Fruits and vegetables play a dynamic role in reducing your risk to developing Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

Catch two birds with one scone- make sure its berry filled!  Take care of your heart and your brain will reap the benefits.


Columbia Neuro Symposium:

Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | February 26, 2014

Are You Hanging in the Balance?

Are You Hanging in the Balance?


           After watching the winter Olympics, it was amazing to see how these young athletes were able to fall but miraculously get back on their feet within seconds.   They made it look so effortless.  We also saw athletes excel in maintaining their balance to go on to win the “Gold.” But in the real world, our sense of balance begins to slip as early as in our 30’s and 40’s.  What do these Olympians know that we might not?

Constant training through exercise gave them razor edge balance.

         Which reminds me, world-class balance is one of the perks of ballroom dancing whether on the ice rink or dance floor.  Practicing timing and coordination actually exercises the nervous system which encourages the brain to learn new moves and adjust to different environments. Since falls in our work population is the leading cause of injury, start balance training early and you can reduce your lifetime risk. We can all keep steady well into old age by challenging our body, keeping active and performing strengthening exercises.

Skaters in Balance

         But if becoming another Meryl Davis and Charlie White isn’t in your future, I have some everyday options to improve your balance.

Start to Balance out your week with some of these exercises!

The Beach Balance

Is there any better way to brighten your day than taking a walk or run on the beach?  Take a stroll on surfaces with varying inclines and surface movements (like sand) help your body naturally exercise its center for balance- the cerebellum.  This includes switching between walking on pavement and grass like in a park or neighborhood to vary terrain if a beach isn’t nearby.

The Rise-Up Repeats

This one is great for office workers. Sit in your stationary chair and practice standing up and sitting back down without using the arm rests.   Being able to do this up to 10 times in a row can greatly improve balance, according to The Wall Street Journal. When seated stick out your arms straight in front of you to assist weight distribution forward when standing up.  This will help improve balance by strengthening both abdominal and thigh muscles.

The Zig-Zags    

Create your own champion slalom course. Use cones or objects and place five of them in a straight line.  Swiftly Zig-Zag between each cone to improve balance and agility.  Start out at five minutes and aim for 10 minutes per day.

Remember Spinning like a Top . . .

That cheap summer childhood pastime spinning around and around until you fell giggling in the soft grass.  Well, it turns out that doing slow 360s can help improve balance (no falling necessary!). Practice slowly turning around in 360 degree circles with eyes both open and closed.

So, Why Train Your Brain for Balance?

Shaun White Hits Half-Pipe

       Exercise encourages the brain’s cerebellum to coordinate information from the visual, vestibular (inner ear) and the proprioceptive (or sense of body position) systems. As we age, we start to depend more on the visual system which doesn’t work as quickly as the vestibular system.  Beginning in the early 50s, people may feel unsteady, stop trusting their own sense of balance, and become more sedentary (NeuroScience Online-John Hopkins University).

       By becoming less active, they lose the ability to take advantage of sensory information and balance becomes worse, leading to falls.  Exercises like Spinning cause your brain to rely less on the visionary system and more on the proprioceptive system.

          Now you know.  A regimen of balance improving exercises will prevent falls and improve overall fitness.

          So the next time someone asks you: “Are you hanging in the balance?” Answer confidently:  “I live to balance.” Whether it is with work, family, or a much improved balancing center of the cerebellum.

Here’s to your much improved sense of balance!

~Pam Kalivas


Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | February 8, 2014

Walk With the Stars of Occupational Health Nursing.

As President of OCCAOHN (Orange County California Association of Occupational Health Nurses) Chapter, I am delighted to invite you to our annual Tri-Association Conference on February 15, 2014. Our theme this year is a salute to the Oscars with a “Red Carpet Walk to a Winning Act in Occupational Health Nursing”.  You’ll be sitting with the “Stars” of Occupational Health and gain opportunities to network with occupational health professionals and nurses from all over Southern California.

This educational event provides 6.25 Continuing Education Units from The Board of Registered Nurses.

Occupational Health Nurses provide support and care services for the employed public sector, using diverse methods in various settings.   Attendees will learn proactive injury prevention, managing violence in the workplace, and chronic pain management from our expert speakers.   Students also have the opportunity to network with nurses in this specialty and explore working with a preceptor to fulfill Public Health clinical hours in an occupational health setting.

Take the opportunity to meet our premier vendors including but not limited to: California Therapy Solutions, Juice Plus, McKesson Pharmaceutical, Moore Medical, Providence Medical Institute, Retractable Technologies, Sierra Ergonomics, Inc., Trilogy Financial Services and Yoh Healthcare. We are raffling fabulous door prizes for attendees at this “Red Carpet Event.”

Refer to our Tri-Association Brochure for more details about Speakers, Presentations, and Topics.

~Pamela Kalivas

Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | January 3, 2014

Start the New Year Fresh! Clean Air Quality Makes A Difference.

Print   With crisp winter air afloat, take a deep breath- it’s time for the New Year!  After spending time with family and friends amidst the hustle and bustle of holiday preparation, it’s time to relax and start fulfilling our New Year’s resolutions.  While it isn’t quite the time for spring cleaning, there are a few important things to think about.  Our indoor air quality affects our health when we are in our homes and business offices.

  Good Air Quality is also an important factor in workplace safety and productivity.  The Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Health and Safety Department, report that indoor air quality can be up to seventy times more polluted than outside air.  Breathing in buildings with stale polluted air can cause “Sick Building Syndrome.”  The syndrome is associated with acute health and discomfort affecting an individual experiences when present in a particular building.

Sick Building

Symptoms include cough, chest tightness, dizziness, nausea, muscle aches, fatigue and poor concentration not associated with a known illness.   Known contributors to indoor air pollution include: mold, carbon monoxide, lead, inadequate ventilation, pesticides, carpeting, and indoor cleaning agents.

Here are some contaminants to watch out for and ways to better ventilate your home.

  Mold – grows on wet or damp surfaces. Symptoms: musty smell, watery eyes and runny nose, sneezes, trouble breathing, headaches and fatigue.

Ideal humidity in a home is between thirty and fifty percent according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  High humidity invites bacteria and molds to grow between wall surfaces, beneath carpets, or in roofing (October 2013 LA Times).  To prevent mold growth regularly clean out rain gutters, repair leaky home areas, and do not leave stagnant water in any part of the home.  Use ventilation fans for your kitchen stove or bathroom to prevent humidity levels from reaching above fifty percent.  Lastly, keep in-home temperatures between sixty-eight and seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit.

  Carbon Monoxide– is translucent and neutral in smell. Symptoms: carbon monoxide can be potentially fatal.  It causes sleeplessness, headaches, dizziness, and vomiting often confused with the flu.

Installing carbon monoxide alarms around your sleeping areas in the home can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.  Carbon Monoxide sources include the kitchen stove, charcoal grills, or machines running on gasoline such as lawn mowers or leaf blowers.  To avoid carbon monoxide build up never use the stove to heat your house and start gas powered machines in open areas (outdoors rather than inside of the garage).

  Lead is a serious risk for children.  Symptoms: headaches, anemia, seizures, high blood pressure, developmental delays in children including brain and nervous dysfunction.  Children may also exhibit behavioral and learning problems.

Houses build before 1950 are the most problematic because lead paint was not banned until 1978.  Make sure paint is not chipping or cracking on the wall or near frequently used areas.  Check for lead pipes (dull gray and scratch easily) and pipes joined by lead solder.  Water flowing through them may contain lead (October 2013 LA Times).  Most hardware stores carry reasonably priced lead testing kits for your home.  Make sure to hire a contractor to replace lead pipelines, as removing it incorrectly can exacerbate the amount of lead in your environment.

  Ventilation – The University of Rochester reports that proper ventilation of your home can greatly improve air quality. HVAC (high voltage alternating current) systems are responsible for ventilating home and buildings. Regular maintenance and appropriate use of HVAC systems keep indoor air quality healthy.

Start your New Year Resolutions by taking these steps to keep your family and employees safe.  January Start


For more information:

Environmental Protection Agency:

Healthy Indoor Air for American Homes:

Department of Housing and Urban Development:

Home Healthy Homes:

Posted by: Pamela Kalivas | October 23, 2013

Take a Seat or Stand on Your Feet??

Sit-Stand Workstation

Which is it? The experts say sitting all day can increase your risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease (for more information read our August 2013 blog).  But standing all day also has negative effects. According to Alan Hedge from Cornell University, standing all day increases risk of carotid atherosclerosis “nine fold.”

We can look as far back as ancient Greek philosophers to find our answer.  The Aristotelian “Golden Mean” has universal applications and in this case, to ergonomics.  The best working habits are comprised of a mixture of sitting, standing, and walking.  We all know that too much or too little of anything is detrimental.  Balancing our work day with even amounts of sitting, standing or walking can help circulation and keep our heart healthy, while maintaining optimal levels of productivity.

One workstation design that offers both sitting and standing options is the adjustable sit-stand desk.  These desk types are adjustable to heights you can stand or sit and work . Relax the Back‘s website has many styles and designs to accommodate this working style.

PedometerWhile these may help with the sit-stand dilemma, it is still important to take breaks during the workday to walk.  Creating a habitual trip to the water cooler or coffee area  every 20-30 minutes will allow you to integrate walking into your workday- everyday.  Or better yet, incorporate your daily walking quota of 10,000 steps per day with a quick trip around your building for lunch.


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