By Sarafaith Pekor, LMT, RM, NCTMB

According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, (NIH), chronic pain and stress are the predominant causes of lost productivity and absenteeism in the workplace, costing the American economy over 50 billion dollars every year. The impact of chronic pain and stress on productivity and performance in the workplace is a growing concern that has many companies offering employees access to therapeutic services to help them feel better, perform better and increase their resilience against fatigue, pain, illness and stress.

Massage at Work

Massage has been recommended by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations as a successful non-pharmacological option for pain management. In the workplace, massage provides a valuable, effective, real-time solution for chronic productivity obstacles such as stiff neck, tension headache, eye strain, tight shoulders, aching back, hand/wrist pain, stiff joints, impaired circulation, depression, mental fatigue and compromised immunity. Chair massage is especially convenient in the workplace because no messy oils or lotions are used; employees take 15 minute turns in a specially designed portable massage chair and remain fully clothed. 15 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but the studies at University of Miami showed that after just one 15 minute chair massage session, employees returned to work with sharpened mental clarity, decreased pain levels, increased energy, improved concentration, and a 50% increase in the accuracy of their mathematical computation skills. The participants in this study also showed a significant reduction in the secretion of cortisol, (the hormonal trigger for anxiety and hostility), as well as marked improvements in immune function.

Exercise for the Body and Mind

Another effective way for companies to promote vitality and increase performance in the workplace is to offer employees opportunities to participate in stress-reduction and exercise workshops that engage both the body and the mind. Tai chi is an option that is becoming very popular. An ancient Chinese system of exercise, Tai chi is sometimes referred to as "meditation in motion” because of its ability to simultaneously relieve pain and stress, while also clearing the mind. The slow, fluid movements of Tai chi are pleasant and easy to learn, but despite its simplicity, Tai chi is highly effective in preventing and reducing the impact of fatigue, stress, chronic back pain, arthritis and repetitive stress to the hands, arms, neck and shoulders. Tai chi can reduce anxiety and depression and is also clinically proven to lower blood pressure, increase circulation, and make healthy improvements in posture and balance.

Winning Strategies For A Vibrant Workplace

The challenges presented by stress and chronic pain in America are very real, and their impact on our economy needs to be considered and addressed. A little bit of therapy at work can go a long way toward helping people both feel better and perform better, and employers are learning that on-site therapeutic services can be successful and cost effective ways for them to fight the battle of the Pain Drain and win. If you are an employer concerned with optimizing performance and productivity, you may want to consider offering some of these on-site wellness options to your staff. If you are an employee, you can speak with the senior management team and/or the Human Resource Department of your company and ask about the possibilities of bringing on-site therapy to your workplace.

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