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Mark Rosenbaum 03-17-2016 11:18 AM

Preventing Injuries
 
I am starting this thread because Pringle and I have been talking off-board about this. We both have injuries that could lead to debilitating results. I'm not asking who has the most injuries and gory details. I would like to know what have you done for injury prevention. I'm also interested in what you are doing outside of the studio i.e. yoga, stretches, vitamins, other supplements (the legal ones). I'm getting to the point that almost 40 years at a highly physical and demanding craft, is starting to take its toll on my physical being. Thanks in advance....

David Patchen 03-17-2016 12:18 PM

Here's what I have done to reduce my injuries:

- I used to pitch the pipe up to get two and three gather pieces to flow a bit before necking or after necking until I hurt my rotator cuff--now I just ask my assistant to dump it.
- I try to make smooth transitions from low-exertion (like turning while gathering) to high-exertion (removing the pipe from the furnace or pipe cooler with 4 gathers on it). I found I used to hurt my bicep from the sudden strenuous motion.
- I marver on a fairly low marver for big stuff so I don't have to stress out my shoulders. It's not so great for smaller stuff because you have to bend over, but it's great for bigger work.
- Our glory holes, yokes and bench rails are relatively low to keep the lifting and turning at a more manageable height. (I'll never understand the old timers who have almost eye-level ghs and yokes--what a bitch to transition in and out of with little stuff and awful for big stuff.)
- I never risk my back by stretching out across the tool bench to reach long stuff. I don't have long arms so I always work off the bench for anything taller than about 20".
- Our yoke rotates so it's easy to get a big piece or pastoralle fork out of the gh and over to the bench and back.
- I have hose grips on all my pipes and punties that are 3/4" or larger so they're easier to turn.
- I have my assistant take the turns with the pipe an angle for necking anything that's medium or larger size. He also backs me up with turns while blowing which takes stress off my left/turning hand.
- I almost always start my necklines holding the jacks forward like tweezers and on the side (3 o'clock) and using my left hand to stabilize and help start the jack line on bigger stuff. It's easier than trying to reach over the top of the glass and roasting your hand.
- I generally work very hot so jacklines are easy to put in, trims don't require muscle, flattening is easier, etc. You need an assistant with great turns and heat judgement to work really hot but you'd be surprised at how much easier everything is if you currently work on the colder side.

I'm sure there's more stuff I do to reduce injury but it's all kind of automatic by now...

Mark Rosenbaum 03-17-2016 12:54 PM

Thanks David! I did edit the post to add some additional info if possible. Seeing that I will never do a 20" piece again, I appreciate your scale and issues ;)

Pete VanderLaan 03-17-2016 01:14 PM

Back when I was about 40 I had a lot of tendon issues , particularly in my left arm at the distal connection of the elbow and also the ones in my wrist from hyper extending my wrist too much.

I was lucky enough to be treated by the sports doctor for the Chicago Bulls and what he stressed was that you simply have to ice down after every working session for 20 minutes to a half hour and to do it religiously. He said inflammation is the primary villain in every debilitating joint injury. It swells up and if you don't reduce the swelling, it grinds. Once it has ground out a nice hole, you are in deep shit. He was not a fan of glucosamine saying he saw no value in it unless you owned stock in the company.

He also had me doing exercises with my fingers doing ten reps each way in every direction and it's hard to explain: He had me bend my wrist from being straight to a 90 degree angle down 10 times. Then from a closed fist, opening and allowing your fingers to stretch as far as you can ten times. Then opening and closing your fingers ten times. Also hyperextending your wrists slowly (SLOWLY) so the back of your hand comes up and faces you ten times. Every day do this. Then work.

He said too many people confuse their work with their exercise. He said those tendons need stretching just like athletes need it.

He could not stress icing down enough.

Shorty Finley on the other hand was 5'2" and could handle 80 lbs of glass. Shorty levered everything without exception, He wore out benches.

Tom Fuhrman 03-17-2016 04:54 PM

Design items to be made from several smaller components and then assembled instead of straining over large pieces. Glue can be your nfriend as it has been for some of Chihuly's and many others.
When dealing with really heavy pieces use a yoke on wheels to maneuver around. Carrying heavy items is mush more strenuous than just lifting. Some people swear by using a stand up "bench: instead of having to get up and down from a traditional bench.
I think that warming up some parts of your body before working is good too. When I've had strenuous physical therapy, they always put heat packs on before starting, and as Pete said , ice down when finished. When I got my knee replacement they gave me a machine that has a large cuff on it that has either warm or iced water that is pumped thru it. It can be used on many parts of the body.
Figure our how to use molds more so some steps can be reduced.

Art Freas 03-17-2016 10:38 PM

We are looking at bringing in a physical therapist to watch us work and help us with better motion and stretching/post work routines.

Glenn Randle 03-18-2016 12:30 AM

Like Tom said "use a yoke on wheels".

My yoke is on a track that rolls all the way from the glory to the bench. The bench is facing 90 degrees to the left, instead of facing the glory, so the end of the rails are inline with the track. I work outside of the bench standing up, using both hands while my assistant turns. I have a long blow hose, so I can blow while paddling and papering. This really helps for making heavy stuff. I'd always felt handicapped when watching potters use both of their hands. It's great to have a pad in one hand and a paddle in the other, or a paddle in each hand.

I've been fortunate and haven't had many physical problems yet. I think my technique has evolved some over the years, and I have learned to work smarter and be less demanding of my body.

I have had great results with chiropractics for back pain.

Trevor Pierce 03-18-2016 07:48 AM

Very important is ergonomics of how you work and how your shop is set up. Things like distances from your bench to the rail on the bench (different for many people) can make the difference of using your wrist and arms to turn a pip or using your whole back shoulder and arm as one to turn a pipe. Height of your glory holes and yolks also matter. Also I have just learned to THINK before I act. I used to be a "lets just get shit done" type of guy. Now a hand surgery, knee surgery, and many other issues later I have gone into preservation mode (I'm only 28 and running into issues that many people start to encounter when they are 40+). I was not nice to my body and it really shows.

Pete VanderLaan 03-18-2016 08:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Trevor Pierce (Post 128562)
(I'm only 28 and running into issues that many people start to encounter when they are 40+). I was not nice to my body and it really shows.

*********
I used to run into people who worked in that glass shop in Vermont which really used glassblowers up. I forget the name. Young ruined glassblowers. I also remember watching young glass people carrying around the ferro for Lino and having their knees virtually buckling from the weight. None of them are in glass today. Not using your body like the parts are easily replaceable is a good plan.

All those tools could be on wheels at just the right height.

Trevor Pierce 03-18-2016 10:02 AM

Just like running ladles for Steve Edwards, pouring 20 LARGE ladles in a day tears you up…. Steve learned that the hard way and moved to a tipping furnace near the end of his days at Alfred. Then all he had to do was push buttons for winches to pull out molds on carts from annealers and pouring was hooked up the same way. That saved costs and body parts, you don't need 4 or 5 helpers to pour your molds. This Subject of saving your body is one that is often not taken seriously enough in the glass world. Something as simple as working out to maintain the muscles you need helps significantly, as does stretching before you work. In my mind though, a well thought out and tested plan trumps everything.

Pete VanderLaan 03-18-2016 10:41 AM

well the real purpose behind workman's comp insurance was to quantify injuries to workers as monetary loss and to limit the amount an employee might receive for either injury, dismemberment or death. It wasn't really planned to help the worker, more to help the employers not cough up unlimited sums.

Who wants $5K for their arm?

Eben Horton 03-18-2016 10:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pete VanderLaan (Post 128564)
*********
I used to run into people who worked in that glass shop in Vermont which really used glassblowers up. I forget the name. Young ruined glassblowers. I also remember watching young glass people carrying around the ferro for Lino and having their knees virtually buckling from the weight. None of them are in glass today. Not using your body like the parts are easily replaceable is a good plan.

All those tools could be on wheels at just the right height.

When I was 19, Dale offered me a job at the boathouse when he was visiting Rhode Island. "Come out and work for me, you'll love it!" Was what he told me. I declined due to the fact that I knew even back in the early 90's that Dales studio chewed up people and spit them out.

Not taking that job is the one decision that I have made in my life which I often reflect upon and question, but Petes post here is very reassuring to me.

Pete VanderLaan 03-18-2016 11:44 AM

My experience with Dale was that while he was demanding and difficult to anticipate, he treated the people who worked for him quite fairly. At that time, there was no boathouse, just the school settings. He always made sure we did OK.

But he was difficult. He got really mad at me on a number of occasions. I sure learned a lot from the people I met. Once it turned into a factory, I'm sure it changed. I think I got out of it at least what I put into it.

Greg Vriethoff 03-19-2016 11:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Trevor Pierce (Post 128567)
Just like running ladles for Steve Edwards, pouring 20 LARGE ladles in a day tears you up…. Steve learned that the hard way and moved to a tipping furnace near the end of his days at Alfred. Then all he had to do was push buttons for winches to pull out molds on carts from annealers and pouring was hooked up the same way. That saved costs and body parts, you don't need 4 or 5 helpers to pour your molds. This Subject of saving your body is one that is often not taken seriously enough in the glass world. Something as simple as working out to maintain the muscles you need helps significantly, as does stretching before you work. In my mind though, a well thought out and tested plan trumps everything.

I would like to resume the type of work I started in grad school, but I currently lack a facility to support it. My pie-in-the-sky vision for my studio would be a setup like Steve has. I had already decided I will need a roll-out annealer, but since ruining my back a few years ago I know I can't handle all the ladling it would require.

There's a lot of good advice here that people are throwing out. I learned the importance of icing the first time I dislocated my knee when I was seventeen. From the time I started working as a teenager I learned the mantra "lift with your knees, not your back." I thought I was being careful. I learned the hard way that there's more to it than that. Core strength, posture, and heredity all factor-in as well.

Spending four years in Seattle lugging around 50 lb bags of batch was a huge part of it. Running a ladle all day at the last factory I worked was the final straw. Life changed profoundly for me with one stupid mistake. I'm grateful that my employer didn't dispute the workman's comp claim. I'm also grateful that I didn't need surgery... yet. The three MRI's I eventually had would have cost me over 3K since Kaiser wouldn't cover that. Otherwise they did a decent job with my care.

Manual labor like this is just going to take its toll eventually. All you can do is preventative maintenance to prolong your working life.

Pete VanderLaan 03-19-2016 02:00 PM

The casting furnace that Grant Miller built was so simply stupid and it worked great. He built it exactly like a tilt cement mixer and the glas just poured out the front. He got remarkable quality glass with that thing.

Then he did the sensible thing: He quit making glass and went into day trading which is what he does now.

Tom Bloyd 03-19-2016 03:28 PM

I saw the same thing in San Diego, Pete. It was so simple and perfect. I think Don Petty from Oceanside Glass and Tile built that one. I moved in to their old studio after they had moved to Carlsbad and before they got really big and moved to Mexico. Don made all sorts of brilliantly simple machines. They would pour a tile and put it on a kiln shelf that sat on a lazy susan. The tile would then travel on a garage door chain(ran by the garage door opener)under a fumer, under a ceiling mounted reducing flame and then on to a lehr. Spinning slowly the whole way. I haven't been to the shop in Mexico, but I am sure it is a little more high tech.

Tony Serviente 03-20-2016 05:53 PM

I am grateful that I do not have the repetitive motion issues of a glass blower, but I do have my share of lifting, awkward positions, etc. I try to mix up the work so as not to have hours of the same thing, and I design my equipment and work area so as to be as kind to the body as possible. At 59, the thing that I think has contributed the most to my being free of any major joint, tendon, back, etc. issues is a lifetime of daily exercise. Every work day I walk for 2 miles up a 350 foot incline and this is a wonderful stimulus to a high pulse rate. Every hour (out of 8) I do 3 1/2 minutes of upper body for a total of about an hour and fifteen minutes of exercise. The thing about this routine is that it is integrated into my day with no need for a gym, club or whatever. I actually enjoy it. I think of it as preventative maintenance that has kept my machine in pretty good order. I intend to die in the midst of some kind of strenuous activity, either in bed with my wife, on a trail with my kids, or in my studio, preferably in a few decades. This rather mild regimen is an insurance policy toward that.

Andy Stenerson 03-20-2016 08:36 PM

Weightlifting helped tendinitis in my forearms and yoga for all the rest. Standing and working really tightens my back and hamstrings now, at 52, that I didn't used to feel. The stress relief of a yoga class feels great.

As to huge furnaces up above, I worked for John Lewis 25 years ago. His shop is 'dialed in' as he liked to say, to cast large pieces without having to muscle it.

Lawrence Duckworth 03-21-2016 11:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tony Serviente (Post 128601)
At 59, the thing that I think has contributed the most to my being free of any major joint, tendon, back, etc. issues is a lifetime of daily exercise.


…. A dog has the smarts to stretch before he jumps off the porch and chase a rabbit! :)

Pete VanderLaan 03-22-2016 07:55 AM

not my dog...all reason flees with the rabbit...

Mike McCain 03-25-2016 07:18 PM

I do the daily morning trail walk (Everyday) too, with the dogs sprinting after the deer.

In the shop, I find having a rubber mat at every station keeps my feet happy.

Dunno if its preventing injury, but its nice not to have my dogs barking at the end of the day.

Dave Hilty 03-25-2016 09:40 PM

Last year in Ann Arbor I kept seeing another glass artist with a booth 10 or so spaces from mine away from his booth doing pushups and setups at an in edible rate. Took a walk down to his booth to find beautiful mongo bowls that were huge. He had upper body beef.

Lately I'm trying to push myself to do larger pieces, having always been the skinny 90 # weakling. After every big piece session my arms and shoulders ache. So all the tips are helpful but realistically, there are limits and it helps to stay within them. Got to feature form and color over size at this stage of my game.

Barb Sanderson 03-25-2016 10:45 PM

Carpal tunnel
 
I was diagnosed with Carpal tunnel in both wrists about 10 years ago. I did not want to contemplate surgery especially if I intended to continue in glasswork. So I did some research and started getting acupuncture treatments. After about a year and half of weekly treatments the pain was substantially diminished and now it only rarely causes issues unless I overdo it in the studio. I also heartily second Pete's recommendation of icing post working. I also was told by my acupunturist to use heat at night on my wrists to keep the blood circulating through my hands overnight. I used those Thermacare heat wraps and still do on occasion.
My question now is that I am starting to have range of motion issues in my right (dominant) shoulder. Any ideas what this could be? Great thread btw Mark!
Barb

Eben Horton 03-25-2016 10:51 PM

I find that having a few beers after work keeps me from getting injured.

Want proof? I haven't been injured. :)

Bill Worcester 03-26-2016 12:40 AM

Yes
 
Again I concur with with Eban


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