Since opening my practice in 1988, I have had the privilege of teaching many local companies both big and small, the importance of Work-Station-Fit. What do I mean by Work-Station-Fit? I teach people how to make adjustments to their work environment so that the work environment fits their body, instead of their body trying to fit their work environment. By making a few simple changes comfort and fatigue are greatly reduced. This is what Ergonomics is all about.
Regardless of what you do for a living, having a simple understanding of Ergonomics can prevent a lot of pain syndromes and health problems. Improper ergonomics can lead to a variety of problems. Here are the most common problems: headaches, neck pain, shoulder and arm pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, upper back and lower back pain, varicose veins in the lower legs.
I’d like to give you a brief simple lesson in body mechanics.
First of all, our body is very efficient when it comes to energy consumption when we maintain an ideal posture. This ideal posture has a name, it is called the Neutral Position. Our body is said to be in a neutral position when all the weight of our body is balanced on the boney structures of our body, allowing it to be transferred into the seat pan of a chair (if we are sitting) or into the floor (if we are standing).
However, when we deviate from this neutral position our energy consumption goes up due to our weight being transferred away from our bone to the muscle. Going from the sitting position to the standing position requires us to get out of the neutral position. Imagine trying to stand in a position that is halfway between sitting and standing. I can tell you you would not last long. Why? Your muscles are now primarially responsible for holding all of your body weight up, not your bones. The load gets transferred from the boney structures of your body to the muscles.
So now you understand why you should try to obtain this neutral postition. So what does the neutral position look like? Here are a few guidelines:
If you are standing…
Stand straight up. Legs and feet symmetrical. Your head is looking straight ahead. Your arms are at your sides or if you are working at a table your elbows can be bent at a 70 to 90 degree angle. If you are working with your hands and eyes the table top should be elevated.
If you are sitting…
As you sit down push your bottom all the way back into the back of the chair, that way when you straighten up a natural curve will form in your lower back. Your head should be looking straight ahead. Not looking up or looking down. Now position your monitor, so that if you brought it to your face the center of the screen would touch your chin. Remember the 90 degree rule, elbows and knees should be at 90 degrees. Your feet should be flat on the floor. The edge of the seat pan (the part directly underneath your knees) should not be putting pressure on the back of your legs. Pressure on this area prevents the blood from returning from the lower leg, this can cause varicose veins. If your chair allows you to make and adjustment, make the adjustment. If not, put something under your feet to eliminate the pressure on the back side of the knee. If you use a keyboard keep your hands and wrists straight. Any deviation from this can lead to carpal tunnel issues.
Below is a humorous example of both good and bad ergonomics. Pay attention and learn.
I hope this has been helpful.
Yours in Health!