Ergonomic Tips to Help Prevent Pain at Work


What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in the work environment — how people work related to the workplace environment. Many people understand and associate ergonomics with the science of refining the design of products for the workplace to ensure the most comfortable, efficient working environment. More than half of workplace injuries are related to cumulative trauma disorders caused by repeated motions and activities that inevitably lead to increased discomfort and pain. Common ergonomic-related conditions include carpal tunnel syndrome, back problems, neck problems, shoulder problems and vision issues (eye strain and headaches).

Why is proper ergonomics important?

Sitting for prolonged periods is inevitable for many individuals working jobs that require a substantial amount of desk work. Unfortunately, this is a major cause of chronic back and neck pain. Maintaining poor posture and/or sitting in a slouched position causes strain on the spinal discs and over stretches the spinal ligaments. Over time, poor posture can contribute to chronic back or neck pain. Proper ergonomics can aid employees in preventing behaviors that can lead to chronic pain.

Simple ergonomic guidelines

Simple ergonomic guidelines to help make sure the workplace causes the least amount of stress on the body include the following:

  • Chair selection
    Select a chair that offers back support. When in a seated position, the feet should rest flat on the ground or on a footrest with the knees bent at a 90 degree angle. The chair should be cushioned and provide comfort and support. As for positioning, press the buttocks against the back of the chair, arch the lower back slightly, and be conscious of proper posture.
  • Elbow position
    To prevent eye strain, neck soreness, and shoulder discomfort, place the chair in a position so the computer monitor is no further than an arm's length away. Start by sitting as close to the desk as possible with the hands rested on the work surface and the elbows at a 90-degree angle. If the elbows are not at this angle, adjust the chair either up or down, and make sure that the upper arms and spine are parallel.
  • Eye level
    Position the chair and computer screen so that the eyes gaze at the center of the screen. If the eyes are positioned higher or lower than the center of the screen, adjust the placement of the computer screen or chair appropriately. People with bifocal glasses should adjust their computer screen so they do not need to tilt the neck backwards to read the screen.
  • Maintain proper posture
    Avoid sitting in a position where the neck and shoulders are tensed and folding toward the ears. The quickest way to check for proper posture is to make sure the entire back is touching the back of the chair. Make sure that the ears and shoulders are aligned with the hips.
  • Avoid prolonged sitting
    To practice positive healthy habits in the workplace, take frequent breaks — stand up and stretch the arms, twist the upper body from side to side, walk to the water cooler for a quick drink and/or walk up and down a flight of stairs.
  • Ask for help
    Ask for expert advice and support. Consider asking the employer if they are willing to pay for an ergonomics consultant to visit the office to provide recommendations for a proper ergonomic environment. If this service is not covered by the workplace, it may be useful to make a small investment in proper ergonomic workplace equipment.
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