ESHTories: Workstation Ergonomics: Tips for Avoiding Injury at Work
By Geraline Jorge
Many of us don’t realize that certain habits formed in our daily activities at work such as staring at the computer for hours, holding the phone, slouching in a chair, or carrying all kinds of stuff can lead to body pains. These can be prevented by practicing good ergonomic techniques.
Ergonomics, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely.” Thus, ergonomic interventions aim to lessen muscle fatigue, increase productivity, and reduce the number of work-related injuries.
Workers in different industries and occupations can be exposed to risk factors at work when they lift heavy items, get stuck in uncomfortable positions, and perform the same tasks over and over again.
Tips for Avoiding Injury at Work
To make sure that you don’t suffer from work-related pain, check out these tips.
1. Sit right. Maintain your body alignment while sitting in an office chair. Sit up straight in your chair. Keep your shoulders and hips in line vertically. Don’t hunch over your laptop. When looking at the screen, your eye line should be level with the address bar on your web browser. Adjust your chair to have your feet on the floor, thighs horizontal, arms even with the height of the desk, and good lumbar support.
2. Ditch danglers. Don’t let your feet dangle. Use a footrest, or place your feet on a few books or boxes under your desk, so that your thighs are nearly parallel to the floor and your hips are slightly higher than your knees. This will reduce stress on your lumbar spine.
3. Hit the correct height. Work at an appropriate height. Find a working height so that your elbows naturally fall flush with your work desk height. This will promote better wrist alignment rather than impingement or carpal tunnel stress.
4. Pick the good chair. Always use an office chair with adjustable features. This will save you from lumbar and neck discomfort.
5. Stand straight. Keep your body in alignment while standing. Distribute your body weight evenly to the front, back, and sides of your feet. Focus on holding your stomach muscles in.
6. Break it up. Get up and have mini-breaks every 30 minutes. Stretch, stand or walk. Sitting too long leads to slouching and poor posture, putting extra pressure on your neck and back. Adjust positions to get out of your traditional sitting at your desk mode.
7. Eat and drink. Don’t skip lunch and make sure you stay hydrated. Making a meal and staying hydrated gives you the opportunity to stand up, walk around, and let your eyes have a rest from the computer screen.
8. Take 20. Follow the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent looking at the computer screen, you should spend 20 seconds looking at something else 20 feet away. This gives your eye muscles a break and helps reduce eye strain.
9. Move, move, move! Incorporate movement into your daily routine by parking far away from buildings and taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
10. Always exercise. Regular exercise helps promote good posture and prevent injury. Walking/stationary walking, biking, and swimming are good low-impact exercises.
Tips for Relieving Tension
Meanwhile, what do you do to relieve the tension? Here are some simple exercises to prevent injury when working long hours in your desk.
1. Back it up. To tame muscle tension in the lower back when it crops up, rock your pelvis back and forth while seated in your desk chair — tilting your hips up and rounding your back, and then tilting your hips back.
2. Focus on your top spots. If you have tight neck and shoulders, you can try these stretches to release the tension. Do the chin tuck exercise, also known as neck retraction. While standing or sitting upright, keep your spine straight and push your head forward, jutting your chin out as far as possible. Slowly reverse the movement by pulling your head back as far as possible, as if recoiling away from someone. Your head should stay level throughout the stretch, which you’ll feel at the base of your neck. Repeat up to four times.
3. Mind your neck and shoulders. To relieve tension in your neck and shoulders simultaneously, face forward, tilt your right ear down toward your right shoulder, leaving your left arm hanging straight down to increase the stretch. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds and repeat on the left side up to four times.
4. Be hip. For tight hips, try doing a stretch to release tight hip flexors. Kneel on your left knee like you are about to propose to someone, and place your right foot forward with your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Shift your pelvis forward, bend your front knee and tuck your butt under until you feel a deeper stretch in the left hip. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs.
5. Stay chill. Maintain overall relaxed posture in the head, neck, shoulders, and back. Clenching muscles can lead to stiffness and tightness causing increased pain and limited movements overall. Incorporating ergonomics into your workspace can increase productivity, decrease fatigue, and lessen muscle soreness.
If your injury and pain are giving you discomfort and keeping you from functioning at home or at work, ask your doctor if therapy services may be right for you.
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