Ergonomics is a word we hear so often but may know little about.
Ergonomics is the science concerned with how a job fits a person’s characteristics in a way that will enhance efficiency and well-being. Basically, it’s making sure your job site is set up to best suit you and prevent the possibility of injury. Computer workstations are a common cause of postural problems and muscular pain.
Many computer workstations can be modified to improve the fit to the individual and reduce pain and discomfort. Computers and desks are not one-size-fits-all.
If you find yourself working a job that requires long hours at a computer, there is an increased risk of injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome or neck and back pain from poor posture. To help prevent injuries, there are some active steps you can take.
- While sitting at a computer, your feet and knees should be positioned at a 90-degree angle.
- The arms should rest easily by your side and wrists should be in a neutral position on the keyboard.
- The computer monitor should also be positioned straight ahead so you do not need to look up or down to see correctly.
- Finally, your back should be against the chair for good support.
If the workstation is not adjustable to fit your height, there a few minor changes that can be made such as using a small stool or telephone book under your feet, elevating the computer screen with the hard drive or books, adjusting the chair height, and using a lumbar support.
To keep the wrists in a neutral position, lay the keyboard flat by clicking the “feet” on the back of your keyboard down so it no longer sits at an angle. Often a few minor adjustments can make the difference between pain and no pain.
Physical therapists can be valuable in assessing a person’s posture, pain and musculoskeletal problems. Many conditions such as those described can be helped with physical therapy.
Through proper exercise, education and treatment to reduce pain, many of these conditions can be improved and the pain alleviated. Remember, your health and safety at work is important to you and your employer. Use caution, good posture, and healthy body mechanics to ensure a pain free work environment.
Debra Turner, PT, is manager of rehabilitation services at St. Elizabeth Florence.