OFFICE ERGONOMICS & PHYSICAL THERAPY
Ever been hurt on the job? If so, you’re certainly in good company. Work- related musculoskeletal disorders are a common cause of disability, lost wages, reduced productivity, and decreased job satisfaction. 1 Estimates show as many as 2 million employees face such injuries annually in the US. Interestingly, it’s not just major accidents that can lead to workplace injury. Many occupational injuries are caused by relatively minor factors which over time can truly take a toll on the body. For instance, any situation requiring a worker to assume an awkward position for prolonged periods, perform frequent overhead movements, or frequently bend, push, pull, or lift can lead to both acute and chronic issues. 2 By their very nature, these movements and situations can be hard to notice and hard to change. Fortunately, with a little rearranging of your workspace and some simple adaptations to your work tasks, you can avoid injury and help yourself get more satisfaction, enjoyment, and length out of your career. 3 Ways to Improve Work Ergonomics You may not always be able to change what you do at work, but you can change how you do it. Discover these strategies to help you avoid common injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff strain, and tech neck: 1. While at your desk, think 90/90. Ideally, you should be able to sit with hips and elbows relaxed at 90 degree angles while at your desk in order to minimize strain on joints and connective tissues. Starting from this position can also help you avoid hiking your shoulders, bending your wrists, or hunching forward. Having an adjustable height chair on wheels and placing your monitor about an arm’s distance away at eye level can help. That said, there’s no “one ideal posture” for working. More on this a little later. 2. Use proper body mechanics when lifting objects of any size. The old rule to “lift with your legs and not your back” may be a cliché, but it’s fairly accurate and should be heeded whenever possible. 3 Safe lifting technique of both light and heavy objects is necessary to avoid injuries such as muscle strains and disc herniations. A few practical tips: Strategically place objects in areas where you don’t have to awkwardly twist, lean, or bend in order to reach them. Keep items close to your body when lifting them. Don’t be a hero! Use available tools, equipment, and personnel to help move heavier items. 3. Consider a stand-up desk. Prolonged sitting puts a lot of stress on your body—biomechanical studies actually show sitting leads to more strain in the lower back compared to standing. 4 If you can purchase a stand-up desk or adjustable height attachment for your desk, consider doing so.
As alluded to earlier, however, it’s not ideal to stay in one position all day long, whether that’s sitting or standing. 3 Static positions can lead to stiffness, joint misalignments, and other painful problems. So move around! Change your position in your chair, take frequent breaks, go for a walk during lunch, and drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated and on the move (thanks to all your bathroom trips). Lastly, consider consulting with a physical therapist. Your therapist can teach you simple desk and work-hardening exercises to keep tissues healthy, and offer you unique tips to improve your work space, including equipment recommendations for your computer, mouse, and keyboard. 5 A physical therapist can also provide therapeutic services to reduce inflammation, decrease pain and swelling, facilitate tissue healing, and improve your health overall—which is better for you and your company’s bottom line. Source: 1. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=166&p_ table=testimonies 2. https://www.osha.gov/sltc/ergonomics/ 3. http://www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/417- 133-000.pdf 4. www.startstanding.org/sitting-back-pain/ 5. https://www.americanexpress. com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/office-ergonomics-lessons-learned-from-physical- therapy-1/
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