Expert Health Articles

Ergonomics

Laura Durliat

Laura Durliat, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

Tired of having a sore back, tight shoulders, tension headaches and fatigue by the end of the work day? Habits formed in our daily activities like staring at the computer, cradling the phone, slouching in a chair and carrying the groceries can develop bad habits and painful body conditions.

These conditions can be helped or prevented by incorporating ergonomic techniques into daily routines and work sites.

Ergonomics is helping to fit a job to the person. That job can be a task at work or at home. Here are some suggestions to help improve posture and ergonomics for your daily tasks.

1. Use good ergonomic practices in the office. Keep your body aligned while sitting in an office chair.

2. Sit up straight in your chair keeping your shoulders and hips in line vertically. Adjust your chair to have your feet on the floor, thighs horizontal, arms even with height of desk and good lumbar support. The height of your chair is generally 16 to 21 inches off the floor, with a width of 18 inches and a depth of 15 to 17 inches. Your feet should rest on the floor and you should use a foot rest as needed. The arm rest should be adjustable to allow your shoulders to relax. When you’re typing with your arms/wrists you should not rest on arm rests or wrist rests. Lastly, keep your monitor at eye level with good lighting.

3. Keep your body aligned while standing. Distribute your body weight evenly to the front, back and sides of your feet while focusing on holding your stomach muscles in.

4. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away from your computer screen for 20 seconds.

5. Get up and move with “mini” breaks every 30 minutes. These breaks can include stretching, standing or walking. Sitting too long leads to slouching and poor posture, putting extra pressure on your neck and back. Try adjusting positions to get out of your traditional sitting at your desk.

6. Increase your awareness of posture and ergonomics in everyday settings. Be mindful when you are lifting, sitting, preforming repetitive motions and working in awkward body positions. Practice safe body postures by using your legs for lifting and bending your knees rather than your back.

7. Do regular exercises to help promote good posture and prevent injury. Walking, biking and swimming are good low impact exercise. Incorporate movement into your daily schedule by parking far away from building and taking the stairs rather than the elevator.

8. Maintain an overall relaxed posture in your head, neck, shoulders and back. Clenching muscles can lead to stiffness and tightness causing increased pain and limited movements.

Incorporating ergonomics and lifestyle changes into your workplace and life can increase productivity, decrease fatigue and decrease muscle soreness.