Expert Health Articles

Importance of Ergonomics

Laura Durliat, OTR/L & Stephanie Bame, OT/L

Julie A. Cole Rehab & Sports Medicine

Tired of having a sore back, tight shoulders, tension headache 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 or even just carrying groceries can create painful body conditions. These conditions can be helped or prevented by incorporating good 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 in alignment while sitting in an office chair. 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 the height of the desk and good lumbar support. Use a foot rest as needed, and arm rests should be adjustable to allow shoulders to relax. When typing, arms/wrists should not rest on arm rests or wrist rests. Keep monitor at eye level with good lighting.

  1. Keep your body in alignment while standing. Distribute your body weight evenly to front, back and sides of feet. Focus on holding your stomach muscles in.
  2. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away from your computer screen for 20 seconds.
  3. Get up and move with “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.
  4. 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. Use your legs for lifting, bending your knees rather than your back.
  5. Do regular exercise to help promote good posture and prevent injury. Walking, biking and swimming are good low impact exercises. Move, move, move! Incorporate movement into your daily schedule by parking far away from buildings and taking the stairs rather than the elevator.
  6. Maintain overall relaxed posture in head, neck, shoulders and back. Clenching muscles can lead to stiffness and tightness causing increased pain and limited movements overall.

Incorporating ergonomics and lifestyle changes into your workplace and life can increase productivity, decrease fatigue and decrease muscle soreness. If your injury or pain keeps you from functioning and enjoying everyday life at work, home or during leisure activities, ask your doctor if rehab services may be right for you.