Chances are you’ve at least heard the term “ergonomics” in one context or another, possibly at the workplace, but whether or not most people actually know exactly what it entails or practice it regularly is difficult to say.
Ergonomics is the design of equipment and devices that fit the human body’s abilities, and proper ergonomic design is essential in order to prevent repetitive strain injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders. Disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and low back pain can develop over time as a result of ergonomic hazards and possibly lead to long-term disability. Fortunately, most of these hazards—especially those pertaining to posture—can be avoided and improved upon, which will significantly reduce your risk of workplace injury if modified properly.
Improve each of these components of your workstation for optimal performance and the lowest risk for suffering a common office injury:
- The height of the chair is critical: adjust it so that when your feet are flat on the floor, your knees are equal to or slightly below the chair’s height
- Adjust the back of the chair to slightly greater than 90° reclined angle, push your hips back as far as they can go in the chair, and change your posture regularly
- Wrist posture should be kept neutral to reduce straining: adjust armrests so that your shoulders are relaxed and lower arms are supported
- The monitor should be centered directly in front of you, above the keyboard, about 2-3 feet from your face, right at or slightly below eye level
- Position the keyboard directly in front of you and pull up close to it
- Adjust keyboard height so shoulders are relaxed, elbows are in a slightly bent position, and wrists and hands are straight; to reach the keyboard, forearms should be near parallel to work surface
- Place mouse as close to keyboard as possible to avoid overreaching
- Arrange other items like phone and documents within arms reach
- Use a handset or speakerphone when on the phone to avoid neck or shoulder injury
- Keep your head and neck balanced and in line with the torso
- Move as frequently as possible to avoid staying in one place: it’s highly recommended to take 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes and to change tasks or take longer (5-10 minute) breaks every hour
Most of these changes or simple but can have major implications in preventing a workplace overuse injury. Don’t wait until you start noticing problems and make these changes right away. To learn more about workplace ergonomics or for any other musculoskeletal issues, Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates at either of our convenient locations in Shelby or Kings Mountain, NC or call 704-471-0001.