Ergonomics: Creating good postural habits

Ergonomics is the scientific discipline of creating a safe and healthy work environment and living space to increase human efficiency and prevent injuries. Proper ergonomics are a key component of creating and maintaining good postural habits. For example, many people spend 40 hours a week at work. If your workspace is not designed to be ergonomically efficient, you could be at risk of recurrent micro-traumas or unnecessary strain to the body. And the average person spends 8 hours per night in bed sleeping. Without proper posture during sleep, the body can feel tense and rigid in the mornings.

Consider these following examples to make your daily activities more ergonomically correct and improve your posture. Place the stickers from your posture package in the places where you spend the most time on a typical day. When you see these stickers, this is a reminder to check and maintain proper posture throughout the rest of the day.

Ergonomic Workspace Design:

  • Elbows close to your body and at 90 degrees. Keep wrists straight and avoid flexion of the wrists
  • Shoulders are relaxed as opposed to hunched
  • Hips, knees, and ankles are at 90 degrees while seated
  • Feet flat on the ground or on a footrest. For prolonged standing, consider using a mat on hard surfaces
  • Head is upright and the ears are in alignment with the shoulders
  • Eyes looking straight ahead without flexion forward or extension up. Consider the use of a laptop raiser with your laptop if necessary
  • Seat length should be long enough to provide support beneath thighs
  • Backrest should be straight (not leaning back) with adequate lumbar support of the lower back
  • Set up your desk to position frequently used items within a forearm’s length away, and less frequently used items within a stretched out arm’s length away

To improve posture during work, sit on the Cuscino Posturale. This helps to maintain a proper position of the spine while strengthening the core musculature.

Work Space set up

Work in neutral positions

Maintain a neutral position of your body throughout the day by maintaining the natural “S curve” of your spine, keeping the neck properly aligned over the shoulders, elbows at your sides and at a 90 degree angle, and the wrists in a neutral position. When the head and shoulders round forward, it creates a “C curve” of the spine. Be sure to pull your shoulders and head back to keep a nice “S curve.”

Reduce excessive force

Excessive force on your joints can create a potential for fatigue and injury.  In practical terms, identify specific instances in which excessive force is applied to your body and think of ways to make improvements. Common examples include carrying heavy items by yourself. To reduce excessive forces, utilize proper lifting techniques and ask a friend to help carry the object.

Keep everything in easy reach

The items that you use most often, in particular at work, should be within an arm’s reach away. Avoid reaching forward. Simply rearrange your workspace so that the items most commonly used are easily reachable.

Work at proper heights

Working at elbow height is a good way to reduce strain to the arms and shoulders. A good rule to follow is that most work should be done at about elbow height, whether sitting or standing. A good example of this is typing on a computer. There are exceptions to this rule, however. Heavier work is often best done lower than elbow height, and precision work is often best done at eye level.

Reduce excessive motion

Think about the number of motions you make throughout a day, whether with your fingers, your wrists, your arms, or your back. Avoid doing excessively repetitive movements, especially always to the same side. For example, instead of constantly turning to your right side to perform a task, re-position your workspace in which you can turn to the right or the left. This can help avoid muscular imbalances or overuse injuries. You can also utilize power tools when possible to reduce the strain of your body.

Minimize fatigue and static load

Holding the same position for a period of time is known as static load. It creates fatigue and discomfort and can interfere with work. A good example of static load that everyone has experienced is writer’s cramp. You do not need to hold onto a pencil very hard, just for long periods. Your muscles tire after a time and begin to hurt. In the workplace, having to hold parts and tools continually is an example of static load.

Having to hold your arms overhead for a few minutes is another classic example of static load, this time affecting the shoulder muscles. Sometimes you can change the orientation of the work area to prevent this, or you can add extenders to the tools. Having to stand for a long time creates a static load on your legs. Simply having a footrest can permit you to reposition your legs and make it easier to stand.

Minimize pressure points

Another thing to watch out for is excessive pressure points, sometimes called “contact stress.” A good example of this is squeezing hard onto a tool, like a pair of pliers. Adding a cushioned grip and contouring the handles to fit your hand makes this problem better. Leaning your forearms against the hard edge of a work desk creates a pressure point. Rounding out the edge of the desk and padding it can help to reduce stress.

Provide clearance

Work areas need to be set up so that you have sufficient room for your head, your knees, and your feet. This avoids muscle cramping and allows you to move the articulations of your body more freely.

Move exercise and stretch

To be healthy the human body needs to be exercised and stretched. Depending upon the type of work you do, different exercises on the job can be helpful. If you have a physically demanding job, you may find it helpful to stretch and warm up before any strenuous activity. If you have a sedentary job, you may want to take a quick “energy break” every so often to do a few stretches. If you sit for long periods, you need to shift postures. Adjust the seat up and down throughout the day, move, stretch, and change positions often. It is ideal to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.

Maintain a comfortable environment

One common concern is proper lighting, concerns include: glare, working in your own shadow, and just plain insufficient light. Be sure there is adequate lighting in your workspace and living space. Also, for people who travel by car often for their jobs, be sure that the car is comfortable. Position the seat so you can maintain a proper posture, or utilize a lumbar support pillow if necessary.

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