Currently, I have been at work for seven hours. I have been sitting at my desk for at least four of those hours. My neck is beginning to get stiff, I have a headache, and I am stressed out that I will not finish the things that I needed to get done today. All the little aches and pains I’m experiencing are starting to accumulate. It seems like there is always something. Can anyone relate??
Luckily, I have learned there are choices I can make today that can help ease these pains in the future. Office ergonomics is the study of the kind of work you do, the environment you work in, and the tools you use to do your job. The goal of office ergonomics is to set up your office work space so that it fits you and the job you are doing. By creating the optimal workplace environment, injuries can be reduced and workplace production can be increased. Score!
Unfortunately, it’s common for injuries to happen at work. Repetitive movements sustained over an eight hour period can lead to multiple nagging injuries. Tendinitis, headaches, stiff neck, and low back pain to name a few. In order to decrease the risk for these injuries, you should follow these cardinal rules from Ergo-plus.com:
1) Make sure that the weight of your arms is supported at all times. If your arms are not supported, the muscles of your neck and shoulders will be crying by the end of the day.
2) Watch your head position, and try to keep the weight of your head directly above its base of support (neck). Don’t “crane” your head and neck forward.
3) Don’t be a slouch! Slouching puts more pressure on the discs and vertebrae of your back. Use the lumbar support of your chair and avoid sitting in a way that places body weight more on one than on the other. Move your chair as close to your work as possible to avoid leaning and reaching. Make sure to “scoot” your chair in every time you sit down.
4) The monitor should be placed directly in front of you, with the top no higher than eye level. The keyboard should be directly in front of the monitor so you don’t have to frequently turn your head and neck.
5) Talking on the phone with the phone receiver jammed between the neck and ear is really bad practice. You know that’s true, so don’t do it!
6) The keyboard and the mouse should close enough to prevent excessive reaching which strains the shoulders and arms.
7) Avoid eye strain by making sure that your monitor is not too close, it should be at least an arm’s length away.
8) Take steps to control screen glare, and make sure that the monitor is not placed in front of a window or a bright background.
9) You can rest your eyes periodically for several seconds by looking at objects at a distance to give your eyes a break.
10) The feet should not be dangling when you are seated. If your feet don’t comfortably reach the floor or there is pressure on the backs of your legs, use a footrest or lower the keyboard and chair.
If it’s too late for you and you’re already in a spiral of pain like myself, here are some in-office stretches and strengthening exercises that should not only decrease you pain, but prevent future pain:
Stretches: Perform each stretch for twenty seconds twice every two hours
· Tilt ear toward shoulder.
· Reach up and touch top of head with palm to hold in tilted position.
· Reverse side.
· Stand at a corner about a foot away from the wall with forearms on opposite sides of the corner.
· One foot should be forward.
· Elbows should be at slightly below shoulder height.
· Keep abdominals tight to avoid arching back.
· Lean gently in towards corner by bending the front knee until a stretch is felt in front of the chest.
· Sit in chair, and if you can, wrap feet around chair legs.
· Reach across body and grab back of chair.
· Pull gently to increase stretch in mid back.
· Hold hands behind back, and grasp hands together.
· Pull shoulder blades back and down.
· Hold arm straight at waist height with palm facing away from you and fingers pointing up.
· Hold onto palm of hand and stretch wrist back.
· Do not pull on fingers.
· Make sure the fingers and thumb are kept together.
Wrist Extended, Fingers Pointed Down
· Do as above, but with fingers pointing towards the floor.
Strengthening: Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise every day
· Sit up straight with elbows at sides and bent to 90 degrees (right angle)
· Push shoulders together and down, with palms facing the floor.
· Make a waxing motion in the air while maintaining the above position.
· Keep elbows “glued” to sides while completing motion.
· Do this for 20 seconds.
· Gently press low back against wall.
· Place back of elbows, forearms, and wrists against wall.
· Bring arms up and down slowly in a small arc of motion while keeping elbows in contact with wall.
· Keep elbows very close to sides and pull back on a resistive band as shoulder blades come back and down.
· Return to start position slowly.
· Sit in chair with back supported.
· Tighten stomach as if someone were going to punch it.
· Press fingers into abdomen and tighten abdominals even more to resist pressure of fingers.
· Keep breathing.
· Hold 15 seconds.
· Sit at edge of chair with feet slightly behind knees.
· Stand up while keeping neck erect and spine erect.
· Your back should not bend forward.
· Immediately return to sitting, but do not put full weight on chair.
All of this may seem a little daunting at first, but practice makes perfect. Set reminders on your phone or computer to help you remember to take a break and move. Or a grab a co-worker to perform the stretches and strengthening exercises with at the water cooler. Who knows, maybe you can start a workplace revolution! Or maybe not…I’m getting carried away. Either way the more consistent you are, the better. Speaking of being consistent, my reminder went off and it’s time to take my break and get rid of this headache. I hope this blog gives you a jumpstart to making healthy changes in your workplace.
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