What is office ergonomics?

Office ergonomics is the practice of fitting the job and workstation to the worker. All workers have limitations and specific physical capabilities. It benefits everyone to make sure their work areas are as comfortable and productive as possible.

This includes avoiding tasks that may lead to injuries. “Ergonomists have examined a number of jobs where there has been a high incidence of [musculoskeletal disorders] and have found some common elements present in each of these jobs, which are associated with these injuries,” the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries states. “These elements are called risk factors, because exposure to them increases the chance that a worker will become injured.”

Let’s look at some of the factors that can cause pain and injury.

avoid injury-causing risk factors

Repetition

Do you use the same repeated motions throughout your workday? Movements like typing on a keyboard, clicking on a mouse, using a calculator or answering a phone?

Doing so can result in trauma to your joints and the surrounding tissues.   

Static Hold or Sustained Exertion

Static holding or loading is when muscles are set in a single position over a long period of time. This can cause muscle tension.

Sustained exertion on the other hand, is when force is applied continuously also over a long period of time. Some examples include sitting without making any movements for long periods, holding down the shift key on your keyboard and keeping your head still while you are looking at your computer monitor.

Awkward Postures or Positions

While there are countless ways a body can move, some postures that bend the joints into positions where they are more likely to become injured are termed awkward.

Office workers can encounter an awkward posture by cradling a phone between ear and shoulder, slouching or leaning forward in their chair without support, reaching up and over to access a keyboard or mouse, and loading a copy machine by bending at the waist.

Mechanical Contact Stress

This risk factor can occur when a sharp or hard surface/object presses into a person’s soft tissues (tendons, nerves and blood vessels) leading to serious injuries over time.

Ways this can manifest are when a wrist rests on the edge of a desk while typing, when sitting in a chair puts pressure on the back of a person’s thighs or when elbows lean against a hard armrest.

Force

Several office tasks can require moderate force to be applied to the small muscles, which can result in ligament and muscle strains, fatigue and swelling.

Some tasks that may exert too much force on a worker can include gripping a mouse too tightly, grasping heavy folders and ‘pounding’ to type on a keyboard

how to help prevent fatigue and trauma

Follow these office ergonomics tips to help you avoid fatigue and injury:

1)    Make sure that you support the weight of your arms 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. The keyboard and the mouse should close enough to prevent excessive reaching which strains the shoulders and arms.

5)    Talking on the phone with the phone receiver jammed between the neck and ear is bad practice. You know that’s true, so don’t do it!

6)    Avoid eye strain by making sure that your monitor is not too close, it should be at least an arm’s length away. Take steps to control screen glare, and make sure that the monitor is not placed in front of a window or a bright background. You can rest your eyes periodically for several seconds by looking at objects at a distance to give your eyes a break.

7) 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.

Care for your Musculoskeletal System

Avoid fatigue at the office by taking good care of your musculoskeletal system. Always drink plenty of water, get exercise to move your body, take stretch breaks and avoid extended periods of sitting.

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To schedule an appointment for treatment with chiropractic, acupuncture or massage, please contact Shimer Chiropractic today at 720-340-4107. Your body will thank you.  

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