When we think of our place of work related to our health, we might think of things like air quality, cleanliness, or how to resist those high-calorie treats people bring in to share when we’re trying to watch our waistline. But have you ever really given much thought about how you or your employees function physically on a day-to-day basis? There’s a growing trend in the physical therapy field in regards to ergonomics, which is defined as the science of designing a person’s environment so that it facilitates the highest level of function.
Working at a computer work station all day can take a toll on the body. Repetitive activities and lack of mobility can contribute to aches, pains, and eventual injuries. Sitting at a desk while using the keyboard for hours on a day to day basis can result in poor circulation to joints and muscles, it can also create an imbalance in strength and flexibility of certain muscles, and muscle strain. These issues can be easily remedied by modifying your workstation.
Get out of your chair…
- Several times a day and move around, even for 30 seconds (Liz Lemon was on to something with those 30 second dance parties!
- Roll your shoulders back
- Turn your head side to side
- Stretch out your forearms and your legs
Your chair should have:
- Wheels (5 for better mobility)
- The ability to twist freely on its base
- Adjustable height
- Adjustable arm rests that will allow you to sit close to your desk
- Lumbar support
- Seat base that adjusts to a comfortable angle and allows you to sit up straight
The position of the keyboard is critical:
- The keyboard should be at a height that allows you to have your forearms slightly below a horizontal line, or your elbows at slightly more than a 90 degree angle.
- You should be able to slide your knees under the keyboard tray or desk
- Avoid reaching for the keyboard by extending your arms or raising your shoulders
The position of your computer monitor is important:
- The monitor should be directly in front of you
- The top of the monitor should be at your eye level, and at a distance where you can see it clearly without squinting, or leaning forward or backward
- If you need glasses for reading, you may need to have a special pair for use at your computer to avoid tipping your head backward to see through bi-focals or other types of reading glasses
How can a physical therapist help?
A person’s work environment should fit his or her capabilities as a worker. Some common problems that arise from inadequate workspace ergonomics include back, neck and shoulder pain. Other problems include repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. The physical and occupational therapists at NPT can provide education on ergonomics and treatment to relieve these problems in order for a worker to resume their normal job duties. Additionally, NPT offers onsite services to help employers identify hazards that may contribute to on-the-job injury, and determine how it can be restructured into an efficient work environment.