As children we were often told, "Don't slouch, sit-up straight". Today, we know that having poor posture can have adverse effects on our nervous system which ultimately can lead to many chronic problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, neck-shoulder pain and back problems. Contributing to these problems is the importance of how we organise our workspace around us (ergonomics) which can adversely affect the stress and strain on our bodies.
No matter what we are doing and in what position we are in, there is an optimal position our body can be in to decrease the stress on the muscles, spine and other joints of the body. If we are looking at posture in a purely natural state, that is without any external forces like chairs, etc., our posture is essentially determined by our bone structures with muscles and their ability to counteract the force of gravity.
In a perfect world, everyone would be in neutral posture everyday all the time. But in reality, the position our body varies depending on what line of work we are in or task we are performing. Poor posture is frequently blamed on:
- Lack of exercise
- Weak muscles
- Lack of body awareness
Although the above are recognised contributing factors, they are only some of the causes to poor posture. If you find that any of these issues are of a concern to you, there may be undue stress on your body that you don't need to endure.
Why Should You Care
- Having proper ergonomics at your workplace is crucial to having proper posture.
- To help prevent Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI), such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- To help prevent other ailments such as headaches, eye strain, back and neck strains.
- To help reduce stress and increase productivity.
Weather you work at a construction site or as a computer programmer, ergonomics plays an extremely important role in helping you to do your job efficiently as well as with the least amount of stress and strain on your body.
What Can You Do In the Office
Your shoulders should be straight, upper arms hanging straight down close to your body and elbows at a 90-degree or greater angle. Your forearms and hands should be flat and your hands relaxed leaving your wrists in a neutral position. There are various ergonomically designed split keyboards that are becoming increasingly popular that help with your wrist position.
When looking for a mouse, look for one that isn't too big or too small but one that fits snugly under your relaxed hand. The bottom of your hand should feel the mouse and the point where your hand turns into your wrist should be on the table.
As a general rule, you should keep it in front of you, such that you don't have to turn your head either way and should be at an arm's length in distance. Your neck should be relaxed and neutral, not leaning forward. The screen should be directly level with your eyes. Another important component to your monitor to consider is glare. Poor positioning related to your windows or lighting could result in eyestrain and headaches. Adding a glare filter to your monitor can also minimise the effects of improper lighting.
An adjustable chair is the most important part of your workstation, because it affects your position more than just about anything else. You want a chair that allows you to customise the fit. The ideal position is one that allows you to sit up slightly, tilted forward with your back comfortably neutral against the back of the chair and your hips slightly higher than your knees. Your feet should be flat on the floor or on a foot rest.
A headset is an absolute necessity if you are on the phone a lot. Taking steps to make your workstation ergonomically correct, but cradling the phone on your neck for long phone calls won’t help.
Our body is not designed to be in one place doing one thing for long periods of time. It is important to schedule breaks from repetitive activities and learn stretches that reduce fatigue in your muscles. As a general rule of thumb, you should get up at least once every 30-40 minutes and stretch and walk around a bit to keeps the circulation in your legs going. A great idea is to get up and get some water.
What Can You Do
A consultation of your current posture can be established and risk factors or weak points can be identified. There are specific strengthening exercises you can do to strengthen your postural muscles and improve your overall balance. If you're suffering with health issues or have troubles with your sitting during the day, consult with a health professional for advice. Alternatively, for more information on ergonomics or request Dr. Soni to your workplace and help evaluate your workstation with a Spinal Hygiene class at the same time.