Whether you work in an office, drive a taxi or wait tables, ergonomics plays a part in your health. In case you’re saying “Ergo-whatzit?” Ergonomics is the relationship of the workplace to the worker. Tools such as desks, chairs, computers, taxis and even tractors usually come as one-size-fits-all, but people come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Trying to fit the worker to the tool can mean aches, pains and chronic problems.
Start With an Assessment
The most important step in developing an ergonomic workplace is an assessment. There are a number of professionals who have the necessary knowledge and training to assess your workplace fit. Among them are physical therapists, worker’s compensation specialists and doctors or nurses who have been trained in ergonomics. Many organizations have ergonomic experts who will assess such issues as the height of your chair, your workstation layout and the motions you repeat many times a day.
Make Some Adjustments
The ergonomic expert will make recommendations about your workstation based on your measurements, work habits and available equipment. If you’re a long drink of water, your chair and desk may need to be raised. A shorty may need smaller furniture, while a southpaw needs a left-handed mouse. No matter what your size, you should have plenty of working room so you can arrange your workstation for maximum ergonomic efficiency. You may also need some special tools or equipment, such as a foot rest, chair cushion or a headset instead of a phone receiver that you cradle between your neck and shoulder.
Repetitive Motion Injury
Repetitive motion injury occurs when you do the same thing over and over. Clicking your mouse several thousand times a day can leave you with a sore index finger, while banging a keyboard with your wrists at an angle increases the odds of carpal tunnel syndrome. Your work area should be arranged so that your body is in the best possible alignment. If you must perform the same movement many times a day, take frequent breaks. Shake out your hands, rotate your joints, get up and walk around or switch from one task to another every 10 to 15 minutes.
Ergonomic assessments, tools and work habits can’t counteract poor posture or couch-potato-ism. Physical fitness also plays a big part. Your ergonomic adviser may be able to give you some specific exercises for a particular problem such as a stiff neck, but if you have chronic pain, see your doctor. Once you’ve been cleared by your doctor, a physical therapist can teach you exercises that will stretch and strengthen muscles you need to perform your work. Regular aerobic exercise also helps to keep you toned and strong so earning your daily bread is no longer a pain.
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