Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Adjustable chairs reduce shoulder and neck pain in garment workers

Reducing neck pain by adjusting chairs ...

"Adjustable-height chairs with ergonomically curved seats can significantly reduce neck and shoulder pain in garment workers, according to a new study in the April 20 issue of Spine.

The study shows that chair design affects neck and shoulder pain among garment workers -- and possibly in other laborers engaged in visually intensive manufacturing work, the researchers say.

The study was led by David Rempel, MD, MPH, director of the ergonomics program at San Francisco General Hospital and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco; and Beate Ritz, MD, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology, at University of California, Los Angeles.

According to the authors, garment workers typically work in a seated position for seven to 10 hours per day, using their hands to manipulate cloth or to complete fine-motor tasks while sewing. The work is visually intensive, so workers often lean forward and hold their arms and shoulders up. In 2000, the garment industry employed 11 million workers worldwide. Approximately 350,000 of these workers were in the United States. Los Angeles is the home of the largest garment production center in the country.

"Garment workers have not been the focus of many studies, despite the fact that they face important occupational health risks," Rempel explained. "Their work is physically demanding, especially on the upper extremities and neck."

In an earlier pilot study, Rempel and colleagues from UCSF tested a number of interventions, including a chair they designed, to relieve neck and shoulder pain in garment workers in the Bay Area.

The custom-designed chair is height adjustable, has no wheels, in order to ensure the garment workers stay seated firmly in place, has no arm supports to interfere with movements, and has a seat pan that slants slightly downward to support forward-leaning postures. The chair is also upholstered with a breathable cloth and foam appropriate for the high-temperature environment of the garment shop floor. The researchers found that the custom-made chair reduced risk factors for shoulder and neck pain better than the other interventions tested.

In the current study, the researchers evaluated the effectiveness of the custom-made chair in comparison to two more traditional chairs -- an adjustable height, flat seat pan chair, and a fixed-height, flat seat pan chair commonly used by garment workers in the United States."    (Continued via EurekAlert)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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