Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ergonomics: Don't slouch! Don't be static!

Computer posture ...

"It's another tough day at the computer. Those fingers are on fire. So are the wrists, forearm, neck — don't even get started on the back. Arriving home pooped and in pain you think "This is silly. It's not like I've dug ditches or hauled hay all day."

But that pain is real and could be very serious, leading to a permanent injury if not attended to.

According to a Department of Labor report (1996), overuse syndromes — or repetitive stress injury (RSI) — is the largest cause of occupational illness, coming in at 66 percent of all reported cases. That was up from 33 percent nearly 10 years before. The National Academy of Science determined that businesses lost an estimated $50 billion annually to sick leave, decreased productivity and medical costs linked to RSI.

Repetitive stress injury is because of structural changes in the muscle fiber as well as decreased blood flow, according to Dr. Taraneh Razavi in Google blog. Nerves can also be involved. The immobile tissue and surrounding inflammation compress the nerve, which can cause numbness or tingling and eventually weakness if the nerve is damaged severely. Tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome both fall into this category. But so do neck, shoulder, hip and back injury and illnesses. Sit wrong too long, you have problems.

When it comes to computer use, the ergonomic source of these problems are misalignment between user and equipment: the computer, mouse, screen and other accessories. Wrong posture leads to big problems.

"What happens is people sit in a posture that is not proper posture. ...; They sit statically, with little movement and stay in that position for eight hours a day," says Harry Lichtman, physical therapist assistant, and a certified ergonomic evaluation specialist with the Occupational Health Services of Portsmouth Hospital. "You don't get blood flowing to the extremities. ...; You don't have good circulation and with the older population still working in their 50s, 60s, even 70s, you can have that problem to begin with then compound at the computer. We think it's easy to sit all day. Employers think it's productive. But people get more tired and become more distracted and less productive over time."

A report by National Public Radio, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government states two-thirds (68 percent) of working Americans use a computer at work, and 84 percent of them say it is essential for their jobs. About one-third of working Americans (34 percent) have access to the Internet at work, and of those who do, 63 percent say it is essential for their jobs.

Another survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2001 reported that Internet use is growing at a rate of 2 million new users per month. At the time of the report 60.2 million U.S. homes had personal computers. The point is many work-users will continue the same abusive behavior after a day's work.

Sitting as we do with only hands and wrists in motion for hours on end just isn't natural, says Lichtman. We tend to sit with shoulders rounded, head forward, and wrists bent. "These positions are out of natural alignment. It takes more work for the body to maintain that position," he says.

We only compound it by multitasking, he adds. We cradle phones, with shoulder elevated and neck bent to the side, jotting notes. "Now that is a problem! This is not natural."

A natural posture is the place to begin; "Starting at the head to the floor," he says."    (Continued via Seacoastonline)    [Ergonomics Resources]

Slouching at Computer - Ergonomics

Slouching at Computer

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