Monday, September 01, 2008

Back pain at work? Check your posture...

A little more on office ergonomics ...

"Most people's daily routines are characterised by a lack of movement - we tend to sit down for most of the day, at meals, travelling to work, in the workplace and again at home in the evenings.

Experts estimate that we spend 80 000 hours in a position deemed the most unnatural - sitting down - and the consequences for our bodies include tension headaches, backache, troubled digestion and impaired concentration. However, some work is best carried out sitting, so the chair will remain a part of most people's working lives.

Unfortunately, our spines were not designed for passive sitting, and up to 70 percent of all back and neck problems result from incorrect sitting positions.

Ergonomics is the science of designing the job, equipment and workplace to fit the worker. According to the latest ergonomic findings, computer work does not generally damage your health, however the posture you adopt while seated at a computer or desk often causes backache - the most common complaint in a seated work environment.

In Europe, 80 percent of employees have back pain at some time, and one third of them suffer from chronic back pain. It was also recently reported most lost working days are due to muscular and skeletal stress and the most common complaint is backache.

With gigantic hard-disc storage capacity on computers, files are no longer filed in filing cabinets. Internet and intranet bring every conceivable piece of information to your desk and you can swap ideas with colleagues via email. So why stand up?

Anyone who sits in the wrong position for longer than an hour a day is heading for health problems. Sitting with a hunched back strains the muscles, intervertebral discs and joints and impairs digestion, breathing and concentration.

Conversely, sitting in a "laid back" posture - often adopted by taller employees when the desk is too low - leads to strain on the neck and lumbar-spine regions in addition to muscle tension. Standing is the most natural posture for humans to adopt and when in the upright position our spines automatically adopt an S-shaped posture that can withstand a great deal of pressure.

Often, however, when we are seated, the pelvis is twisted backwards and develops a hump over the sacrum. When this occurs, our spine adopts a C-shaped posture, more commonly referred to as a hunchback posture. This posture has become habitual for most employees when seated, and leads to one-sided strain on the joints, intervertebral discs and muscle tension.

In our experience, members of staff think that by simply adjusting their chairs they will be able to compensate for their incorrect posture and they do so continually, often without relief.

However, the most effective measure to remedy the matter is to actively involve employees in achieving their own optimum sitting position for their specific working area.

In addition to having the correct chair, anyone can achieve noticeable improvement simply by changing certain habits at their desks.

Once workers have been made aware of the importance of ergonomics in the workplace, there are many ways to approach this. Alternate between standing, sitting and walking two to four times every hour."    (Continued via IoLjobs, Malte Lenkeit)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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