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The Ogden Chiropractor >Ogden Chiropractic News >    Workplace Ergonomics: Working in a Comfortable Environment
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Workplace Ergonomics: Working in a Comfortable Environment

Most Americans spend at least 40 hours a week sitting in an office in front of a computer. This doesn’t even include the time spent at home on your personal laptop or desktop. Eventually, many will start to experience certain chronic conditions like neck or back pains, carpal tunnel syndrome, poor posture, numbness in the limbs, etc. The U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services both insist upon promoting better, more ergonomic work environments as a means to greater productivity and employee satisfaction. The better the quality of the workplace and its ergonomics, the less risk there is of musculoskeletal injuries, emotional stress, and the need for health-necessitated vacation time.

The following guidelines may be helpful in evaluating your workplace ergonomics. First, it is essential that you comfortably assume different postures when performing a work activity for an extended period of time. When the body is stuck in one position for a long time, muscles fatigue because of bad circulation; this can make you more prone to injuries. Next, always be in a comfortable and neutral position; overuse of the joints and extending them to the maximum range of motion can cause stress injuries and chronic pains. Finally, when you’re lifting objects large or small, remember to use your largest muscles to do the work. This reduces the risk of injuries upon your smaller, weaker muscles.

The follow tips are especially useful for those working in a cubicle or office space. Many people who are hunched over or slouching in their chairs experience neck pains from staring at the monitor all day, and feel numbness in the low-back from sitting. Other common ailments are headaches, weakness in the legs, and wrist and/or elbow pain. There are a few things you can do to prevent these pains from occurring so frequently, or even stop them altogether.

One such thing is to take mini-breaks while doing your work to stretch out your arms and legs. You should get up from your desk and walk around every half an hour. You can also do simple exercises like neck rotations and shoulder shrugs — especially if you use the phone a lot. You can use a headset, too, for long phone calls. This will help to relieve the stress in your neck. Those who are always looking at a computer screen are putting a lot of strain on the eyes. Ideally, if the cubicle comes with a window view, looking at objects outside every so often will shift the focus of your eyes to something far away; this will help them to relax.

Your posture is also dependent on how your work area is set up. Your desk should be high enough so that you can sit and reach everything comfortably. Your body and your legs should create a 90 to 110 degree angle, and your feet should be able to touch the floor. Your chair should have a cushioned seat and a back support to prevent low-back pain. Add cushions to adjust your height and comfort level. Lean against the back of your chair to avoid slouching or hunching over.

Look forward and keep your head and neck in alignment when you are working. The top of your computer monitor should be level with your eyes. Once again, make sure your head and neck are aligned and in neutral position. Do not lean or hunch forward. When reading between printed matter and your computer screen, use a bookstand to keep the pages in place. This reduces the strain on your eyes.

There are specific ergonomic needs for those who constantly work at a computer. If you are using a laptop, make sure to plug in an external mouse rather than using the touchpad. Moving your entire arm and shoulder is the proper way to use the mouse — don't just move your wrist. Have a spacious spot to utilize it, so your elbow doesn't hang off the side of your table. Relax your hand and wrist so you don't strain the muscles. Take frequent breaks and stretch your fingers, wrists, and arms periodically.

For those who need to lift heavy objects for work, it is crucial to be aware of proper body positioning and muscle usage. When picking up a heavy object, do not bend forward and lift it since this may injure your back. Instead, keep your back straight and push up with your leg muscles. Also, keep your elbows flexed, your head up, and keep the object close to your body. Try to stand with your body as straight as possible. Of course, if it's too heavy for you, don't try to go it alone — get someone to help you!

Ensuring the best possible workplace ergonomics for yourself is one of the most important steps toward better chiropractic health. Take the initiative now to improve your work environment — your health is certainly your best career investment.