When you are working out in the field or in a construction site, the manual labor required would definitely take a toll on your body, especially if you have been doing it for a number of years.
But what if all you do is sit around in front of your computer from nine to five? The nature of this type of work may not require any muscular power, but you still are at risk of acquiring certain types of diseases from being in the same position for too long a time.
Both the business owners and office furniture manufacturers have recognized the fact that the layout of the modern workplace causes a different type of stress to your body.
Fortunately, researchers have found a way to create that delicate balance between your body and your working environment, with the help of ergonomics.
It’s All About Ergonomics
Basically, ergonomics is the study of the relation between man and his working environment. What is involved here is studying the nature of the job, the design of the equipment and even the positioning of the furniture in a workplace to ensure that an individual will not suffer from repetitive strain injuries.
Let’s say that you do have a desk job which you have been holding down for more than a decade. If you do not practice ergonomics in the way that you sit down in front of your computer, or even the simple task of using the mouse, it can lead to repetitive strain injuries and can even result to long-term disabilities.
Aside from preventing injuries, the other purposes of designing ergonomically-sound office furniture and equipment includes reducing operator fatigue and avoiding discomfort.
According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, ergonomics should be learned by those whose daily tasks in the workplace include:
1. Exposure to excessive vibration or extreme temperatures in the workplace.
2. Lifting heavy items.
3. Repeating the same motion within an entire workday.
4. Remaining in an awkward or stationary position.
5. Using excessive force to perform a particular task.
If you don’t stick to ergonomically sound practices in the workplace, the result could be MSD or musculoskeletal disorders such as injuries and disorders of the ligaments, joints, muscles, tendons, cartilage – and the damage can even extend to the nervous system.
Some of the types of MSD’s and work-related injuries that you may suffer from not following the rules of ergonomics include:
1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
2. Herniated discs
3. Lower back pain
The 6 Body Parts Involved in the Science of Ergonomics
Now that you already have an idea about the basics of ergonomics, which body parts are most susceptible to MSD’s or work-related strains and injuries?
Take a look at the list of the most ergonomically body parts that you should take extreme care of, if you don’t want to suffer from an MSD or a debilitating work-related strain or injury:
1. Ergonomically Affected Body Part: Neck
Possible Diseases: Neck strain or stiffness
Causes: Cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder; looking down for a long period of time, too much strain in the neck muscles while working.
Symptoms: Pain shooting in the neck when moving your head in either direction.
Workers Affected: Receptionists, workers with desk jobs.
The best way to prevent your neck from being strained while working is to sit up straight while working at your desk. When sitting down, adjust your computer chair in such a way that the monitor is at your eye level so you won’t have to look down for a long period of time. This is also a great way to prevent eye strain.
If you have to stay in the phone for a long time, use a speakerphone, or at least switch the handset from one hand to another frequently to prevent neck strains.
2. Ergonomically Affected Body Part: Shoulders
Possible Diseases: Shoulder strain or stiffness,
Rotator cuff tendinitis
Causes: Constantly leaning your head to the front, always slumping your shoulders; working with your hands above your head.
Symptoms: Pain shooting in the shoulders when you move.
Workers Affected: Employees holding down desk jobs, power press operators, welders, painters, assembly line workers.
If you’re stuck behind a desk from nine to five, the best position to be in is to form a 90 degree angle between your elbow and your shoulders. To prevent shoulder strains from occurring, make sure to keep your shoulders relaxed while sitting down and working.
Again, it is a must to make sure that the computer monitor is at an eye level when you are sitting down. This makes it easier to balance your head above your shoulders so as not to cause it any strain if you’re holding the same position for a long time.
3. Ergonomically Affected Body Parts: Fingers, Hands and Wrists
Possible Diseases: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, De Quervain’s Disease, trigger finger, Tenosynovitis, white finger.
Causes: Repetitive movements using the fingers, hands and wrists, exposure to vibration, forceful wrist motions.
Symptoms: Pain at the base of the thumbs; difficulty moving the fingers; involuntary snapping or jerking movements; pain; swelling; numbness; tingling; loss of feeling or control on the hands
Workers Affected: Housekeepers, packers, seamstresses, cutters, electronic assemblers, chain saw operators, cashiers, manual laborers
As you can see, the fingers, hands and wrists are the three most interconnected body parts which experience strain if you don’t practice ergonomically correct movements.
This is exactly the reason why you should mind the way that you’re typing on your keyboard or holding the mouse.
Using keyboard shortcuts is also a good idea so that your use of the mouse can be limited. For manual laborers, the same set of rules applies: always use ergonomically sound movements to prevent any undue strain or injury on your fingers, hands and wrists.
4. Ergonomically Affected Body Part: Back
Possible Diseases: Back disability or numbing pain in the upper legs
Causes: Whole body vibration
Symptoms: Lower back pain, shooting
Workers Affected: Truck drivers, bus operators, warehouse workers, nurse aides, grocery cashiers, baggage handlers.
To prevent from injuring your back, make sure that you don’t make it a habit to be in a hunched position when sitting down or standing up. Keep your head erect while walking or sitting down.
Make sure that your lower back is always supported – this is the number one reason why office chairs with adequate lumbar support is a must-have.
Also, make sure to not stay in the same position for too long a time. Stand up or walk around a bit if you feel that your back muscles are already feeling some strain.
5. Ergonomically Affected Body Parts: Pelvis & Hips
Possible Diseases: Muscle strain
Causes: Being on your feet for too long.
Symptoms: Shooting pain starting from the pelvis going to the hips.
Workers Affected: Those who need to be on their feet for eight hours or more a day.
If your job requires you to literally keep standing for the most part of the day, it will cause a strain to your pelvis and hips.
It’s a good idea to stand straight at all times but in order to temporarily relieve the tension in your pelvis and hips, alternately put your weight on your left and right leg. [Leg Pain]
Using a leg rest will also help, and sitting down within short periods of time at regular intervals will also give you the rest that you need from being on your feet for too long.
6. Ergonomically Affected Body Parts: Feet and Ankles
Possible Diseases: Muscle strain
Causes: Being on your feet for too long, placing too much stress on your foot from being overweight.
Symptoms: Discomfort in the heels of your feet from standing up or putting too much stress into it.
Workers Affected: Sales representatives in department stores, those who need to be on their feet for eight hours or more a day.
Finally, your feet and ankles may also be subject to undue strain if you are up on your feet almost the entire day.
Aside from the nature of your job, being overweight may also lead to strain and injury on your feet and ankles, so make sure to always eat right and exercise. When sitting down, make sure that both your feet are flat on the floor to prevent strain to your legs as well.