Home office and workplace ergonomics are incredibly important considerations. While it might not seem like improper posture or sitting the wrong way in front of your computer could damage your health, the fact is that you can suffer some serious injuries over time, as noted by the University of Connecticut. What conditions might you suffer if you don’t practice good posture and ergonomics? Here’s a closer look.
Ergonomic and Posture-Related Health Disorders
All ergonomic and posture-related health disorders are technically musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs fall into a broad range of categories and conditions. Depending on the length of time you spend sitting, and just how poor your posture or position is, you might find yourself afflicted by any of the following:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – A condition in which the tendons running through the arms, wrists and hands are inflamed, making most common hand and wrist movements painful
- Tendinitis – A condition in which tendons become inflamed; it generally afflicts the arms and elbows, but can be present in other parts of the body as well
- Bursitis – Swelling and inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs between joints, tendons and muscles. It can afflict virtually any area of the body
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – This condition includes a weakened grip, pain in the neck, and often tingling or numbness in the fingers
- Chronic pain in the neck, upper back, lower back, shoulders and arms
Each of these conditions can cause serious discomfort and pain, and they can lead to significant time lost from work as well as medical expenses. In severe cases, some may require surgery to correct. For instance, severe carpal tunnel syndrome cannot be alleviated by using wrist braces alone, but may require surgical intervention to eliminate the problem.
How Do You Avoid These Conditions?
Obviously, avoiding and minimizing the conditions listed above is in the best interests of both the employee and the employer. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to get around those problems. All it really requires is following the right ergonomic practices within the workplace.
Good workplace ergonomics can vary from one position to another, most of the time workers will need the right office chair, the right desk and the right computer setup to provide good posture and eliminate strain on muscles, joints and tendons. An ergonomic office chair should offer:
- Good neck support, either through a built-in headrest or a high back, which is particularly important for those who spend multiple hours each day seated in the chair
- Good lumbar support to ease the strain and discomfort on the lower back – lumbar support can come in the form or an adjustable position via a lever or through additional lumbar padding
- Armrests should be adjustable and padded to ensure that the worker is comfortable and can position the armrests so there is no strain placed on the shoulders
- Adjustable height so that the employee can adjust the seat’s height to allow them to sit with their feet flat on the floor, rather than angled or above the floor
Proper ergonomics in the workplace can improve the health of workers, save money on medical bills, and reduce lost time and productivity for the employer.
There are many brands of ergonomic chairs on the market today, including Allseating, BOSS, ErgoFast, Eurotech, and many others. With so many different choices of ergonomic chairs and stools, many of which you can probably find in an office near you, it’s clear that ergonomics have become a popular trend in office furniture design. But how many people actually know what makes a chair, or any other piece of office furniture, “ergonomic”? Keep reading if you’re interested in learning more about this revolution in seating and furniture design, and making the most of your health and workplace experience.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, ergonomics, which is also known as human engineering or biotechnology, is a type of applied science that is centered on the design and arrangement of “things people use” so that those people and things “interact most efficiently and safely.” The term may also be used to describe the characteristics and design of an object as a consequence of the use of ergonomic science. This may all sound complicated, but at the end of the day, ergonomic furniture is designed to keep people comfortable and safe as they work, and most importantly, to help workers avoid stress-related injuries on the job. The following factors affect the ergonomic design of an office chair, which is the most important piece of furniture for a comfortable workplace.
A regular office chair can easily leave a person with pain in the back, neck, and shoulders after extended use. It really doesn’t take long to feel these effects if you are sitting in a poorly designed office chair day in and day out. With one of the available ergonomically designed products, such as the popular ergoCentric chairs, this is no longer a problem. An ergonomic chair is designed to provide optimal back support, including lumbar support in addition to a classic backrest with just the right amount of padding, to keep the spine in a healthy straight position. This ultimately limits stress, absorbs shocks, and reduces the likelihood of injury.
The height of a chair may seem inconsequential, but it can make a big difference when it’s wrong. If the height of your chair and/or armrests isn’t right, you will quickly become uncomfortable on the job. Ergonomically designed chairs have adjustable armrests and seats, and sometimes even adjustable backrests, so you can get the perfect match for your height and body type.
The overall size of a chair matters in ergonomics as well. The design of an office chair should not only consider the height of various parts, but also the width of the backrest, and the depth and width of the seat. The backrest should be at least 12 inches wide and the seat should be at least 18 inches wide, if not more, to provide adequate support for the worker.
At the end of the day, all these ergonomic factors can help contribute to a happier and healthier workforce, which makes an organization much more productive in the long run.
In this modern and technology-centered world, the average worker is spending more and more time at work, crunching numbers, working at computers and perhaps most importantly, just trying to get ahead in a tough economy. This means that workers are also spending more and more time sitting in poorly designed chairs, which can have negative health effects if not given the proper attention.
Office chairs, despite the amount of hours we spend sitting in them, do not seem to get the attention they deserve. The experts at Sitbetter.com specialize in finding and selling chairs that are well designed and comfortable for extended hours spent at the office. The Verte chair is one example and is specially designed for those with chronic back pain. As an executive ergonomic chair, it allows the sitter to customize the amount of pressure at eleven different points of contact. Unsurprisingly, the chair itself is considered a medically approved necessity for back pain sufferers, sometimes even covered by insurance providers.
An office worker may think that by asking for a more comfortable chair, they are being difficult or not being a team player. On the contrary, working in the right kind of chair can make you more productive, thereby making you more of an asset to your company.
The following are some things to look for:
Is the chair a one-size-fits-all model, or can you adjust it to your comfort?
Does it recline and swivel so that you can be active at your desk throughout the day?
- Design and Aesthetic
This is important, as no one wants to sit in an unattractive chair. Elements such as color, size and overall shape can affect the look of your office as a whole.
- Level of Support
If you’re not a chronic back pain sufferer, and are just looking for a chair to prevent any deterioration of your health, a medically approved chair with a high level of support may too much for you. Make sure you choose a chair that doesn’t provide too much support to an already healthy back.
Overall, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of a quality chair to maintain a healthy back.
Neck pain is becoming a more prominent medical problem with recent studies claiming that up to two-thirds of the population will experience it at some point in their lives. The causes for neck pain vary, with the most common being attributed to muscular tightness in both the neck and upper back. The good news? In most cases, neck pain can be alleviated without surgery and can be treated conservatively. If you experience minimal neck pain, it may be recommended to apply heat or coldness to the affected areas. For more serious conditions, other treatments may include medication, ergonomic reform, spinal adjustments, physical therapy, or it may even be as simple as purchasing a high quality ergonomic office chair.
Specialty high back ergonomic office chairs have often proven to significantly help reduce the level of pain felt in the upper back and neck with their body forming design. Some even come with unique features not often found in other chair designs such as a removable neck roll, a built-in headrest, an adjustable headrest, or neck cushions. If a new ergonomic office chair does not fit into your budget, consider another cost-effective method utilized by millions across the world, a neck support pillow.
Neck support pillows are an inexpensive, unique way to cradle the neck and provide support when sitting or lying down. They restore the natural curve of the neck which can be affected by routine activities such as sleeping in an odd position, typing on a keyboard, staring at a computer screen, or not sitting with proper posture. They also provide the support needed to keep the spine in line. Neck support pillows are most commonly used when lying down at night, allowing the user to get a better night’s rest and wake up refreshed and rejuvenated. They are also often used in conjunction with an office chair, to provide the support necessary for sitting multiple hours a day. Another common place you will find people using a neck support pillow is when traveling, a great idea for those that will be spending hours on a plane and would like something comfortable to lean back on. They are also used to help treat people with sleep apnea, insomnia, and migraines.
One of the main benefits of owning a neck support pillow is their light-weight design. They are essentially weightless, making it convenient and easy for just about anyone to transport them wherever they are needed such as when going on a trip, going to work, or taking a trip in a car. They can be folded up and stored away in luggage when traveling, maintaining their same shape once you arrive at your destination.
Neck pillows come in a variety of different materials and some even have additional advantages.
- Inflatable Neck Pillows – Inflatable pillows allow the user to determine the amount of air and stiffness needed to support their neck. They are also the best for traveling as they can fit in tiny spaces when deflated and not needed.
- Neck Roll Pillows – Neck roll pillows can be easily positioned to fit the curve of your neck when seated or when lying down. They can also be used as a lower back support if you experience lumbar pain as well.
- Travel Pillows – Travel pillows help keep the neck supported during travel by plane, train, or car. They prevent your head from rolling to an unnatural position and keep your head upright.
- Sherpa Pillows – Sherpa pillows are machine washable, allowing you to keep your pillow clean and fresh, beneficial for those who travel. They are soft to touch and allow for air to flow to cool a bare neck.
Whether you experience neck pain while sitting, working, sleeping, or perhaps all three, a neck support pillow will help alleviate your pain at a low-cost!
To view SitBetter’s selection of inexpensive neck support pillows, please click here!
Sitting down most of the day has become a staple across the world, with most of us spending up to ten to twelve hours a day in a seated position. There is our morning commute to work, a full day of sitting at work, our afternoon commute after work, and then more often than not, sitting down at home to relax after a long day. With the long periods of time spent sitting in an idle position, it eventually begins to take a toll on our bodies and leads to problems that are detrimental to our health. Even if you have taken the initiative to find an ergonomic office chair that is perfectly fitted to your body, it is near impossible to sit all day with perfect posture which inevitably leads to back, neck, and shoulder pain. So what exactly makes sitting for extended periods of time unhealthy? After all, sitting tends to be more comfortable than standing all day but just like anything else in life, too much of a good thing can actually become harmful.
As aforementioned, sitting in an ergonomically correct chair is essential and will help aid in keeping you comfortable throughout your work day, however sitting with bad posture at some point during the day is bound to happen. For most of us, the majority of our time is spent sitting behind a computer because of our job demands. As time progresses throughout the day, we slowly start to lose our good posture and let our bodies get lazy, letting gravity take over control. Our shoulders begin to roll forward towards the screen, our eyes become fatigued from staring at the computer, and in order to see better we move our head closer to the screen to re-focus. We may also find ourselves beginning to slouch as the day continues and consistently fidgeting to find a comfortable seated position. All of this leads to the shortening and tightening of some major muscles and the stretching and weakening others, which is why so many people begin to experience back pain while they work.
The human body requires a balanced diet and a balanced level of activity in order to function properly and fight off diseases. Unfortunately most jobs prevent us from getting the level of activity necessary to maintain a healthy life style, and if you couple this with sitting in a poor chair for hours on end staring at a computer screen only makes matters worse. You may find yourself not paying attention to being locked in the same position for long periods of time while focusing on completing an important task or project, making you also unaware of the tension that is being built up in your body. Eventually, your body will come to the rescue and give you a dose of pain to remind you that is necessary to get up and take a break. While work is always a top priority, your body and its needs should always be put first and if you begin to feel pain and fatigue it is important to take necessary stretch breaks in order to regain focus and ultimately, become more productive.
Sitting all day also reduces your calorie expenditure and is one of the leading causes of obesity today. When you move less throughout the day and do not reduce the amount of calories you consume, you naturally gain body fat. By lessening your physical activity, you are also slowing down your metabolism which is another assured way to gain weight.
Our bodies were never designed to remain static in one fixed position for long periods of time. From the beginning of man-kind, we were taught to be hunters and gatherers, always on the move to provide our families with food. Even as the decades have passed, humans have continued to move as they went about different tasks needing to be done in their lives until recently when automation has begun taking over. After sitting all day at work and then continuing to relax by sitting down all evening we are consequently putting strain on our muscles, causing them to tighten and lead to aches and pains.
And so the question is presented, how does one improve their health while working?
Get a new ergonomic office chair if yours is not ergonomically correct. Of course getting a new chair is only part of the solution, but a chair that is properly adjusted to your body and provides you with good support, you will slowly start to experience less work related pain that can be felt from sitting in a bad chair.
- Park farther away. Make a plan to arrive to work a few minutes earlier than you usually do and park in the farthest parking space or even a few minutes away from your building, forcing you to have to walk farther than normal.
- Take breaks once an hour if your job requires you to sit for long periods of time. Set a timer on your computer to remind yourself to take your much needed breaks to get up, stretch, or even just walk around. It is easy to forget to do this when you become preoccupied with what you are working on, which is why setting a timer can be helpful.
- Find ways throughout the day to get up and move. Is your printer located next to your desk? Try switching the location of your printer to a different floor to force yourself to get up out of your chair and walk around.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If your suite or office is located at the top of your building, get off a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way there. Stairs are a quick way to burn calories and tone your muscles.
- If it is an option at your workplace, choose to go with a sit stand desk rather than a desk where you will be forced to sit all day. With the ability to transfer from a seated to a standing position with little effort, you will find yourself experiencing less pain and increasing your productivity while remaining more active.
- Take a run on your lunch break. Most of us try to find things to fill up our time during our hour break anyways. Consider packing a lunch instead of eating out and bring some running clothes with you to take a quick jog.