Everyday Ergonomics: 5 Tips You Should Know

03/03/2017 12:58 pm ET

It is important to minimize wear and tear on the body by paying attention to Ergonomics, the study of how people work in their environments. Modifications to the way we approach the simplest of daily interactions can provide protection for our muscles and joints. Throughout the day we use different postures for carrying bags, sitting at a desk, or gardening, and your strategy should be: maximize comfort, in order to minimize fatigue and the onset of pain. Here are 5 ergonomic tips that you can use to protect your body:

1. How To Choose a Backpack

Backpacks are known for their versatility but a potential downfall is that a heavy load encourages awkward postures. Over time this leads to muscle imbalance, neck pain, arm pain and even pinched nerves. Keep it light, wear it right, and familiarize yourself with this simple checklist:

  • Shoulder Strap: A heavy backpack carried on one shoulder forces the muscles and spine to compensate for the uneven weight. This places stress on the neck, mid and lower back. Avoid cross body bags for long durations.
  • Sternum Strap: Will help to distribute some of the backpack weight across the chest, and prevents the shoulder straps from drifting onto the shoulder joint.
  • Waist Strap: Transferring the weight to your hips lets your stronger leg muscles, not your weaker shoulder muscles, do the heavy lifting.
  • Weight: A full backpack should be no more than 10 to 15 percent of the wearer’s body weight. Place the heaviest objects close to the body and light or odd-shaped objects away from the back.
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2. Keep Your Wallet In The Front Pocket

Placing a wallet in your back pocket creates a tilt in the pelvic alignment. This tilt may not seem noticeable but it contributes to unbalanced postures when walking and sitting. Day in and day out this all adds up to increase the risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder. Keep your wallet in a front pant pocket where it is less likely to negatively influence the natural curves of the spine.

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3. Avoid Text Neck

We tend to overlook the idea that our smartphones can be causing the body harm. We associate instead with the conveniences the device provides us. While talking, texting, or reading, it is common to neglect ergonomics and allow the phone to promote a slumped posture. For every inch of forward head posture, it increases the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds! So if you are slumping 3 inches from neutral spine posture it can add 30 pounds of unnecessary weight. Raise your cell phone to eye level, bring your head back, and squeeze your shoulder blades back and down. This simple posture re-set move will protect your neck from wear and tear.

4. Ergonomics In The Office

The average adult spends 50-70% of the day sitting at work. There are serious health challenges associated with sedentary lifestyles. Taking time to review and correct the setup of your office space will protect your body from aches and pains. Follow this simple guide:

  • Chair: Adjust the height of the chair so that a 90 degree angle is created at the knee. Leave a 3 finger space from the edge of chair to back of the knee
  • Footrest: Utilize a binder, book, or step stool to rest your feet on. This will put slack in your leg, low back muscles, and decrease awkward pulling on the sciatic nerve.
  • Arm position: Neutral arm position is achieved with a 90 degree angle at the elbow. This will prevent chronic abnormal muscle tension in the wrist, arms and neck.
  • Low Back Support: After chair height is changed to achieve 90 degree angle at the knee with a 3 finger space, there may be a gap between the low back and backrest. Roll a towel in the shape of a log and place it in the low back region. This stabilization promotes upright posture.
  • Monitor: The monitor should be one arm’s length away from you to eliminate neck and eye strain.
  • Keyboard: Place on top of the desk in line with neutral arm position. The safest way for keying is a neutral wrist, (no tilt) or in a hanging position.

5. Gardening Is Exercise

Spring weather is quickly approaching and gardening is a popular hobby. The most common injuries associated with gardening are back strains from lifting or reaching, and repetitive strain injuries in the wrist and elbow due to the planting action. Follow this simple guide:

  • Knee pads: Instead of bending, kneel on knee pads or on a kneeling mat with handles to decrease strain on the back, neck, leg muscles, and joints.
  • Tool Height: Minimize bending with a long-handled tool that is the correct length in proportion to your body.
  • Padded Handles: When purchasing tools, look for ergonomically designed items with padded handles to cushion hands, and prevent the need for a tight grip.
  • Do the “scissors” when you rake: Stand with one leg forward and one leg back. Switch legs and hands every few minutes.
  • Lifting Soil: When lifting bags of potting soil get close to the load before you lift. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, head up, knees bent, feet and body pointing in the same direction. Use your leg and arm muscles to smoothly and slowly lift the load. Pivot with your feet and do not twist your body while carrying the load. Bend your knees to lower the load to its intended place.
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