Back pain is one of the most common reasons a person visits the doctor. It can cause minor aches or result in extreme and excruciating symptoms that make involvement in normal daily activities nearly impossible. Some causes of back pain are preventable, particularly if the pain results from poor work-place ergonomics.
Principles of Ergonomics
Ergonomics refers to the scientific discipline of understanding how the human body fits and responds to equipment designed for daily use, such as chairs, keyboard or computer screen placement and body positioning. Proper ergonomic design of equipment helps to ensure those using the items get the best postural positioning for regularly used body systems. This includes:
- Hand positioning when typing on a keyboard.
• Proper posturing of the back while seated.
• Placement of reading screens for visual and neck comfort.
- Safety and placement of objects in work space.
Seating ergonomics is specifically significant for reducing pressure placed on the back. The spine is an intricate structure composed of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks and bones. Disruption or injury of the spine components can result in strains or major conditions that alter the structure of the spine.
- Sitting in one position engaged in repetitive motion for a prolonged period of time increases the risk of undue pressure on the spine. For instance, spending hours typing on the computer without breaks and using equipment that does not fit posture, can cause back pain.
- Ergonomic-friendly chairs that fit the spine and cushion the gluteal muscles, supports back health. Well-fitted chairs also provide the right amount of elevation for armrests. A chair with lumbar support to the back that also has a backwards incline is optimal for spinal support.
- Foot placement also plays a role in back support. Once a chair is properly positioned and spine supportive, the pressure on the legs must be addressed. A footrest can provide a slight elevation for those with shorter legs that tend to dangle when sitting at proper desk height in an ergonomic chair.
- Lifting, twisting and bending motions done improperly contribute to poor back health. In the workplace, use of a back-brace when lifting heavy objects can help support spinal posture.
- However, it is also important to use good form while lifting. When picking up an object below eye level weighing 5 or more pounds:
- Bend at the knees and tighten the stomach muscles.
- Bring the object as close to the body as possible.
- Use the leg muscles to support the added weight and rise back up to standing position.
- Continue to carry the object close to the body and if placing the object back down, lower than arm level, bend at the knees again and slowly lower the body. Do not drop or push the object as the weight might force the entire body to thrust forward and cause injury.
Additional tips for ergonomically supportive back health is to take breaks every hour, when in the same position for too long. Stretch the back, arms and legs a few times a day and use sensible self-care measures.
Repetitive motion in an office environment can be just as demanding on the back as laborious and physically demanding jobs. Employing even the smallest ergonomic-safe methods can reduce the risk of acute problems and chronic discomfort or severe injury.