What is Ergonomics?
In layman’s terms, ergonomic pretty much means, being comfortable and efficient while performing your day to day activities. It also means less stress. Not only on your body but for your mind as well. Changing to a fully ergonomic lifestyle for me, not only released the stress in my body and muscles but also my mind. You see, it’s the constant day to day sitting at our desk, whether for pleasure or work, that we, without realizing it, develop bad posture. This over time, affects many parts of our body and eventually leads to chronic neck, back and general joint issues.
Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders, which can develop over time and can lead to long-term disability (source).
I first came across the term ergonomics (or human factors) when I was in my mid-twenties working in a local newspaper office. There were ergonomic signs posted everywhere to ensure employees were sitting at their desk correctly. Remember these? Back then I thought these posters were for geriatrics. I guess I was wrong, these posters actually served a purpose because as it turns out workplace injuries, just as simple as sitting at our desk (as comical as that sounds) are the leading cause of lost productivity is the US (source).
Fast forward 6 years and I found myself with back, neck and joint issues for dismissing the importance of ergonomics. I started realizing that my levels of stress where increasing and I could feel tension and pain in my upper back, shoulders and lower neck (from the ear line downwards). I was getting headaches that started out once a fortnight and steadily became more frequent. At first I dismissed the headaches and tension and it wasn’t until I visited a physiotherapist that I was told that I may develop a chronic condition if I don’t correct my ways. It was a combination of poor posture from everyday activities such as bad posture habits and using poorly designed office furniture that had caused a herniated disc in my neck.
Since then I focused on ergonomic practices at home and at work and have seen major improvements in my symptoms. Ergonomics have alleviated my headaches, neck and back pain. My stress levels have also improved and of course I have developed a great posture which I never had in my entire life and overall I am a happier person for it.
How Can You Fix Your Posture?
If you have been suffering from neck and pack pain as a result from years of bad posture you need to visit a good physiotherapist. They will identify your problem areas and guide you on what you need to do to correct them.
Performing proper exercises and stretches is a step in the right direction when it comes to fixing problematic posture and joint issues.
One thing is for sure, no matter how many sessions you have with a physiotherapist, the fact that there is outside stress factors that are affecting your posture and consequently your joint health will not cease. You need to create an ergonomic home and work environment if you want to fix bad posture, neck and back pain and other nagging joint issues.
How Can Ergonomics Help?
Practicing ergonomics is a major factor in preventing the development of back, neck and joint problems. Choosing ergonomically designed home and office furniture for me was what put me on the road to recovery from my neck injury that was caused from years of incorrect posture and poorly designed office furniture.
The way ergonomic furniture such as my ergonomic chair and ergonomic mouse and keyboard are designed, helped correct my bad posture habits without me having to constantly remind my self “James, straighten your back, shoulders back…”, the furniture actually did the work for me by its clever design.
Ensuring that you are practicing good ergonomics is one of the most important aspects for maintaining healthy joints. Just like a good mattress is necessary for a restful sleep, so should be the other part of your day when you are awake. If you sit at your desk more than 2 hours per day, you really need to practice ergonomics and maybe think about using ergonomically designed products such as ergonomic chairs, ergonomics keyboards and ergonomic mouses to make your life more comfortable and to save your joints.
Simply put, the way ergonomic products are designed, helps in taking the guesswork out of maintaining correct posture.
There is pretty much a team of people that go into the research, development and design of every ergonomic product or practice that’s out there. There is a whole science behind this thing!
For example, an ergonomic mouse is researched, designed and made in a certain way so that the mouse interacts with your ‘human movement’ in the most natural, comfortable and non-stressful way, ensuring you don’t develop wrist injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome after years and years at a computer.
Ergonomics or office ergonomics, is all about ease of use, comfort and reducing injuries, mouses, keyboards and chairs designed in a way to made 8 hours of office work more pleasurable.
Injuries You Can Prevent By Living Ergonomically
Going ergonomic is the way to ensure you avoid any injuries from spending long hours sitting at a computer. Injuries can be caused to any joint, muscles, tendon and ligament in your body causing muscle pains, aches, strains and tensions all throughout your body. Most often, injuries occur in the neck, upper back, lower back and shoulders. On a more serious note, when left untreated, you can develop debilitating chronic conditions.
Back and Neck Injury: These can range from a herniated disc to, over years of incorrect posture and work habits, disc degeneration which requires surgery to correct.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: CTS is a wrist injury which is one of the most common injuries caused at a workplace. This occurs from the lack of wrist support, such as when using a mouse on the computer. It is also one of the most treatable injuries.
Tennis Elbow: Did you know, you can get tennis elbow without even playing tennis! Tennis elbow is a damage to the tendons in your elbow caused by the repeated hand and wrist movements that we do when we use a computer. Think, day in day out we do the same hand and wrist motions required to move the mouse and type on a keyboard. Over years this creates damage to the elbow and causes uncomfortable pain.
Trigger Finger: Caused by the repetitive motion of using the fingers such as clicking the button of the mouse and typing on a keyboard. Trigger Finger is the inflammation of the tendons in the fingers and causes your fingers to hurt, your movement may be restricted and the inability to type.
An Ergonomic Office Looks Like This
In the world of ergonomics, the ergonomic products available keep growing. I have ranked the products according to what I believe is the most important/popular ergonomic product.
- Ergonomic Office Chair – You can purchase ones for under $200 here or the top of the range ones are available also
- Ergonomic Keyboard and Wireless Ergonomic Keyboards
- Ergonomic Mouse and Wireless Ergonomic Mouse
- Ergonomic Foot Rest – This is an ergonomically designed foot rest that is placed under your desk for your feet to rest on. It is important that you feet are elevated at a certain height.
- Ergonomic Mouse Pad with Wrist Cushion
- Ergonomic Keyboard Wrist Pillow Platform – This supports your wrists at the required ergonomic height when typing on a keyboard.
- Ergonomic Wrist Rest/Wrist Cushion – The is an ergonomically designed wrist support to ensure no wrist injuries. Ergonomic Rest Wrists are available for laptops also if you do not use a desktop computer and wish to support and cushion your wrists when typing on a laptop computer.
- Ergonomic Arm Rest – This is a specifically designed extendable arm rest that extends out from the desk to support your arm at the same level as your wrist.