ergonomics, healthy back

Keep Your Back Healthy With These Easy Ergonomics Tips

  • February 7, 2020
Ergonomics is the science of human efficiency and safety in the workplace. It involves optimizing products for better working conditions either at home or in a corporate office. Although ergonomics is reasonably essential, not everyone knows how to get started with it until they experience chronic pain that prompts them to take action and change their work style. Over time, this chronic pain may lead to work inefficiency and health risks.

As a mobility enthusiast, I’m a firm believer that prevention is better than cure. In this article, I want to show you some useful ergonomics tips to keep your spine and body in good shape while you’re doing your bread and butter.

First, let’s take a look at how poor ergonomics is risking your back health.

Poor Ergonomics and Back Pain

Back pain and neck pain are known symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), a condition suffered by many workers all over the world because of poor ergonomics. In fact, in the United States alone, almost one-third of work-related injuries are associated with MSD. As statistics never lie, it proves how costly and dangerous a poorly designed workplace is to employees and employers alike.

Early signs of poor ergonomics at work:

  • Increasing absences. Absences are typically linked more to someone’s working etiquette than in health. However, it could also be a significant indication that someone is suffering from chronic pain. If it happens more than once to many employees within a workplace, it could indicate poor ergonomics results. Not to mention if it is supported by frequent medical visits.
  • Sore limbs and muscle pain. It’s easy to spot if someone is enduring pain at work. If you’re always frowning and in constant need to massage your neck, arms, and legs, you might be experiencing the early signs of MSD’s caused by poor ergonomics.
  • Slight to moderate back pain. For in-office workers, sitting for 8 hours straight is a normal part of the job. From an outsider’s perspective, it may look secure and comfortable. But, sitting way too much without any intervention is hazardous to your health. Standing way too much is not advisable as well. It may start from mild tinges to severe back pain triggered by this traditional setup. Here are other habits that harm your back:
  • Improper computer setup
  • Frequent and awkward twists/bends
  • Incorrect sitting posture for long hours (40 hours per week?)
  • Constant slouching
  • Prolonged inactivity at work (not moving around and just literally sitting all-day)

Over time, the spine will suffer these harmful habits at work. As the back agonizes, the overall health becomes affected. To prevent the worst, here are some easy ergonomics tips I’ve compiled:

1. Customize your workstation. When it comes to ergonomics, the head and neck position plays a significant role. Looking for the culprit? Blame it on the wrongly placed monitor that prompts you to bend your upper body just so you can do your work. However, most workstations are not engineered for spinal comfort. It’s now up to you to do the intervention as conducive as you can. Always remember to:

  • Invest in an office chair that has ergonomic features such as built-in lumbar support, self-adjusting recline, and comfortable headrest. Ball chairs are also an excellent choice in maintaining a healthy posture.
  • Position your monitor within an arm’s length so that you don’t have to crane your neck whenever you use it. To adjust the height, find your neutral sitting position, then raise or lower the monitor a little below eye level. If you are using a laptop, simply use some risers to achieve the precise height.
  • In case you’re using multiple screens on your table, make sure you place them within your peripheral. This setup will prevent you from awkward head turns, which puts pressure on your neck.
  • Place essential desk accessories like the telephone, pen and paper holder, clips, post-it-notes, and stress toys within arms reach. The trick is to organize them in a way that reduces awkward reaching while sitting on your chair.
  • If you feel uncomfortable because of your desk’s hard edge, look for an ergonomic keyboard wrist rest.
  • Make sure that your ergonomic desk has enough space for your knees and feet to move around freely.

. Stay active by taking frequent walks. Sitting for a prolonged time is now considered as dangerous as smoking. According to Dr. James Levine of Mayo Clinic, the chair is here to kill us. Aside from back pain, it’s also linked to risks of obesity, depression, type 2 diabetes, cancer, as well as cardiac disease. Luckily, staying active at home and at work effectively counters this threat:

  • Make standing and walking an unnegotiable habit even when you’re confined inside the office.
  • As you take breaks, walk towards your workmates for a good, quick chat.

2. Avoid crossing your legs. If you have a habit of crossing your legs, think twice before you do it again. In chiropractic, crossing legs is a no go since it causes bad posture. Typically, you tend to slouch more when your legs are crossed. Over time, it can even cause your spine to misalign, aside from the risk of your pelvis to tilt and rotate.

3. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Instead of crossing your legs, better rest your feet flat on the floor. Do this by adjusting the height of your office chair until you reach the appropriate level. In case no footrest is available, make use of handy, small yet heavy materials such as a stool.

4. Put your phone on speaker. Or, use a headset in case you accept frequent calls. Do not cradle your phone between your head and neck. Cradling your phone is doing you more harm than good as this causes strain on your upper spine. It may also cause you a sore and stiff neck. 

5. Occupy the whole chair. Some people have a habit of sitting on the edge of the chair. This brings unnecessary strain to your body, particularly your spine. As a rule, occupy the whole chair with your lower back fully touching the backrest.

6. Be mindful of your back and neck pain. No matter how busy you are, make sure to invest some time to check on your health. Start by recognizing the symptoms of back pain at work. Change your position once you start feeling stiff or sore.

7. Sit Straight. On top of ergonomic tools and lumbar supports, the ultimate asset you have to get a healthy back is your will to stand straight. Sure, you may find it challenging when you’re dealing with back pain or if you’re used to slouching all the time. However, the discipline and effort you give into sitting straight will reap its benefits- a good posture and a healthy spine.

Final Thoughts: 

As you improve your workspace ergonomics, you also enhance your capacity and efficiency to work. Remember that a healthy back is one of your most significant assets to become a productive and successful worker. It doesn’t matter where you are. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Don’t even rely on pain killers or suffer in silence. If your work-related chronic pain is making you more and more uncomfortable, see a doctor right away, and seek immediate professional advice.

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