If you work in an office, you’ve probably heard the word “ergonomics” thrown around, but you don’t have to commute to a 9-5 job to appreciate what ergonomics are or incorporate them into daily life. The University of Chicago Environmental Health & Safety Department defines ergonomics as the study of work and the science of adapting jobs to the people who work at them. It mostly focuses on the function and design of furniture, displays, workstations, tools, lighting, and safety devices to promote health and well-being.
Ergonomics are something that you should pay attention to, because if you don’t, you’re putting yourself at risk for some really serious medical conditions.
Common Ergonomic Disorders
An ill-fitting environment can increase stress on your muscles and skeletal system, resulting in severe pain and long-term damage. Repetitive movements, vibrations, and bad posture can cause these types of injuries. These are some common disorders associated with ergonomics.
- Carpel tunnel syndrome of the wrists and hands
- Trigger finger
- Inflammation of tendons in the elbows
- DeQuarvain’s Syndrome
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Back pain
Guidelines for an Ergonomic Computer Workstation
Since many of us spend the bulk of our walking hours in front of a computer, having an ergonomic computer workstation is essential. These are some basic guidelines for ensuring an ergonomic computer setup.
- A desk chair with supportive armrests, backrests, base, and seat
- Monitor screens that can tilt up and down
- Adequate lighting and anti-glare filters
- Adjustable keyboards
- An ergonomically designed mouse
- Brightness controls to reduce eye strain
Other Ergonomic Factors
However, ergonomics involves more than just a comfortable desk and chair. There are a wide array of environmental factors that can affect your comfort and overall health. For example, some buildings have poor air quality due to inadequate ventilation. Excessive noise can cause ear pain, and improper lighting can cause eye strain and migraines. Taking frequent breaks at work isn’t just good for your mental sanity; it’s essential for healthy body functioning too!
Ergonomics for the Non-Office Worker
So much of the ergonomics industry is focused on the office worker; however, ergonomic practices are also important for the gardener, the driver, the parent, and even the couch potato. Chances are that you perform repetitive movements in many aspects of your life, and these actions can lead to chronic pain when ergonomic principles are ignored.
Before driving, adjust your seat, steering wheel and mirrors to avoid neck and back strain. Before lifting or carrying, make sure that your weight is evenly balanced, that you have a firm grip, and are wearing supportive shoes. While working outdoors, use tools for their intended use, wear gloves to protect your hands, put on a hat to reduce eye strain, and use a kneeling pad to take the pressure off your knees and back.
Upgrade to an Ergonomic Life
These are some ergonomic upgrades and tips that you can do at home to prevent injuries and feel better all day.
- Convertible desks and chairs that allow you to sit, stand, and kneel
- Ergonomically-designed keyboard and mouse at your home office desk
- Place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side, of place it under your knees while sleeping on your back
- Take a break from screen time and get up to move around at least every hour
- Supplement your diet with real shark cartilage to provide additional support for healthy joints
- Practice ergonomic exercises, like these recommendations from the National Institutes of Health
To learn more about ergonomics, browse through the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA document, “Ergonomics: The Study of Work.” Ergonomics Plus offers some helpful assessment tools and improvement recommendations that are worth checking out if you’re interested as well.