Ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in their working environment. For many of us, our working environment changed dramatically in the last week or so. If the coronavirus outbreak has you working at home for the foreseeable future, you’ll have to set up a work-at-home space. And if running out to get the best ergonomic desk didn’t cross your mind, you may be setting yourself up for soreness.
There are five principles of ergonomics:
- Ease of use
- Productivity and performance
And there are three different types of ergonomics:
- Cognitive: the way the mind processes information
- Organizational: optimizing your workplace
- Physical: the way your body interacts with tools like chairs, shovels, computers, etc.
For the purposes of this blog, we are going to focus on physical ergonomics. The effects of these interactions are studied further in forms of posture, musculoskeletal disorders, repetitive disorders, and workplace layout.
So, let’s look at how ergonomics could be affecting your body and ways you can optimize your desk space while you’re working at home.
Examples of Bad Ergonomics
When you work at home, it’s easy to develop bad posture. But bad posture can lead to lots of trouble for your body. And what you may not have realized is that your posture is usually tied directly to ergonomics.
If your neck is sore, you may be sitting in a chair that is too low or too high for your desk. If you always feel like the middle of your back is tight, you may be sitting in a chair that’s too high or reaching too far for your keyboard. And sitting too long, especially in a chair that doesn’t have enough padding can cause your lower back to hurt.
Problems That Can Develop
It’s not uncommon for you to develop things like muscle stiffness, headaches and backaches.
You may also experience carpal tunnel syndrome if your keyboard isn’t aligned properly.
But your work-at-home station does not have to come with risk factors. All you have to do is be mindful of your posture and your setup.
Work At Home Ergonomic Tips
Here is what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends you try to help keep you from developing any musculoskeletal disorders.
Your head should be level and your eyes roughly 20 to 30 inches away from your screen. When you work at home and you don’t have a designated office space, it’s important to work at a table that is the proper height.
Your shoulders should be relaxed, your arms loose and your elbows close to your body. They should also be bent at a 90- to120-degree angle. And try not to put pressure on your elbows (keep them off of your desk).
You should protect your lumbar spine by leaning back in your chair with your hips balanced. You should also be seated on a padded cushion.
Your thighs should be supported and your legs should be perpendicular to the floor (generally). Your knees should be loose and bent anywhere from 90 to 110 degrees.
Your feet should be flat on the floor and slightly in front of your knees. Avoid leaning back in your chair or slouching.
Hands and Wrists
If you’re using a mouse your hands should be straight and roughly parallel to the floor. Avoid bending your wrist upwards. If you’re using a trackpad, try to apply the same method.
If you’re working on a keyboard, position your laptop so that it is directly in front of you. You should not feel like you’re reaching for it, or your mouse.
Benefits of Osteopathic Manipulation
Making people healthier and more productive is at the heart of ergonomics. But if you’re working at home and finding yourself in need of pain relief, you may be a candidate for osteopathic manipulation. Osteopathic medicine relies on an understanding of how the body’s intricate system of muscles, nerves and bones work together.
Manipulative therapy is a great addition to almost any healthcare plan. Understanding the structure and function of different body parts is an important part of maintaining health. If you’d like to get started, make an appointment to talk to your doctor.
Or watch this video to see how osteopathic manipulation works. Dr. Edward Craft is the head of osteopathic manipulation for all three residency programs at St. John Medical Center. He specializes in manipulation and Sports Medicine.