Most of us spend a great deal of time sitting down. We commute while sitting, only to be hunched over a computer for eight to ten hours followed by another commute home. Many of our leisure activities revolve around the computer in the form of games and online shopping, or we are hanging out in front of the television sitting on lounging on the couch. Simply put, we are in our chairs a lot, and this can put a lot of pressure on your spine. In fact, sitting exerts a third more pressure on your spine than standing. This is where ergonomics come into play.
What is ergonomics?
So what exactly is ergonomics? Basically, it is the study of designing the work environment and job equipment to fit workers. Ergonomics is concerned with the mechanics of the workplace and how to set up workstations to fit particular job functions. Its aim is to prevent repetitive strain injuries to your neck and back.
One criticism of ergonomics is that it places too much emphasis on engineering desks and other furniture instead of focusing on the human body and how to keep it in balance. Ergonomics is often used to make things easier for our bodies but in the end it really is just weakening or core musculature. The core is all of the muscles, tendons and supporting structures from your shoulders down to your hips. Through a lifetime of sitting we weaken and often develop an imbalance in our core musculature. When you acknowledge the core imbalance, you can eliminate one of the main causes of neck and back pain.
Your office space should be conducive to promoting proper body movement and position. Here are some tips to eliminate pain while you are at your workspace and computer:
- Monitor positioning- This is extremely important. Monitors are adjustable, so you can easily change it to the position that feels right to you. If your neck cranes forward to see your computer monitor, it can wreak havoc on your neck and back. Your monitor should be at eye level or slightly below eye level. Make sure it is not above your eye level.
- Proper chair- Sitting in the right chair can make all the difference between a healthy back and a sore one. The proper chair maintains all of your spinal curves when you are sitting in it. Your head should be straight and your lower back supported. The chair should have wheels so that you can pull yourself into a comfortable work position with your feet resting on the floor.
- Headset use- If your job requires you to be on the phone a lot, use a headset to relieve tension in your neck. If you have to use a phone, do not cradle the phone between your ear and shoulder.
- Keyboard placement- If you have to bend forward to use the keyboard, you are susceptible to back and neck pain. Refrain from placing your keyboard too high so that you can avoid straining your neck and shoulders. Your elbow angle should be greater than 90 degrees.
How to keep your muscles in balance while sitting
It is important to keep your muscles in balance when you are sitting for long periods of time. For every muscle that you have in your body, there is another one that works in opposition. The key is keeping them in balance with each other. If your muscles get stuck in one position for too long, it throws off this delicate balance. To help with this imbalance, try to shift your weight in your chair every couple of minutes. Lean forward, then arch your back and lean to the side. Stand up whenever possible, and shift your weight from foot to foot. Walk around every half hour so you can to get your blood pumping through your legs and feet. You can use an egg timer and setit for 20 to 30 minutes and each time it goes off get up and move.
The most important thing to remember is to refrain from being sedentary during the workday. You can also try doing some stretches throughout the day to rejuvenate your muscles and your mind. Some people may even want to consider practicing yoga in their office for twenty minutes or so.
Take plenty of breaks at work to help avoid back and neck pain. Shake out your hands and legs, do some shoulder rolls, and stretch your neck. Try some deep breathing exercises. Remember to take time to care for your body and mind when you are faced with a stressful work environment.
Making sure your workstation is properly set up and your body is properly balanced will go a long way towards eliminating back pain. Make the changes now for a much happier and more resilient back.