Desk Jockeys, Rejoice: Proper ergonomics is within reach – provided you get up to grab hold

People expect that professional athletes, construction workers, landscapers and other physical laborers will get injured in the course of all of their daily activities. What people don't expect is that those who work in an office have a pretty good chance of getting "injured" from NOT moving all day. This is especially true if the not moving involves poor posture and improper ergonomics. These "injuries" range from headaches to carpal tunnel syndrome to back and neck pain. Repeated poor posture can even negatively affect breathing and digestion

The word ergonomics comes from two Greek words: ergon, meaning work, and nomos, meaning natural laws. Combined, ergon and nomos mean, "the natural laws of work." As usual, when we violate natural laws, we usually get ourselves in trouble. In today's terms, ergonomics refers to the design and use of work spaces and tools in order that they be used efficiently and effectively by the people using them.

To promote health and productivity in the work place, there are some basic principles to apply in terms of body alignment, regardless of task or activity. When viewing a person from the front or back, symmetry is the ideal. Their head, shoulders, hips and feet should be level.

When viewing a person from the side, their ear, shoulder and hip should be in alignment when seated, with a 90 degree bend at the hips, knees and ankles. Ideally, every work station or activity would promote this alignment, especially those that are done repeatedly or over extended periods of time.

The most obvious and problematic area of ergonomics in the office setting today is that of the computer. The risks associated with computer use are related to posture and the amount of time that one spends in a single session at the computer. Following are 10 key guidelines to help minimize the negative effects of working (and playing) at the computer:

The keyboard and monitor should both be directly in front of you.

The monitor should be positioned at a height where the middle of the screen is slightly above eye level. (This may be a higher position than you have seen recommended in the past, but research has shown this position to result in considerably better posture.)

The monitor should be positioned approximately an arm's length away from you.

The angles formed by the hips, knees and feet should each be 90 degrees. This means that your feet should be flat on the floor. You may need to put a stool under your feet if you cannot lower your chair sufficiently.

The angle formed by the elbow should be 90 degrees. Wrists should be loose but fairly straight.

If you use a mouse, keep it close to you and remove and relax your hand often. Move the mouse with your whole arm and not just your hand and wrist.

Get up, walk around and do a few simple stretches at least every 30 minutes.

Move the focus of your eyes away from the computer screen to something in the distance for 1 or 2 minutes every 15 minutes.

A chair should support your back in an upright posture and armrests should not push your shoulders up toward your ears.

If you use a telephone while using the computer (or doing other tasks with your hands) use a headset to avoid awkward positions of your neck.

Ergonomically correct work and computer stations ensure that people are less prone to injury, stress and fatigue, and are more comfortable and productive throughout their workday and career. It really is something worth paying attention to.

Carrie Mayes D.C. of Traverse City's Mayes Chiropractic is a chiropractor helping people to attain higher levels of health, feel better and enjoy life more. 231.938.1710