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How Ergonomics Relates to Back and Neck Pain
Maybe you’ve heard the word “ergonomics” but don’t really know what it means. It is the study of the workplace as it relates to the person working in it. Ergonomics involves designing and developing equipment, room layout, and strategies in a work environment to best protect the human body. The goal is to minimize discomfort, injury, fatigue and stress.
So what does ergonomics have to do with back and neck pain? Discomfort in these two areas of the body are the most common work-related physical complaints. Often caused by ordinary work activities like sitting in a chair or lifting boxes, back and neck pain can be alleviated by applying ergonomic principles on the job.
Office work usually involves sitting in a chair for extended periods of time. Because this position stresses the spine, it’s important to have an office chair that promotes good posture and supports the back. No single chair is always the best for everyone; the individual must select a chair that suits their specific needs. Some qualities to look for when selecting an office chair are:
The correct monitor height and position helps prevent back and neck problems. Consider these tips:
If you spend lots of time on the phone, locate it near your primary working area so you don’t have to twist or reach to access it. If you are in a private area, use the speaker phone feature to avoid holding a handset or being tempted to prop it up with your neck. If you can’t use the speaker, purchase a headset that allows you to speak hands-free while maintaining proper posture. Keep writing materials close by so you can take notes without changing your position.
If your job requires lifting, make sure you follow guidelines for proper lifting techniques. Keep your back straight and bend at your knees to squat down, instead of bending forward with your back. Always keep the items you’re lifting close to your body to create less stress on your spine. Ask for help when items are heavy.
Take short breaks periodically to give your back and neck a change in position and stretch those muscles. Plan to move around every 30 to 40 minutes for best results. Perform basic stretches in your office to give your body a chance to relax and flex the muscles into other positions. Simple torso and neck stretches will go a long way in giving your body the best chance of comfort and health during your workday.
If you do develop neck or back pain, schedule an appointment with a professional like Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in NYC to identify the source of your pain, and provide treatments to eliminate it. Dr. Fischer can also give you even more suggestions about altering your workplace or your lifestyle to keep your back and neck healthy.