Desk ergonomics and back pain, three secrets to feeling better at your desk.
by William D. Charschan DC,CCSP, author Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain.
Ergonomics is the buzz word for how to design and place things to work best with our body. Johnson and Johnson in New Brunswick spends thousands on the finest chairs and appliances for their employees so they have fewer physical complaints leading to better productivity. They have an ergonomist who will assess every work station and bring in the best chairs, mouse, phone appliance, etc. for your optimal position.
The NY Times recently discussed this in an article designed to enlighten us on the importance of good desk ergonomics. Read the article here. They discuss better chairs, the best monitor position and other things you can do to avoid an aching back at the end of the day.
It is not so much how much you spend on your office chair that counts, but how you adjust it and use it. Years ago, while doing ergonomic inspections at the North Brunswick township offices, I moved chairs around, monitors were moved, some stations required phone headsets and overall, the sitting positions were moved without spending a ton of cash (compare that with Johnson and Johnson who spends hundreds of thousands). One chair in the Police Department had cost about $1000 and nobody in the department would use it because they insisted it was uncomfortable. Instead, they sat in a horrible chair by the desk. After adjusting the expensive chair properly, everyone in the department agreed it was a great chair. This was a learning experience for everyone involved who realized that it is often not what we spend, but how we adjust the chair we have.
The ideal sitting position for everyone is as follows:
1. Your computer keyboard should be at elbow level, as should your mouse.
2. Your monitor should be at eye level, so you are not looking either upward or downward. Most monitors have some adjustment for this, however, if the monitor is still too low, placing a book underneath it will raise it up to the optimal position.
3. Your chair position should be such that your feet are on the ground. If the chair is too high, and your feet do not touch the ground, it can cause back pain in some people. Many companies do make foot rests to allow for your feet to rest on something. Another idea is an inexpensive foot stool, similar to what they sell for shaving ones legs in the shower. This works as well to give you a place to have your feet meet another surface while sitting if you are short.
4. Your phone ideally should not be pinched from your neck to your shoulder. Although they do sell something to thicken the handset and allow it to rest on your shoulder, many companies now make wireless bluetooth headsets that work well and plug into your phone. You can also use speakerphone.
If you rearrange your desk properly, you should have fewer problems with your back and neck however, there is one thing that is often overlooked… body ergonomics.
Body ergonomics are basically how your body style is and how it is functioning. You can buy the best chair and adjust everything but if what you place at the desk (you) is bad, you will still have back pain. Years ago, we found that out at Johnson and Johnson. We worked with them on many carpal tunnel cases saving them alot of money in the process however, one thing Dr. Ferro, the on site doctor noticed is that it was always the same people who had problems. Upon discussing this with him years ago, I suggested the idea that we can adjust and use the best ergonomic equipment to help people feel their best however, if their body mechanics (ergonomics) are problematic, they will have problems anyway.
To understand the problem of body ergonomics, the book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain discusses the idea of body style, and how these inherited traits result in chronic pain. Anyone who suffers from chronic pain should read this book which explains why you hurt and where to find the right type of healthcare provider to help. A chiropractor is indispensible when it comes to working with body ergonomics since the chiropractor will look at structure, asymmetry and the problems it can cause. Sitting at your work station will simply aggravate those problems since problems in the pelvis and its surrounding structures will cause back and neck pain, even in the most ideal ergonomic environment.
Three ways to improve body ergonmics and feel better at your desk.
1. Visit a chiropractor who looks at you from the feet up. The most effective chiropractors are using methods such as myofascial release, Active Release Techniques ( a style of myofascial release), instrument assisted soft tissue methods, and exercises.
2. Wear inserts in your shoes. The idea of foot orthotics has been around for years. If you are built asymmetrically, these help even when you sit because they create symmetry in the pelvis and upper body.
3. Core stability exercises and foam rolling. A stable and functional core is essential to feel good, and move well. Foam rollers may help since if you are tight, and it is affecting your core, you can use the foam roller to perform self myofascial release which will allow you to sit better.
What do you think? As always, I value your opinion. Read Cheating Mother Nature available through Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format.