WHAT IS ERGONOMICS?

By Angela Hendricks (Bsc Physio)

Do you find yourself getting more and more uncomfortable towards the end of the day? Are you slouching at your desk? Do you suffer from neck ache or backache? Many workers don’t realise that the way you work at your desk can significantly affect your comfort levels.

Ergonomics is the study of how you fit in with your work environment, and the impact that this environment has on you. It focuses on how to adapt your workspace so that you can work more comfortably and efficiently.

In today’s modern world, we no longer have to walk to another office to talk someone, we can just send them an instant message or an e-mail. We no longer have to get up to fetch a fax, it comes directly to our computer! We have become a paperless society and in doing so we spend more and more time at our desks. Think about how many times you actually get up from your desk during the day…

Our bodies are not designed to sit all day. Your vertebral column consists of 24 vertebrae with discs in between them. These vertebrae form 3 curves namely your cervical curve (neck), the thoracic curve (middle back) and the lumbar curve (lower back). The muscles surrounding your spine function at their best when the curves are in their correct posture, what we call “Neutral Spine”.

As soon as your spine loses these curves you put extra pressure on the discs and joints. This results in neck or back pain.

If you sit slouching forward, your spine just becomes one long curve and no longer keeps its cervical, thoracic and lumbar curves. The more time you sit in this position, the more damage you do to your body.

How your desk, chair and workstation are set up can significantly affect the way you sit. We are not all the same size and shape, and the workstation should have subtle changes to reflect this uniqueness. For example, if your screen is too low and too far away, you will probably be poking your head forward to be able to see the screen clearly. All you need to do is bring the monitor closer and raise it slightly so that the top line of the display is eye level, and you will be able to sit up and maintain your neutral spine.

This series of articles will teach you: - about your body - why you experience discomfort, - the type of injuries that occur while working - how to prevent and treat them.

You will also learn how to set up your workstation to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

So, for now, we’d like you to just think about how you work during the day … the position you sit in and the patterns that you work in. Good ergonomics starts with becoming aware … awareness of what you are doing incorrectly and an awareness that you can change this pattern and help yourself!