The best posture is the next posture, said Gene Kay, director of ergonomics, VelocityEHS, during the presentation “Understand and Resolve Your Complex Office Evaluation Requests,” at the 2018 National Ergonomics Conference & Ergo Expo. Office furniture and equipment vendors flooded the exposition floor with beautifully crafted office desks made of metal, aluminum, wood, and even plastic. And, the sea of chairs in delicious fabrics and textures make even those least interested in design bat their eyes. But, as we know, looks only go so far. What Kay reminded us, no matter how pretty the equipment, functionality and adjustability are most important. Does it accommodate the 25th percentile female and the 95th percentile male? Does it promote movement? If your answer is “no,” you may be at risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).
Musculoskeletal disorders are disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and spinal discs that occur over time due to the overuse of joints and connective tissues. It seems elementary to teach someone how to properly sit or stand at their workstation, but since MSDs are the leading cause of non-fatal occupational injuries in the workplace, it’s not.
Working in awkward postures for long periods of time (viewing a monitor with a twisted neck) or maintaining static postures (standing at a workstation for extended periods) are just two examples of potentially harmful work habits. Combine those with a forceful exertion, and it increases the risk of injury or discomfort dramatically.
Maintaining movement throughout the day (transitioning between sitting and standing while at work) keeps the body active and the blood flowing. Your musculoskeletal system is a roadmap to either good or poor health. Our 650+ muscles, 206 bones, 360 joints, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, tendons work in tandem to keep us moving, working, sitting, and even sleeping. Kay emphasized these points and dissected the anatomy of common injuries, causes, symptoms, and risk factors caused by high-risk tasks.
For office workers, a common complaint is hand or wrist pain. De Quervain’s Syndrome and Lateral Epicondylitis (i.e., ulnar or radial deviation) are common conditions that can occur from mousing in awkward postures.
“To avoid this condition, maintain a hand-shake posture when mousing,” says Kay. Another common ingredient in the “trauma bucket” is keying with bent wrists. “Keep ‘em straight”, he said.
Kay also explained risk factors of the back, shoulders, head, neck, and even the eyes. Here are a few things to remember:
- Follow the ISO 9241-5 monitor guidelines by keeping the top of the monitor screen at or below eye level, and angle the screen back just like you would angle a magazine or book when reading.
- Recline your seat to avoid pressure on the spine. Sitting with a forward lean and sitting upright can cause disc pressure. Reclining your chair 100 to 110 degrees decreases the pressure and opens the hip angle.
- Regularly move and change positions when working.