How to avoid sitting disease

For those of you that watch star trek, Captain Picard sits in the bridge for hours on end, gazing into the depths of deep space, boldly going where no man has gone before.  The story would be different if after a few minutes he got up, limped around the room with a crook neck and sore back, stopping at an inter-stellar Chiropractic clinic for some well-needed adjustments.  In the bridge of the starship Enterprise, the Captain's chair has good armrests, a headrest, soft material and well centered to the viewing screen in front.  Now take a look at yours, would you be happy to sit like you are for hours on end exploring the galaxy, perhaps not? This is where good ergonomics comes into play.

Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment with the aim of increasing comfort and productivity.  Now as most of us are in a new, most-likely less efficient workplace, good ergonomics is vital.

Last time we discussed that poor workplace set-ups lead to pain, poor performance, decreased productivity, and lower efficiency.  So how do you get it right?

There are a number of factors in your environment that need to be taken into consideration: 

1. Environment: Is your environment that you work in comfortable?  This can include the lighting, the temperature, which way you are facing, noise, distractions.  Pay attention to these factors and this in itself can enhance how much work you get done.

2. You:  Good ergonomics has to take into account your body with all its limitations.  If you have a stiff neck when you look to the left then it’s a good idea to avoid a position of pain if you can.  It would also be a great idea to see if your neck can be improved but that for another conversation.  Do your eyes struggle with glare?  If so, facing a window may not be the best idea and you may have to rethink working in the greenhouse! Do you suffer with regular sciatic or disc pain? if so you may have to think immediately about better chairs and a standing setup.  

3. Desks:  Curved desks look pretty and fit nicely in the room, but if you are using one you have to be disciplined to turn and avoid twisting.  Straight desks are much simpler but your legs have to fit comfortably in the hole. Too high and your wrists kink; too low and you start to lean forward.   

4. Chair:  Dining room chairs - good for eating, bad for working!  Have you got support in your lower back when you sit?  Do your armrests get in the way, stopping you from getting close to the desk.  Unfortunately, there’s no gold standard in chairs.  Very expensive chairs are not always the most comfortable but cheap chairs may not last very long. The important thing is to try before you buy.  

5. Laptop or desktop: I know it’s a bit late in the pandemic and by now many of you have worked out that regularly working on a laptop is not a great idea. Laptops are not actually designed to be used on your lap.  Likewise, desktops are supposed to be used on a desk.  For those of you that don’t have access to an alternative computer and have to use a laptop for work, then using a wireless keyboard and mouse could save you huge amounts of pain.

Ergonomics is a complicated and contentious subject among health professionals with numerous opinions on equipment positioning. Try to implement a few easy changes and see how they feel. Remember this is about comfort and productivity.

Author: Dr Adam Greenfield, Co-founder of WorkLifeWell | Chiropractor | Wellness Specialist

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