Okay, so “killing” might be a bit of a stretch. But if I’d told you that today we were going to discuss ergonomics, you’d have probably clicked away and missed some pretty important information. If you’re like me and you spend a lot of time sitting at desk or working on a computer, you might have days where you feel like you’re aging well ahead of schedule.
Those aches and pains at the end of the day typically come from two things: poorly designed office furniture and equipment, and the fact that you’re sitting in one position for far too long. Whether your home office needs to be revamped or your need to shape up your work routine, there are some tell-tale signs that something’s got to give.
7 Common Symptoms of Poor Ergonomics
- Eye strain and irritated eyes. Staring at a monitor all day can put additional strain on your eyes and lead to dry, irritated eyes. Poor lighting can have a significant impact on eye health too.
- Blurred vision and headaches. Eye strain and irritation can be accompanied by blurred vision and headaches as a result of poor office ergonomics.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Signs that your office setup could be leading to carpal tunnel include pain and swelling in the wrists and hands accompanied by numbness or tingling sensations.
- Tension in the neck and shoulders. Tight muscles aren’t just uncomfortable, they can force you to sit in contorted positions that actually exacerbate problems and lead to new ones.
- Back pain. From your neck to your lower back, improper posture and inadequate support from your office chair can lead to back pain even when you’re not in the office.
- Reduced productivity. If you notice that your days are becoming less and less productive, poor ergonomics could be the culprit because pain and feelings of discomfort can be a huge distraction.
- Prolonged fatigue. If you’re feeling tired all time, poor ergonomics could be playing a part. Sitting in a chair all day is decidedly not an energy booster.
What’s the Prescription?
While nothing can ever replace a real-life consultation with a healthcare professional, there are some excellent expert resources available online to help you combat poor ergonomics. Sometimes the fix can be as simple as raising your monitor a couple of inches or standing up and stretching every hour. Check out these resources for more information:
- OSHA’s tips for better ergonomics at computer workstations section is a great place to start. They cover good posture and offer help on equipment selection for monitors, keyboards and more.
- SpineHealth.com’s 10 Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics offers some simple suggestions for improving the way you work.
- The Checklist for Good Posture from the folks at Office Fitness can help you sort out the dos and don’ts of proper office posture.
Do you sit at a desk all day? What are your tricks for combating injury, stiffness and fatigue?
I get up from my desk every hour or at the end of a project and do a household chore. This does a few things for me: clears my mind for the next project or to solve a problem, keeps my house neat, I get some exercise, and can spend a little time with the kids…
I have a perpetual fear that I’ll end up with a permanently-hunched back if I don’t sit up straight at my desk, so I try to keep good posture throughout the day. Since I’ve been doing that, I haven’t experienced as much back pain when I get home!
Great tips Emily. Ergonomics is something that we should take into consideration especially when we spend most of our hours sitting. Exercise still is important for our system to work well especially our blood circulation and bones. Perfect checklist Emily.
You don’t have to be in pain! Great tips, and the best is taking a break.
A great resource is the book “Why is My Office a Pain in My ….?” by Occupational Therapist and Ergonomics specialist Dr. Naomi Abrams. It gives great pointers about how to set up your office to avoid pain in the first place. The link is here: http://goo.gl/qjd8H
Another resource on Computer Vision Syndrome is here: http://www.aoa.org/x5374.xml
If you’re having visual discomfort, the best place to start is with a thorough eye and vision examination. Frequently people who don’t even need glasses for other tasks benefit from prescription lenses for computer use, since we use our eyes differently on the computer than we do for reading a book or other printed material. Your optometrist can make recommendations about optimal lenses and lens treatments to minimize discomfort, and can also treat dry eye that many of us experience with computer use. In my practice, we regularly treat many types of visual discomfort that can reduce productivity, with lenses, prism glasses, or sometimes a therapeutic intervention.
Amanda, I read that book too (Why Is My Office a Pain In My… by Dr. Naomi Abrams), and I have to tell you, it totally helped with all the pains in this article. Good article, and get Dr. Abrams book for a step by step to keep your office from killing you. Of course, number 8 wasn’t mentioned, CO-workers!
I work from home on a computer all day and the FitDesk is my savior! (fitdesk.net)
I have all seven of the problems that you have pointed out. I roll out of bed and get on the computer and sit there for hours. I now where a brace on my hand. The best suggestion I can offer is get up every hour and walk around for 10 minutes. It helps to relax your eyes and you will not be as stiff. What I do realize is that the work will be there when I get back. I did purchase a top of the line chair which helps, but nothing works better than movement.
My coworker bought a desk that can be raised and lowered so she is able to stand up for most of the day while at her desk. For more tips on computer ergonomics, here is a great article http://www.allaboutvision.com/cvs/ergonomics.htm.