Many of us spend hours at desktop & workstation. With decent pay packages, backache & neck ache come as perks. A decade ago, the prevalence of lumbar & cervical spondylitis was seen post 40 years of age. But now it’s commonly seen in late 20’s. The credentials are earned by sedentary lifestyle & desk jobs. Layout of furniture at desk, accessories & their accessibility, posture, etc. play a pivotal role in putting stress & strain on tendons, muscles, ligaments & joints. Let’s discuss few factors that aggravate musculoskeletal injuries.
- Prolonged static posture- a healthy body can tolerate monotony of a single posture for 20 minutes only. Therefore, sitting on a plane, movie theatre, desktop causes discomfort after a while. Similarly, standing in a long queue at bill counters, or assembly lines make us stiff & uncomfortable. The stress builds up gradually & leads to musculoskeletal strains.
- Frequent/ repetitive stretching to end joint ranges- it can cause high stresses at joints. Jobs which require lifting heavy weights from floor, overhead lifting, moving bulky loads, using rotational/ twisting forces, add high stresses at joints, muscles, ligaments & tendinous junctions.
- Weak muscles & sedentary lifestyle- joints are moved by musculature, which enact as ropes that shortened & lengthen, thereby moving the joint in different positions. Weak musculatures make joints susceptible to injuries & enhance stresses leading to wear & tear of joints. No exercise & sedentary lifestyle makes muscles weak.
- Work station arrangement- height of desktop, chair height & back support, arm rest, accessories accessibility, keyboard position, kind of work on computer, foot rest, type of computer, screen positioning, other physical conditions, etc.
Few musculoskeletal conditions caused by above mentioned factors are;
- Back- stiffness, pain, disc prolapse, radicular pain & paraesthesia in legs, etc.
- Neck- stiffness, pain, cervical curve straightening, radiation of pain & paraesthesia in arms, etc.
- Wrist- carpal tunnel syndrome
- Elbow- tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow
- Legs- varicose veins
A stitch in time can save nine. This holds true if we take notice of few things & inculcate some lifestyle changes. Answer a few questions & self-serve a health platter.
- How long computer will be used?
If it’s from few minutes up to an hour, it isn’t a priority issue. If it’s more than 2-3 hours, ergonomics play vital role in your work life.
- What type of computer will be used?
Desktop- most of ergonomics guidelines shall be discussed keeping in mind desktop at the work station.
Laptop- though they have grown in popularity, yet they come with many problems. If the screen is at a comfortable height, the keyboard distance isn’t & vice versa.
For sustained use, consider purchasing an external keyboard, a mouse &/or an external monitor.
- Is the furniture work friendly?
The computer & its accessories should be placed on a stable surface, that doesn’t wobble. Consider attaching a keyboard tray to your system, preferably one that tilts downwards, allowing wrists to be in neutral & comfortable position.
- Is your chair ergonomically designed?
A good chair with comfortable backrest, providing lumbar support should be considered. Arm rests are important for supporting shoulder girdle & aid in getting in & out of chair.
- What is the type of work?
The nature of work shall help in deciding the arrangement of accessories. Example:
Word processing- arranging monitor & keyboard is high priority.
Surfing net/graphic design- setting mouse is a priority.
Data entry- arranging numeric keyboard/ keypad is a priority.
Make sure that whatever things the user uses most are placed closest for comfortable access.
- How well is your monitor placed?
The positioning of monitor plays pivotal role in maintaining correct neck posture, optimising stress on shoulder girdle & stress on eyes.
Following a few guidelines shall help identifying the postures stresses, keep body aligned & strengthen the musculoskeletal system.
- Identify the warning signs caused by poor ergonomics- stiffness in neck & back may be the earliest signs of muscular strain, worsening into pain, joint involvement, nerve radiculopathy, etc.
- Keep the body aligned- while standing & sitting, distribute the weight equally on both legs. Sit up straight, don’t sway.
- Get out of chair & move- take a water break or short snack break. Change the positions frequently & stretch.
- Exercises regularly- to strengthen the musculature, promote good posture & stay strong.
- Wear supportive footwear while standing- avoid wearing high heeled shoes on regular basis, as they affect the centre of gravity & negatively affect the posture & alignment.
- Create an ergonomic environment around the desk- personalize your work space. This will not only save time, but also effort spend.
87% of the young have a backache, rest 13% don't have a computer. Make optimum use of technology to your privilege.