At one point or another, the thought occurs to many of us that we seem to be spending more time at work than at home.
This may not always be true, of course, but there is simply no question that many people spend an inordinate amount of time at work these days.
And it can come with consequences: stiff necks, bad backs, sore legs and a host of other maladies that stem from poor posture and bad body mechanics.
It’s not hard to see, then, why it’s incredibly important to make your workspace and work habits as comfortable as possible for the performance of your job tasks.
Posture, body mechanics and joint protection all come into play.
If you can develop a proper posture and focus on developing sound body mechanics, you can increase your comfort and decrease your pain while working. And, hopefully, this will also increase your efficiency and productivity.
It is crucial to tailor your workstation and your work tasks to your body, rather than the other way around. You should never try to make your body adapt to harmful conditions.
Sometimes, it’s assumed that an individual working at a computer workstation has an “easy” job.
While these workers may not spend the majority of their day lifting heavy weights or standing, their bodies still experience stress if they’re at a computer workstation for an extended period.
When you maintain one position for a length of time, you use the same muscles and tendons over and over again—and you’ve given your body no opportunity to rest.
In the morning, you may intend to sit up straight—just like mom always suggested—but by day’s end you may find yourself hunched over the computer, eyes mere inches from the screen while wrists rest heavily on the keyboard.
That’s a terrible posture.
In general, the human body is built to maintain neutral postures. For the spine, neutral posture is when you’re sitting or standing upright and maintaining the normal curves in the spine.
In this position, if you were looking at your own posture from the side, you would be able to draw a straight line from your ear to your hip. Your head would face straight ahead, not down or rotated to the side.
The placement of the arms and legs is also important. The arms should be close to your sides, rather than reaching away from the body. If you’re sitting, your hips and knees should be positioned at close to a 90-degree angle.
If you’re reading this at a computer workstation right now, assess your body position.
Are you demonstrating neutral posture?
At the computer workstation, you want to position your chair, desk and computer so you maintain neutral posture.
Office chairs tend to have an array of functions that can help increase your comfort. Back tension adjustments, upright locks and seat height adjustments are just a few of the bells and whistles you might find on your chair.
These features can all help you avoid sitting with your back unsupported. If your back is unsupported, your abdominal muscles are more likely to relax and you may end up slouching.
Desk height is also important.
Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle and your keyboard should be placed to help you maintain this position. Avoid sitting too far from the keyboard, as that can quickly pull your posture down and forward—or, alternately, it can cause you to lean back and slouch in your chair.
Other helpful hints to maintain a neutral posture:
- Keep frequently used items close to your body.
- Keep clutter away from your work area.
- Use accessories such as document holders, wrist rests and headsets to avoid awkward positions.
Keep it neutral
Proper body positioning should be top of mind well beyond the workstation.
If you spend a portion of the day lifting, reaching, kneeling, squatting, walking, standing, or otherwise, it is important to keep a neutral posture throughout these movements.
When performing activity at a lower level, such as lifting weight from ground level, it is critical to ensure your back remains straight while you keep a good neutral posture. Rely on your legs to provide as much lift power as possible. Keep the lifted weight close to your body to help minimize unnecessary force on your back or shoulders.
Good body mechanics and proper posture go beyond the workplace, of course.
It applies to all aspects of our lives.
If you have poor posture or flawed body mechanics, you might not initially feel the pain. Over time, however, you will start to feel the effects.
Your body needs good blood circulation to operate properly. If you have conditions or habits that restrict blood flow, your tissues won’t get enough oxygen and your muscles and tendons can become damaged more easily.
The discomfort can intrude on your home life, and that’s the last thing you want. A healthy personal life makes for a more productive work life.
You want to play with your children, enjoy your hobbies and sleep uninterrupted—without pain.
Live smart and take care of your body, so your body can take care of you.