By Dr. Cody Drake
Ergonomics, what does it mean? How does it apply to me? You came to the right place to get answers.
Ergonomics is one of those words where everyone kind-of knows what it means and also kind-of knows its purpose. It’s a universal word, if you will; it has a couple different specific definitions. To put plainly it means the science of refining the design of products to optimize them for human use. In a workstation setting, ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. This is what we will be talking about today.
There is no one perfect workstation, because the human body is not made to sit or stand for extended periods of time. Thus having both a workstation that is proper for sitting and perfect for standing can be difficult. Adding to the difficulty is fatigue. Once the body sets into its fatigue state, that “perfect” workstation you thought you had is not ideal. That being said, having an improper ergonomic workstation can drastically and expeditiously cause negative effects on the body. An otherwise proper workstation would just slow the effects. So today I am going to discuss a quick, DIY way for you to assess your workstation and determine what is right for you.
I call it the “Rule-of-90s”.
If you think of our body in architectural terms, there is a proper design for the shape of your body and position of your muscles. Just like when a building or bridge design is improper and fails early, so does the human body. However the human body is made to adapt and continue to fight on another day. These manifestations of battles inside your body come as aches, pains, soreness, tightness, and limited mobility and range of motion. Another manifestation is when you start “dancing” – where you transfer weight from one leg to the other and back periodically.
One effect you may not see is how improper ergonomics could impact your vision. Proper ergonomics helps with visual comfort. If you’re too far away from your monitor you could strain your eyes or hold your neck in an unsafe position.
How do you know if this is happening to you? You will start to feel symptoms in your neck, upper shoulders, shoulders, and low back. Which, coincidentally, are the same areas where chiropractic care can have a meaningful and lasting positive effect.
So here we go, the “Rule-of-90s”:
- Feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart – ankles at 90 degrees.
- Knees bent casually – at 90 degrees.
- Torso sitting upright with moderate lumbar support – hips at 90 degrees. This is the proper chair height and position with your muscles relaxed.
- With your torso upright, arms dangling by your side, shrug your shoulders and ‘drop’ them, keep them relaxed; this is the proper resting position of your shoulders.
- While in this position bend your elbows to, you guessed it, 90 degrees, with your wrists in neutral, non-flexed or extended position. This position is the proper height and placement of your keyboard, with your muscles relaxed.
- Close your eyes, do a few head circles and come back to a neutral position, eyes forward. Open your eyes; this is the proper position for your head-neck-shoulder complex with least amount of muscle tensegrity. To maintain this position, your monitor should be within 18-24” away with the top third of the screen level with your eyes. (It’s okay to go slightly higher, but never lower!)
- When standing your feet should still be shoulder-width apart, with even weight distribution. Same upper-body ergonomics should apply.
Now remember your body thrives in body-position variability. For every hour at the sitting workstation I suggest standing for a minimum of 15 minutes. Reverse that for standing workstations.
Remember the “Rule-of-90s” when you are at home putting together your makeshift workstation. Use common household items to raise or alter your keyboard and monitor positions. Books, magazines, tupperware, boxes, unruly kids, all work great.
We also would love to help assist you in this endeavour too. Shoot us a picture of you in your home workstation and we will give you feedback. We look forward to seeing how y’all have been making it through.
Don’t forget to periodically move away from your workstation and go for a walk, or do some jumping-jacks, to get your blood and musculoskeletal systems moving!
Struggling from bad workstation ergonomics? Call us today to schedule your free consultation.