The spine is literally a mechanical device and when we sit, stand, lift, or bend it obeys the orders we give it and assumes the position we place it in. Ergonomics is the science of obtaining a correct match between the human body, work-related tasks, and work tools both at home and on the job. When we do not perform activities of daily living correctly, slow innocent changes occur to the support structures of our body. Physical warnings (i.e. pain) begin to intensify and become exacerbated by repetitive activities, sustained postures, and other factors such as bodily reaction/bending, reaching, or twisting.
Low back pain is a predominant specter in our society and nearly 80% of adults will experience it at some point in their lives. Here are some tips that my just keep you from becoming part of this statistic:
- Don’t sit in the same position for more than an hour. Change positions every 30 minutes.
- If your job requires sitting, utilize an adjustable chair that maintains the normal curve of your back. If necessary use a lumbar pillow or roll for added support.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor or footrest.
- Keep the top of your computer screen at eye level.
- The spine was designed with three curves that contribute to its strength and stability. Keeping your head level reduces stress on your back while lifting.
- Reduce the force on your spine by holding objects close to your body. Remember, whether you feel it or not, gravity is always there and holding a load away from the body can increase its weight by 10 TIMES!!
- The neck was designed to turn and bend in multiple directions to allow us to take in life from all angles. However, the low back was not, so when lifting don’t twist, shuffle your feet to turn keeping your nose between your toes.
Unlike other aspects of the human body, the neck serves only one purpose, the positioning of the head in space. While this arrangement gives us a better perspective of our surroundings it can also be a harbinger of injury when one’s posture is improperly maintained. As the head moves forward of the body its weight, due to the force of gravity, can increase up to 42 pounds placing severe strain on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves of the neck.
Throughout our lives we’ve been told to “sit up straight” or “stop slouching” but how many times have you heard “keep that ear lobe lined up with your shoulder”, probably never. The body follows the head and if things at the top aren’t straight it doesn’t take long for things like low back pain, headache, stress related illness, osteoarthritis, and even decreased lung capacity to rear they’re ugly heads!
Making some very simple changes in your daily routine is all it takes to stave off an injury that can literally be a pain in the neck:
- Sit up straight in your chair with your back supported keeping your head centered over your spine; this allows gravity to work with your neck instead of against it.
- Do not sit for long periods without getting up or changing positions. Take short breaks several times each hour to stretch your neck.
- If your job requires frequent computer use, have the top of the screen at eye level and use a document holder that puts copy at the same level as the screen.
- Utilize a chair with an adjustable seat and arm rests. Position the body so that your buttocks are back as far as possible, adjust the seat so that the hips and knees are maintained at 90°-110°, and adjust the arm rests so that the shoulder can hang naturally and the elbows are 90°-110° to the keyboard or desktop.
- If you are on the phone a lot, use a headset or speakerphone.
- Stretch and strengthen regularly . Stretching the chest muscles and strengthening the muscles of the back and shoulder blade can promote a balanced base of support for the neck.
- Do not sleep on your stomach this places adverse stresses on the curves of the back and neck.
- Choose a pillow or pillows that help to support the natural curve of your neck.
The human shoulder is designed to provide a great deal of mobility. It can assume up to as many as 1,600 positions. However, in order to provide this function it is dependent upon an integrated system of ligaments, muscles, and tendons for support.
Very similar to a golf ball sitting on a tee, the rounded end of the upper arm moves within the scooped out socket of the shoulder blade. But, unlike the golf ball, the head of the arm must remain in a confined space and still move freely. Pain occurs when excessive demands are placed on the stabilizing structures (muscles, ligaments, joint capsule) of the shoulder, especially when placed at higher angles of flexion (forward elevation >90°) and/or extreme abduction (sideward elevation). Studies have shown that shoulder pain in the general population of some countries has been reported to be as high as 50%.
Here are some ways to prevent you from becoming part of this statistic:
Over the past few years, doctors have seen more and more children and adults coming into their offices complaining of back pain. Backpacks and oversize tote bags have made it easy for many Americans to throw in everything but the kitchen sink without realizing they could be throwing out their backs. Millions of students are racing to school bus stops or scurrying to their classes with overstuffed backpacks slung over one shoulder. While carrying a backpack might seem harmless enough, it can cause some painful back and neck problems. Too many of our younger children are carrying overweight backpacks to school.
A study conducted at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine found that how loads are distributed under backpack straps may help identify the source of shoulder and back pain in children.
The study, published in the December 5, 2005, issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, concludes that the average backpack load that children are now carrying should be reduced.
According to previous studies, children commonly carry backpack loads that are 22% of their body weight. The study found that pressures at 20% of body weight measured 70 mmHg on the left shoulder and 110 mmHg on the right shoulder – skin surface pressures that are more than double and triple the threshold for reduced blood flow.
Repetitive improper use of a backpack causes muscular imbalance, postural changes and subsequent nerve system dysfunction.
Step 1: Select the Proper Pack
The most important step to backpack safety is making sure you choose the proper size.
|Tip: Bring a friend to help you measure your backpack properly|
Step 2: Don't Overload Your Backpack
Pack only what you'll need! Your backpack should not weigh more than 15% of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 100 lbs. maximum backpack weight should be 15 lbs.
|Tip: If the backpack forces the wearer to move forward to carry, it's overloaded|
Step 3: Lift Your Backpack Properly
With backpack in front of you, lift with your legs and apply one shoulder strap at a time.
|Tip: Don't sling the backpack onto one shoulder.|
Step 4: Wear Your Backpack Properly
Wear your backpack over both shoulders so that the weight is distributed evenly.
|Tip: When the backpack has a waist strap - use it.|
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