When many of us picture a work related injury, we probably conjure up the image of a manual laborer bending over to lift something that is too heavy and throwing out their back. What we probably don’t consider is that many workplace injuries stem from a sedentary setting and come on gradually while we’re innocently sitting at our desks. The average adult actually spends more than half of their time (50-70% on average) sitting in the workplace. These static, prolonged positions that are so familiar can actually be detrimental to our health, causing all sorts of work related injuries.
Overuse injuries like back pain, neck pain and even wrist pain can come out of nowhere as you’re minding your own business, typing away at your computer just as you normally would. This is why office ergonomics are so important.
What Are Office Ergonomics?
Ergonomics, as defined by OSHA, refers to “the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population.” Static, prolonged positions can easily cause overuse injuries that are largely preventable with the correct setting and movement patterns. With the right office design, ergonomic desk setup and awareness of your current posture habits, you can work wonders in terms of preventing injuries.
Physical therapy can actually play a key role in improving your workplace setting to ensure that you’re not at risk.
How Can A Physical Therapist Help My Posture?
Physical therapists are body mechanic experts and work with people like you to understand your work movements (laptop, phone, keyboard, etc.) to provide custom recommendations based on their observations and objective testing.
An Ergonomic Assessment from a physical therapist can improve your office setting and also track your progress over time, providing exercises and tools to monitor your performance and improvement long-term.
If you choose to work with a physical therapist to help improve your workplace posture, they may test and screen for the following factors:
- Your Posture: Compared to your workstation, is your back properly aligned? How’s the position of your head?
- Your Strength: Are muscle weaknesses playing a role in a hunched sitting position? How’s your total body strength and stability?
- Your Flexibility: How’s your upper body posture? Hip range of motion? It all matters!
- Your Balance: Do you have good spine health? Balance can speak a lot about your ability to move in general.
Your physical therapist can provide the necessary tools to improve your current routines so that you’re not putting yourself at risk of injury in the workplace.
Quick Posture Check
As mentioned above, your posture plays a major role in injury prevention from prolonged positions. It’s probably not realistic to think that you’ll be able to maintain perfect, neutral posture at all times but giving yourself regular “posture checks” can be huge in terms of not returning to that slouched position that is so easy to fall into. Even if you have to place a sticky note reminder on your desk that reads “Sit up straight!,” do what you can to keep it at top of mind. So what you do right now to help this proper alignment become your default position?
As you’re sitting in your chair, go over these posture tips:
- Make sure that your head is upright and over the base of your neck (no craning forward).
- Keep your feet flat on the floor to keep your lower back and core in a good position and to avoid stress along the rest of the spine.
- Use an armrest for your elbows for the support.
- Leave some space between the back of your knees and the chair.
- Position your computer screen at eye level to prevent prolonged bending at the neck. Bonus: This will also help you reduce eye strain and the potential for headaches.
To learn more about how to improve your desk posture and to make sure that your current workplace setup is not putting you at risk for injury, book an Ergonomics Assessment with a physical therapist today.