Workplace Posture Can Cause Achy Heads, Shoulders, Knees, Toes

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Football training season is in full swing, leaving many athletes prone to injuries on the field. While football players recognize the health risks associated with typical activity on the job, those in a traditional office setting may not understand that injuries aren't just for athletes. There are many common pains and strains that can take place at work, leaving both employers and employees at risk.

Workplace injuries, including musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) such as tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome are often painful reminders of the effects hours of poor posture and awkward motion can have on the body. In 2006, 357,160 cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorders resulted in lost workdays(1). In addition, costs associated with common pain conditions and lost productivity in the U.S. are estimated at $61.2 billion per year(2).

While office injuries have become more common, many can be minimized or prevented entirely through the principles of Ergonomics, or the science of designing work environments to better fit the capabilities of the individuals using them. Practicing proper Ergonomic principles at work helps ensure comfort, increase productivity and reduce health issues such as repetitive stress injuries, back, neck and shoulder strain and muscular pains.

"Employees are spending more time behind a desk and in front of a computer screen, making office aches and pains quite common, yet many are unaware of their cause," said Kevin Butler, board-certified ergonomist and consultant for Fellowes, Inc. "Daily habits such as slouching, reaching across your desk or bending your wrists up when you type can unknowingly cause stress on the body and lead to more serious medical conditions."

Ergonomic professionals, such as Butler, recommend incorporating the following techniques at work to ensure employees stay comfortable and healthy from head to toe:

* Eyes -- Sit approximately an arm's length away from your monitor and position the top of the monitor screen at, or slightly below, eye level. Take mini breaks every 10 to 20 minutes to rest the eyes from the glare of the monitor.

* Shoulders -- Keep your shoulders relaxed and in a neutral position as you type. Keep your elbows close to your sides as you use the keyboard and mouse. Take a moment every so often to roll your shoulders up and back to alleviate tension.


* Hands and Wrists -- Keep your wrists straight and in a neutral position. Keep the bottom of your elbows even with the keyboard height, not below. Use minimum force while striking the keys and utilize your chair arms for support.

* Back and Legs -- Adjust your chair so your thighs are parallel to the floor. Sit back in the seat so that your lower back is supported firmly by the chair or a support cushion. Place your feet on a footrest to relieve "pull" on the lower back. Make sure to get up and stretch your back and legs every hour.

In addition to these recommended techniques, employees should ensure they have the right office equipment incorporated into their workspace to help further release tension and stress on the body. Fellowes, Inc. recently developed a line of Professional Series Ergonomic products designed to maximize comfort and increase productivity on the job. The line offers a variety of workspace solutions, including:

* Gliding Palm Support -- The patented Health-V(TM) Channel relieves wrist pressure to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome as it effortlessly glides with the natural movement of the mouse.

* Executive Adjustable Keyboard Tray -- Fully adjustable to promote neutral hand/wrist position while moving your keyboard and mouse off the desktop to save space.

* Laptop Workstation -- Offers an adjustable tilt for an optimal viewing angle to reduce eye strain.

* Back Support -- A two-tiered support system that features mid-spinal support with memory foam to promote good posture and three lower back support sections that conform comfortably to the back's natural curves.

* Foot Rocker -- Ergonomically designed to promote comfort and increase leg circulation while in a seated position.

"Preventing workplace injury is about combining healthy Ergonomic habits with the right office equipment," said Tim Shipley, senior marketing manager at Fellowes, Inc. "At Fellowes, we're always looking for ways to maximize comfort and improve the overall office experience. Our new product line specifically caters to those areas of the body that are prone to injury, making it easier to stay healthy at work."