Monday, April 7, 2014

Improve Your Workplace Ergonomics

Here's how to create a healthy posture to improve your health.

Man slouches at desk

Anything you do for eight hours a day is going to affect your health. That includes ergonomics in the workplace. This guide from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) can tell you how to determine if you have poor posture. And here's why you should be concerned:

  • Muscle tension: Sitting with your head forward can cause muscles in your neck to strain and become tense, particularly the trapezius muscle. Over the long term, this can change the curvature of your spine, lead to arthritis or decrease your range of motion.
  • Risk of injury:Sitting in a poor posture frequently can harm your lower back by leading to uneven pressure on the lumbar disks. This can make you predisposed to a more significant injury while lifting a heavy object, playing sports, or in a motor vehicle accident.
  • Blood circulation:Sitting for extended periods can pool blood in your legs, leading to swollen ankles and increased risk for varicose veins or a deep-vein thrombosis if other clinical risk factors are present.
  • Decreased confidence:Body language affects your interactions and communication. Sitting with a forward head tilt, rolled-in shoulders, and slouched posture can affect your mood, energy, and confidence.

Here's how to create a healthy posture to improve your health:

  • Create 90-degree angles at your knees, hips, and with elbows close to your sides.
  • Keep your knees at equal height or slightly lower than your hips.
  • Move your computer monitor to eye level.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed, with your head in upright posture.
  • Consider an upright standing posture.
  • Remember to take breaks and move your body after sitting or standing for long periods of time. This will increase your circulation and improve your productivity.
  • Exercise regularly with focus on core stabilization, stretching hip flexor muscle groups to lengthen the iliopsoas and pectoralis muscles in the shoulder to open up your posture.
  • Stay well hydrated, as this can decrease muscle tension and improve energy.

Consider a visit with your doctor if you have any further questions about an ergonomic workstation. (Since not all workstations are at desks). It is important to evaluate your individual workstation and work with your physician to brainstorm ergonomic solutions that fit your needs.

See more OSHA tips for healthy workstations.

— By Andrew Simon, ND, resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health

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