Ergonomics and Related Health problems
WHAT IS ERGONOMICS?-ETYMOLOGY AND DEFINITION:
Ergonomics is one of the most widely used terms in today’s world especially in one’s place of work. Ergonomics is derived from two Greek words “Ergon” meaning work and “nomoi” meaning natural laws. Hence Ergonomics is the defined as the science that is related to man and his workplace. It seeks to design the job and the equipment for efficient use of human energy. Its relevance today lies in designing the work environment for maximum fulfillment of health and productivity.
THE NEED OF ERGONOMICS:
Quite a few times, we see some people who experience an extreme pain in the hands or back after putting in 8-9 hours of work at the computer. These pains usually result out of musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). There are probably thousands of others who are suffering but are unaware of the reasons behind the aches. As early as in the 18th Century doctors noted that workers who had to maintain body positions for long periods of time developed musculoskeletal disorders.
Job design, stress and individual work styles are three major contributing factors for MSDs.
-Faulty job design may involve infrequent breaks or tight work-schedule.
-Stressors are deadlines and bad management
-Individual work styles mean how hard some individuals hit the keys, how the individual holds his wrists, etc.
There are two elements involved in any type of work:
Static Work: It refers to the musculoskeletal effort that is required to hold on to a particular position, even a comfortable one. For e.g. sit and work at computers; keeping head and torso upright requires small or great amounts of static work
Elements of work that require the use of force: This is the amount of tension our muscles generate in order to perform a certain action. For e.g. tilting your head forward or backward from a neutral vertical position increases the force acting on your lower back by approximately four times.
Common Ergonomic Related Health Problems:
Ergonomic related health issues are generally called as MSD (musculoskeletal disorders). These affect the muscles, tendons and nerves and are due to the persistent use of certain muscles, nerves and tendons over a long period of time. It may also be referred to as RSI (repetitive strain injury) which refers to the injuries developed in the nervous or muscular system due to a repeated action like using the keyboard. Some of the most common MSD’s are
1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS): It is a nerve disorder that occurs when too much pressure is applied on the nerve that runs through the carpal ligaments in the
wrist. Numbness or tingling in the thumb and index finger results and we are often awakened at night by the hand ‘falling asleep’.
2. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: It results from poor head position or slumped position. The symptoms include numbness or tingling in the hand. It gets worse with activities like cradling phone between the ear and the shoulder.
3. Radial Tunnel Syndrome: It mainly occurs due to repetitive wrist and finger extension or turning of the forearm. It manifests in the form of sensations from elbow to the base of the thumb with wrist weakness being a common symptom.
4. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: It results from repetitive bending of the elbow or resting the elbow on a hard surface. It can result in numbness and tingling in the inside of the arm and fingers.
5. Slipped Disc: It is said that 1 in 8 people have a slipped disc medical condition which manifests itself in the form of lower backache, neck pain, a feeling of numbness in the parts above and below an affected area, a itchy sensation around the genitals.
The main reason behind slip disc is the unnecessary pressure that is laid on the spine when the person bends forward to do his work, for long periods of time.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR WORK-PLACE MORE ERGO-FRIENDLY?
Sitting and standing
Do not maintain static postures for long. Try to keep moving as much as possible. Standing for long hours will result in swelling of your lower extremities. If it is essential, then stand on a padded or a rubber mat instead.
If your work requires you to be seated the whole day, see that your chair is appropriate for you. Adjust the height to suit your work height. The upper part of the hand must be placed close to your body and the lower part much be at 90 degree. The chair must be at an appropriate height so that the foot rests on the floor. The backrest of the chair should be flexible and cushioned to provide a comfortable seating. The feet needs to be on the floor/footrest and not dangling in the air.Avoid bending the neck forward for long periods of time. This will quadruple the force in the muscle.Always try to use the largest muscles of the body to do the job. For instance, while lifting an object, don’t bend and lift but sit and lift.
- Slide, push or pull objects rather than lifting it.
Carry objects close to the body at waist level. Use both the hands to lift rather than using a single hand even for the lightest of tasks.
The workstation should be designed to avoid unnatural postures like stretching or straining frequently. The desk height should be approximately equal to the elbow height. If you use the computer for more than 2 hours then an arm rest is essential.The area underneath the desk should be clean to accommodate the user’s legs and should allow for stretching. Avoid extended reaching for the mouse or the keyboard. Also, it is better to avoid too much dependence on the mouse.
FEW EXERCISES FOR RELAXATION
For the eyes:
-Rotate the eyes 5-6 times. Blink several times as this will help produce tears and lubricate the eyes
For the neck:
-Breathe in and turn your neck to the right side. Then breathe out and bring it back to the
normal position. Repeat the same with the other side. Now tilt the head outwards to look at the roof while inhaling and tilt the head inwards to touch the chin while exhaling. Repeat 4-5 times.
-Rotate the head alternatively in clockwise and anti clockwise direction while breathing
For the Shoulders:
-Slowly bring the shoulders up to the ears and hold for approximately 3 seconds. Rotate the shoulders back and down and repeat this 10 times.
For the hands:
-Press your hand against the wall, with fingers pointing down and thumb sideways.
-Massage the inside and outside of the hands with the thumb and the fingers. Perform this
-Hold the arm straight out in front of you, make a loose fist, bend it down and hold for 2-3 min. Relax.
SOME POSTURES THAT HELP YOU RELAX
A couple of exercises which are good for releiving backache are as follows:
Back fully supported by chair, Chin and thighs parallel to the floor.
Knees high enough to support the tension on the tummy. Legs on chair.
Support for the head and knee, Good when preganant.
Early signs of any MSD are persistent pain, tingling, numbness, burning and aching. Maintaining static postures for long can stop blood circulation and this can take a toll on the body.
So, practice good ergonomic postures and remain healthy forever.
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