Ergonomics is an important aspect of good health that is often overlooked but can pose serious issues.
When Sonal Kapoor, an employee with an IT major in Bengaluru noticed a tingling pain in her back and an altered posture, she was concerned. At an ergonomic workshop in her office, she consulted the expert to find that her wrong posture was causing her the problem. She soon learnt a few exercises and corrected her problem before it could worsen.
Ergonomics is traditionally defined as ‘the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment’. In contemporary terms it tells us about how working population can fit in their workplace and look after their health while adjusting to the demands of their job. In the US alone the direct and indirect cost to health care by back pain related to workplace comes to around 20 billion annually. Addition to this are problems like Tennis Elbow, Carpal tunnel Syndrome, tendinitis, Calf and Hip Pain which also contribute to the burden of problems. “If your job requires sitting behind a desk for several hours a day and if you are experiencing fatigue, aches, and pains, then you need to relook at your office space ergonomics. The wrong chair height, inadequate equipment spacing, and bad desk posture can wreck your joints and ligaments. Use a height-adjustable chair with arm and lumbar support. Keep the monitor directly in front of you, about an arm’s length away. Keep the telephone and stationeries within easy reach at arm’s length. The mouse must be kept at the same level as the keyboard. Use keyboard shortcuts to reduce the use of mouse,” says Dr. A B Govindaraj, Clinical Head & Senior Consultant, Department of Orthopedics, MGM Healthcare.
Given the ubiquity of tech tools and gadgets, our lifestyle is increasingly sedentary and we are moving away from active lifestyle. So, ergonomic designs of our furniture and some corrections in our way of leading life are essential. “Forward-thinking organisations are encouraging their employees to practice wellness in various aspects of life, right from their diet to active lifestyle, training them on correct posture while working. Some of them are encouraging their employees to volunteer for activities that involve physical movements such as building low cost housing for the underprivileged, running marathons, planting trees, filling potholes on roads, teaching kids a game of outdoor sport and so on,” says Aditya Narayan Mishra – Director and CEO of CIEL HR Services. Dr Vaibhav Lokhande, Associate Consultant-Physical Medicine, Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine, Sakra World Hospital explains,” when it comes to prevention of poor ergonomics issues, equal contributions from an individual and the workplace is vital. Adhering to the various ergonomics program is important. It is advisable to develop an evaluation program to ensure that improvements are constantly made.”
Poor ergonomics can negatively impact one’s health and poor posture can impact spinal cord and vertebral column causing conditions like herniated discs and muscle weakness of the trunk. “Lack of blood circulation due to long-sitting during working hours may cause early fatigue, numbness due to lack of activity or movement or exercise. Poor ergonomics may cause type 2 diabetes due to improper secretion of insulin due to long-sitting. This can also lead to being overweight and/or obesity. It may also lead to myocardial infarction. It may also lead to a musculoskeletal disorder like disuse atrophy especially in lower limbs and sprain, strain or carpel tunnel syndrome, cervical and lumbar strain in the upper body. One may also land up getting fibromyalgia trigger points due to psychosomatic issues,” says Dr. Babu J Chief & HOD Physiotherapy, BGS Gleneagles Global Hospital. Back pain is the commonest hazard at workplace and predominantly related to prolonged sitting and adopting wrong postures. “Always sit with a proper lower lumbar support which can accentuate and support the normal lumbar curve in the spine and make sure your hip and knees are in a straight line while seated. Always rest your elbow on the work table, instead of the wrist as it helps prevent dropping of the shoulders and undue stress on the lower back. Take frequent breaks from sitting position. Ideally, take a walk or do some stretching for the back at intervals of 1 to 2 hours. When lifting objects or bending make sure to use your knee’s instead of your back,” advices Dr. Harish Puranik – Sports Orthopaedic Surgeon at SPORTHO, SPARSH Hospital.
Often we tend to attribute eye strain to working too many hours; tingling in extremities to conditions like anxiety, muscular pain and accidental injury. While our diagnosis can be right, sometimes, it is important to understand that these symptoms can also be caused by seemingly harmless factors like poor lighting, an uncomfortable chair or the repetition of detrimental movements. “Poor ergonomics can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which are debilitating, painful conditions affecting muscles, tendons, tendon sheaths and nerves. One of the most oft-cited MSDs is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a condition in which a nerve within a specific passageway in the wrist is pinched, causing an array of symptoms ranging from unpleasant to painful. These include numbness, tingling and sharp pain,” says Dr. Faraz Ahmed, Consultant Orthopedics and Spine surgeon and Director, Alleviate Pain and Spine Clinic.
Dr. Thirumalesh K Reddy, Sr. Consultant – Joint Replacement & Arthroscopic Surgery, Aster CMI Hospital says, “maintain your back in a normal, slightly arched position when sitting. Ensure that your lower back is supported by your chair. Try and keep the head and shoulders in an erect position. Opt for a workspace that is at the right height for your head so that you don’t spend long hours leaning forward. Once an hour, if possible, stand, and stretch. With your hands on your lower back, gently arch backward.” Dr. Amrithlal A Mascarenhas, Consultant Spine Surgery, Vikram Hospital, Bengaluru adds, “the computer screen has to be at eyelevel. A lower position compels the person to look downwards resulting in a stooped position which can be bad for the neck, eyes, and shoulders and lower back. Ensure that bony prominences that come in contact with hard surfaces are well padded with cushion/silicon sheets so as to avoid contact stress. The height of the tables must not be too low so as to avoid excessive bending action. Adequate lighting and ventilation is a fundamental requirement at any work place.” Ergonomics can improve productivity while ensuring you are healthy now that is a sure win-win situation.
Read the story that first appeared in Healthcare India’s September-October 2020 issue here: