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Ergonomics

PROPER POSITIONING CAN IMPROVE PERFORMANCE

Raise your “manus” — Latin for hand — if you are a word nerd. I know “ego sum” — I am. If you are, too, the etymology of the word “ergonomics” might interest you. It derives from two Greek words: “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomos,” meaning natural law. Combined, these words form “ergonomics,” or the science of work and a person's relationship to that work.

Now raise your “manus” if you also work at a desk. Keep it up if you ever experience pain — whether in your lower back or carpal tunnel — after working for a few hours. Now keep it up if you have ever consulted an ergonomist. For those of you who suddenly lowered your hand, here’s an overview of ergonomics, starting with neutral posture.

Neutral posture is when the body is aligned and balanced, placing minimal stress on the body and keeping joints aligned. For those with desk jobs, this means anatomically maintaining 90- and 180-degree angles. For example, if seated, configure your work station so that your chair keeps your hips and knees in alignment and your desk allows for your elbows and wrists to be in alignment. Your shoulders and spine should be perpendicular to the floor. Your wrists, hands and thighs should be parallel to the floor.

FROM SEATED NEUTRAL POSITION, ASK YOURSELF THESE EIGHT QUESTIONS:

  • Is my neck upright versus bent down?
  • Is my head facing forward versus tilted or twisted?
  • Are my feet flat on the floor?
  • Does my chair offer lumbar — your lower back — support?
  • Does my seat pan fit properly? If your seat front presses against your knees, your seat pan is too long.
  • Is my mouse or trackpad within reaching distance, and does it fit the size and shape of my hand?
  • Is my computer monitor glare-free, facing directly forward (not askew to the left or right) and at eye level? You do not want to be gazing down or straining your neck.
  • Are all accessories — like document holders and writing utensils — within reach?
  • Do I have a hands-free telephone option to prevent placing my neck in an awkward position?

From a personal standpoint, as a professional writer I found that even when I answered yes to most of the above questions, I still experienced pain in my right hip. After consulting certified ergonomist Laura Fromdahl and doing my own product research, I opted to work from a FlexiSpot standing desk. Standing desks, if properly fitted, often promote neutral posture and increase productivity due to proprioception, or the sense that lets us perceive the location, movement, and action of parts of the body and helps with venous return to the heart, lymphatic system and co-contractions of all trunk musculature.

To really improve your ergononics, set a timer and at the top of every hour take a few minutes to move. This could mean filling your water bottle or something more energetic like taking a quick walk, doing body resistance work like holding plank pose for one minute, or stretching.


Becca Edwards is certified in several wellness modalities and the co-owner of Female IQ Podcast.