Maintaining proper posture throughout our daily activities will keep us healthy and performing at our best. Workplace ergonomics is the study of how our work area is set up to fit our bodies so that we can generate the most productive work.
Could you start by describing what the term workplace ergonomics means?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Sure. Ergonomics can really be defined simply as the study of work. More specifically, ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job. Adapting tasks, work stations, tools, equipment to fit the worker can help to reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious problems as far as disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Ergonomics draws from a number of scientific disciplines including physiology, biomechanics, psychology, industrial hygiene, and kinesiology. By putting this all together, it could really help minimize the effects of a bad work environment.
What are some common issues people have across various industries as a result of poor workplace ergonomics?
Dr. Chris Serafini: I’d say a lot of it starts with bad posture. They’re in bad posture while they’re performing their activity at work, and this leads to bad posture outside of work. A bigger issue, or a big issue as well, is what we reference as forward head posture. Most people that are at a computer for a long enough period of time, they start to get their head out in front of them. It’s like holding a bowling ball in front of you instead of over top of you. The most common issues relating to those particular bad postural habits is neck pain, headaches, fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, and low back pain because sitting is really the worst thing you can do for a bad low back.
Now for employers, are workplace ergonomic training programs available, and what do they entail?
Dr. Chris Serafini: I am a certified corporate wellness coach. They are certainly available. They mostly consist of proper ergonomic positioning, proper ergonomic equipment that is developed to really optimize the work stations for the person. Also, equipment as far as sitting on balls, standing desks, exercise programs. Believe it or not, as a corporate wellness coach I go out to different companies and corporations. Actually, believe it or not, a lot of times they have gyms on site. I was shocked to see this, but they do. That does not mean the person knows what to do once they’re in there. They might need some instructions, but they are available a lot of times.
In the absence of formal ergonomic training, what basic things should workers do on their own to make sure they have a healthy working environment and protect themselves from injury?
Dr. Chris Serafini: A lot of this, I would say, is common sense. You’re going to want to keep track of your posture. You’re going to want to make your work station as friendly posturally as you possibly can. Always working out and exercising on your own outside of the office is going to help you as well. Four elements that we typically use is we reference it as eyes to source. Where are your eyes in relationship to the source or your monitor? Hands to your input devices. Feet to the floor, and body to the chair. Those are really four elements that we like to look at that are pretty basic and simple. As long as you take some time and effort to analyze those and optimize those, those are very helpful.
With the rise of mobile devices, more and more people are working on mobile devices without a real desk. Can you describe what text neck is and why people of all ages should take it seriously and try to avoid getting it?
Dr. Chris Serafini: Sure. Text neck is really the term used to describe the neck pain and damage sustained from looking down at your cell phone, tablet, or other wireless devices too frequently and for too long. Using a mobile device can often lead to poor posture and symptoms of text neck. Text neck, obviously, neck pain, headaches, those kind of things, upper back pain, pain down into the arms.
It’s interesting, but Mayo Clinic says that forward head posture leads to long-term muscle strain, arthritis, disc herniations, and pinched nerves. Forward head posture is really what’s happening when you’re performing any kind of text neck scenario, your head in front of your body, instead of being over top of the body.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Chris Serafini, visit www.thescottsdalechiropractor.com or call 480-443-7678 to schedule an appointment.