Computer Ergonomics

At least 70 percent of America’s 30 million elementary school students use computers, according to a recent New York Times article. As a result of this increased usage, doctors of chiropractic are treating more young patients suffering from the effects of working at computer stations that are either designed for adults or poorly designed for children. Many children are already suffering from repetitive motion injuries (RMI) such as carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic pain in the hands, back, neck and shoulders.

A recently published study conducted by a team of researchers from Cornell University found that 40 percent of the elementary school children they studied used computer workstations that put them at postural risk. The remaining 60 percent scored in a range indicating “some concern.”

“Emphasis needs to be placed on teaching children how to properly use computer workstations,” stated Dr. Scott Bautch, of the American Chiropractic Association’s Council on Occupational Health.

“Poor work habits and computer workstations that don’t fit a child’s body during the developing years can have harmful physical effects that can last a lifetime. Parents need to be just as concerned about their children’s interaction with their computer workstations as they are with any activities that may affect their children’s long-term health,” added Dr. Bautch.

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Mouse-Intensive Ergonomics

Jobs such as graphic design, architecture, and computer-aided design rely heavily on the mouse and have their own unique ergonomic issues. These jobs and others that require workers to spend countless hours in front of computers while barely ever changing position are a recipe for injury. Consider the following factors to help change poor work habits and risk factors.

Use the Mouse or Input Device Safely
The further you reach to hold and use the mouse, the more strain you place on your neck. There are alternative techniques and equipment that may improve your mousing.

• Change your position to keep your elbows relaxed at your sides with the mouse directly in front of you, not to the side.
• For precision tasks, move the mouse from the wrist, not the fingers. For tasks not requiring as much precision, try to move the whole arm to avoid overuse.
• Make sure the mouse fits your hand. If it is too small, squeezing the mouse may cause hand cramping. This also places strain on your wrist and may cause pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel.
• Remove watches or bracelets that interfere with movement.
• If you keep resting on your wrist, consider putting a thin gel pad under it for support.
• Adjust your cursor speed. If it is too fast, you will grip the mouse tighter to gain control. If it is too slow, you will repeatedly grasp and pick up the mouse to reposition it.

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Sleep Ergonomics

“Sleep ergonomics” refers to our postures and positions during sleep. They either help us rest in safe mechanical positions for joints or they stress joints to the point that we wake up with more aches and pains than we fell asleep with. Sleeping position matters. Poor-quality sleep is proven to negatively affect overall health.

Sleeping Positions to Reduce Back Pain
It is possible and desirable to take strain off your back by making simple changes in sleeping posture. The healthiest sleeping position is on your side. If that’s how you sleep, draw your legs up slightly toward your chest and put a pillow between your legs. Some people even use a full-length body pillow to help maintain balance. Try not to put weight on your arms. This causes circulatory problems and a related pins-and needles sensation. Instead, try crossing them in a braced position.

If you sleep on your back, it is best to place a pillow under your knees to help maintain the normal lower back curvature. You might try placing a small rolled towel under the small of the back for more support. Be aware that sleeping on your stomach is generally bad for your back. In this position, the cervical spine undergoes considerable strain, which can cause nerve compression, muscular imbalance and muscle pain. If you can’t sleep any other way, reduce the strain on your back by placing a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen. Also place a pillow under your head if it doesn’t cause back strain. Otherwise, try sleeping without a head pillow.

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Truck Drivers Ergonomics

Whether it’s long-haul transport or local beverage delivery, truck driving is one of the hardest jobs on the body. Not only are the long hours of sitting hard on truck drivers’ backs, but so are all their other tasks. It is easy to overlook the heavy toll that securing loads, stacking hand trucks, or handling freight can have on the body. In fact, truck driving is always at or near the top of OSHA’s list of professions for lost work due to injury. The good news is that there are several things you can do to lessen the risk of injury.

Tips for Driving
• Vary your seat position slightly every 30 to 60 minutes to vary the stress on your body.
• Change hand position on the steering wheel often. Do not squeeze harder than necessary.
• Use a steering wheel cover to protect your hands from a cold wheel.
• Use a gel seat cushion if the truck vibrates too much.

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Workplace Ergonomics

Since ancient times, people have known that movement is an essential part of life. Today, a typical office worker sits at a desk for eight hours a day—probably with poor posture—and seldom stands up. Whenever the requirements of a job do not match the physical attributes of a worker, the worker is more prone to injury and lost productivity.

Workplace injuries, a common cause of time off, cost employers and employees billions of dollars every year. Some of the more common workplace injuries are carpal tunnel syndrome (a nerve entrapment at the wrist seen in computer users), low-back pain, tendinitis, bursitis, and neck pain or headaches.

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Text Neck Ergonomics

Americans sent 110 billion text messages in December 2008, according to the Census Bureau. As technology advances, allowing us to do more tasks on smaller equipment, our bodies often pay the price. With a growing potential for injuries from technologies that we rely on, it’s important to minimize the risks.

One problem that is becoming more prevalent is neck strain from the over-use of mobile devices, or “text neck.”

What Causes Text Neck?
Text neck is caused by poor posture when using a mobile device. It’s all too common to become hunched over with your head drooping forward and your shoulders rounded as you become engrossed in your messaging or games.

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