Posts tagged ergonomic

A Brief History: The Evolution of Ergonomics

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In the 1940s, an advancement of machinery and equipment during and post-World War II lead to a disharmony between people and the equipment they were using. There was an increased risk of human error and poor user performance. In order to avoid negative effects of human limitations, equipment had to be designed to take advantage of human capabilities consequently, establishing the scientific discipline we know today as Ergonomics. While the early focus of ergonomics was on aviation and aircraft controls, it has become a standard practice in designing computers, cars, and other consumer products.

With 33% of work-related injuries being caused by poor work station setup, occupational ergonomics is a top priority for many employers and employees. Over the years, there has been a shift in the way companies look at ergonomics. Companies were reactive when addressing proper ergonomics, oftentimes waiting to react to injuries or employee complaints, whereas today, the approach is proactive. Companies use tools, equipment, and best practices to prevent injuries and reduce the level of exposure. Companies are now encouraged to have integrated design phases, which take equipment, products, layout, and standard ergonomic guidelines into account when designing workspaces. Another shift in the discipline has been the method of assessment. Years ago, employees would attend classroom training sessions, in-person evaluations by a certified staff member, and chair-fitting rooms. Today, there is a stronger emphasis on employee-driven, in-office assessments. Chairs and workstations offer full range of adjustability, workstation design is based on computer use, and employees are able to assess and adjust their own workstations.

Here at Relax The Back, we continue to learn and improve our knowledge on ergonomics, and the tools and equipment that can be used to reduce and prevent injuries.  Read more information on ergonomics or visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained specialists about a free workstation assessment.

 

Maintaining Healthy Motion in the Office

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Modern office work consists primarily of static tasks: computer operation, reading, talking on the phone, or sitting in meetings. Ergonomic research has alerted us to the fact that our bodies thrive on motion, and that maintaining fixed positions for long periods of time will degrade our health.  There are excellent suggestions for modifying our office routines to incorporate more motion, such as taking brief movement breaks, working from a standing position, or just remembering to change our posture more often.  Is there any other type of movement that we can do without being distracted from our computer and desk work?

Fortunately there is, and you’re sitting on the answer.  When we sit down, we immobilize the largest and most powerful muscles in our body.  The muscles of the pelvis and thigh are designed for the constant work of moving and supporting the body’s weight, they aren’t meant to be cushions!  When these muscles are forced to remain inactive for long periods of time, they stop burning calories and accumulate waste products due to decreased circulation.  Since most of us can walk and chew gum at the same, it makes sense to allow our legs a greater range of motion while we are sitting.  This is the principle behind the Core-flex seating technology, to allow the natural alternating motion of the legs to be continued while we are sitting.

Research on postural sway shows that when we stand still, the body maintains a constant transfer of weight from side to side 2-3 times per minute (Duarte et al, 2011).  This is not surprising when we remember that walking is the most natural motion (and the best exercise) for the human body.  The alternation of weight from one leg to the other is also crucial for spinal health, as the tilting pelvis flexes the spine and activates core musculature.  The natural motion of the Core-flex seat activates the majority of the muscles in the legs and pelvis, but in a voluntary non-distracting manner.  If you can walk and talk on the phone at the same time, then you can work on your computer while maintaining intermittent motion in your legs and core.  These movements stimulate your metabolism, and can boost your mental and physiological performance all day long.

 

Steve Pearse is the inventor of the Core-flex seating technology, which is based on the principle that a healthy lifestyle requires movement throughout the day.  His background includes engineering, furniture design, fitness and recreation

 

 

 

Duarte, M., Freitas, S. M. S. F., & Zatsiorsky, V. (2011). Control of equilibrium in humans—Sway over sway. Motor control.  Oxford University Press, Oxford, 219-242.

Sciatica

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Many Relax The Back customers come to us seeking pain relief for various back and neck conditions. One of the top reasons is Sciatica – a term used to describe symptoms caused by compression of the sciatic nerve. This nerve originates in the lower back and travels down the back of legs into each foot.

Common symptoms include:

  • Varying pain (mild aches/tingling to sharp, burning sensations) that most often occurs in one leg
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness in parts of the hip and leg
  • Worsening pain made by coughing, sneezing, sitting, or standing

Because sciatica is a symptom of another medical condition (i.e. degenerative disc disease and lumbar spinal stenosis), the underlying cause should be identified and treated. Doctors will run a physical and neurological examination to look for limitations of movement, balance difficulties, and what exacerbates and relieves pain. During the exam, your doctor will test your reflexes, muscle strength, sensations, or other signs of neurologic loss. Your doctor may order imaging studies such as plain x-ray, CT, or MRI to study and confirm your diagnosis to direct your treatment plan.

Usually, one or more non-surgical treatments are very effective at relieving symptoms. These include:

  • Medications to reduce inflammation and pain – this includes over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Cold/heat therapy – Try ice for the first 48-72 hours, followed by heat. We recommend our Moji Back Pain Relief System, which can be discretely worn under your clothes. It helps relieve pain and tension with both heat and cold therapy precisely where you need it most.
  • Therapy – Incorporate stretching via inversion therapy to increase flexibility. Inversion allows your sciatic nerve to elongate thereby reducing pressure.
  • Ergonomics – Maintain a good posture at rest and work. Check out our top recommendations for a whole body approach to an ergonomic workstation.
  • Sleep in fetal position – It’s best to sleep in a semi-fetal position with a pillow between your legs. Our Snoozer Body Pillow provides comfort and ergonomic support from your neck to your feet for a deep, relaxing sleep.

5 New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthier Spine

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If 2012 was marred by back and neck pain, add these 5 resolutions to your list. Remember, your spine connects many nerves, muscles and ligaments throughout the body, making spinal health key to your overall health.

1. Resolve to cherish sleep
While sleeping, your spine finally has an opportunity to relax and repair itself. Try sleeping in a neutral position on your back or on the side to avoid forcing any extra curves into your back. Make sure you have a supportive pillow and mattress to properly and comfortably sleep in a neutral position. This way, your body can take full advantage of restorative sleep and more easily be able to relax.

2. Resolve to stretch
Tight muscles can cause imbalances in bodily structure, increasing the risk of injury and causing pain. In particular, tight muscles around the spine cause spinal stress instead of providing adequate spinal support. Also, tight hamstrings can pull the pelvis out of its normal alignment with the spine, causing back and joint pain. Consider stretching your spine via inversion therapy – effective and only takes a couple minutes.

3. Resolve to be active
Different types of exercise protect the spine in different ways. For example, abdominal exercises strengthen the core area, which support and protect the spine. Cardio helps shed extra weight that drags down on ligaments, muscles, and tendons of the lower back. Exercise helps the healing process, so for those sidelined by injury, make it a priority to stay active within your physical means.

4. Resolve to create a spine-healthy work environment
For full-time office workers, lower back pain may be a result of poor workplace ergonomics. From sitting on a chair with good back support to avoiding prolonged sitting, all systems, levels, and angles must work together for an ergonomic workstation. For more information, check out our infographic on how to design your workspace for maximum movement, flexibility, comfort, and productivity.

5. Resolve to stay hydrated
We all know water is vital, but don’t underestimate its importance to the spine. Our spinal discs can shrink over time if they don’t get enough water, resulting in less “padding” and increased likelihood of spinal ruptures or bulges. Resolve to choose water as your accompanying beverage of choice at meals, and sip liberally throughout the day.

Is Your Workspace a Pain in the Back?

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Is your workspace designed for maximum movement, flexibility, comfort and productivity? Relax The Back believes that work should never be a pain. Visit your local store and ask our trained neck-and-spine experts how to construct an ergonomic office. If you’re far from one our locations, check out these important guidelines and conduct your own ergonomic assessment:

Relax The Back Ergonomic Office Setup