Some of the issues that clients bring to their massage therapists may simply be due to everyday environmental influences that create pain over time. The science of ergonomics may serve to improve some of these common strains, both at work and at home. Ergonomics is a method of making small adjustments to posture, the work space and other elements of daily life in order to prevent repetitive strain and other such insidious injuries. We will focus in this article on ways office workers and parents can improve their ergonomics.
If you’re concerned about whether repetitive strain, poor posture or other factors may be leading to injury, warning signs to look for in places like the neck, shoulders, back or hip include numbness or tingling, soreness or tenderness, pain, swelling, weakness or a cold sensation.
Many office employees are familiar with how to use ergonomics in their desk environment in order to minimize pain. For example, one should keep their forearms parallel to their desk surface as they work, preferably using properly raised or lowered chair arms, and not have any upward angle of the hands at the wrists, in order to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Feet should rest comfortably on the floor or on a foot rest, with the upper legs parallel to the floor, while sitting. Computer monitors should be positioned such that the eyes gaze across toward the top of the screen and can move downward from there, in order to keep the neck at a neutral position. Frequent breaks should be taken, including looking away from computer monitors and getting up from the desk.
But such tips and tricks also can be useful at home. For parents, one of the most common injuries or strains can be from lifting and carrying young children as they grow increasingly heavy. With increased weight comes increased risk of injury. A good rule of thumb is to cut down on carrying them after they reach walking age, in order to prevent arm, wrist, shoulder and lower back injuries for the parents, grandparents or older siblings. As an alternative to this behavior, try kneeling, squatting or bending down to their level to communicate with or hug them. Parents seeking to maintain a sense of attention and attachment without creating undue body stress can also lightly touch their child’s arm, or sit with them and hold them in their lap.
For parents who still must pick up their young child, general ergonomics techniques are still applicable; bend with the knees, while keeping the back straight, rather than bending from the back while keeping the knees straight. Don’t pick up a child on one side and put them on one hip; this can cause alignment and balance issues. Try positioning yourself directly in front of them before lifting, and if you carry the child on one hip, try alternating hips frequently.
When putting a child in a car seat, the most important thing to remember is to keep the seat itself as close to the body as possible; the further one has to lean to put a child in a seat, the greater strain is placed on the lower back.