September 27th, 2019
Upward mobility starts with ergonomics
MON. | 03-22-21 | OPINION
Since the beginning of the pandemic, a little over 90% of chiropractors have reported an increase in “neck pain, back pain or other musculoskeletal issues” from patients according to an April Facebook survey from the American Chiropractic Association. This increase is linked to the many more hours people have spent sedentary with a large transition to virtual platforms. Some had functional office areas set up pre-pandemic, but many more have had to improvise.
Working from bed had become commonplace, yet there are many side effects that have surfaced being over a year into the pandemic. According to study conducted in November 2020, just over 70% of 1,000 surveyed individuals confess to have been working from a bed since the beginning of the outbreak. When there is no longer any separation between places to work and places to relax, many become trained to work non-stop and are unable to fall asleep at
Graphic by Tierney Reardon
night. After all, sleeping in your office isn’t usually advisable. However, the effects extend beyond just mental and physical, and with increased at-home workspaces, many have begun to draw their attention to ergonomics.
Ergonomics is defined by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) to be “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among human and other elements of a system.” While seeming to be a basic skill, ergonomics is actually something that many people do not consider. Many of us were told to sit up straight as kids, but few were given insight into how to adjust to sitting for hours as we have had to do with online learning.
Certain ergonomic stressors, such as static postures, have become more prominent in the past year. Other stressors include repetition, force, extreme postures, contact pressure, vibration and cold temperatures which have all been found to contribute to Musculoskeletal Disorders. Fortunately, these stressors can be improved with intentional workplace modifications.
UNC categorizes the ‘fixes’ for these stressors as either engineering or administrative. Engineering controls include any physical changes that can be made to the surrounding environment, for example, standing desks. Administrative controls, on the other hand, are any decisions that one can make to improve their condition independently from their environment. Taking breaks or moving around every so often would both fall into this category.
With longer hours of sitting being linked to diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, standing desks have become widely popularized and for some they work wonders. Robert H. Shmerling, MD from the Harvard Health Blog, however, suggests that those looking into beginning to use a standing desk ease into the process, gradually increasing the time they spend standing. This way, the risk of developing new soreness in the back, legs or feet is minimized.
Personally, we both spend at least five to seven hours a day sedentary just on Zoom, making the application of an effective ergonomically aware environment that much more important. Because of this, we have had to be very intentional in modifying our working space to one which is as healthy as possible. Melanie Pinola of the New York Times had a variety of tips for improving the ergonomics of your workspace in addition to finding a proper chair, she recommends making sure that your computer is at eye level so that you are not craning your neck in any direction. She also suggests moving your keyboard so that “your forearms and wrists [are] parallel to the ground or angled down, as if you were typing with the keyboard on your lap.”
Especially with a move away from an in-person workspace, many companies have begun to implement and require ergonomics lessons to be taught to their employees. We feel that this sentiment should similarly be echoed by Pitt County Schools with training to allow students to be equipped with ergonomics information.