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Ergonomics Made Easy


By Dan Gordon '85, Illustrations by Brian Rea

Published Jan 1, 2011 8:30 AM

Straight Talk

Your parents and teachers were onto something with all those lectures about the importance of good posture. In ergonomics, this means establishing a "neutral" position that reduces muscle and tendon trauma and strain.

For maximum comfort, make sure your head is level and balanced, shoulders relaxed, back and feet fully supported. When performing a task such as typing on the keyboard, keep your elbows close to your body and bent at somewhere near 90 degrees, your fingers relaxed and slightly curved, and your wrists flat, as they would be if you put them on the desk.

Keep Things Moving

Find an ideal position … and then find another one, because no matter how perfect they may be, prolonged, static postures take their toll on the human body. Similarly, when performing any repetitive task, change positions frequently so you rest different muscle groups.

Remove your hand from the mouse at regular intervals to avoid long gripping periods. Burt recommends following the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take at least a 20-second break, shift and look 20 feet away to rest your eyes. If you spend a lot of time working in front of the computer, get away from it during your lunch break.

And be sure to set up your work schedule so you don't have to remind yourself when it's time to move.

Home Stretch

It's the rule of opposites: If you stand for your work, take a seat. If you sit all day, perform stretches that move you into the converse position — in other words, if you've been leaning forward, typing on your computer, do a back extension.

Rest Easy

Want to learn more about how to stay supple on the job? How about adjusting your chair? Exercises that keep you limber at the office? Take an online self-assessment? Check out the UCLA Ergonomics website for these and many other tips.

Get the blood circulating and relieve stiff muscles through stretches that ensure movement for different parts of the body that tend to tense up: the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, back and spine.

Heed the Warnings

If you're experiencing swelling, tingling or numbness in your hands; aches that don't go away overnight; headaches or any other early signs that you're headed for bigger problems, pay heed. Warns Burt: "Too many people don't think about taking precautions until it's too late."