The Importance of Ergonomics in Preventing Chronic Pain

Did you know that sitting at a desk has the potential to cause or worsen joint pain? While many people understand the importance of proper workplace posture to manage neck and back pain, not as many people are aware of the implications poor posture can have on their joints. However sitting 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week is more than enough time to stress your joints if you are not sitting properly. 

Chances are, you’ve at least heard of the term ergonomics, but how does this relate to joint pain? In case you don’t know, ergonomics is the study of how to make the workplace safer by maximizing comfort and minimizing behaviors that can result in injury. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that one of the most common workplace musculoskeletal disorders is the development of arthritis. While certain occupations, such as construction, agriculture, and service industries, are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis of the knee or hip, anyone who regularly stresses their joints during work hours are at risk. 

Unfortunately, many people don’t realize just how much joint damage prolonged periods of working in certain postures can cause. Many people make the assumption that if they work at a desk sitting all day, then they are not stressing their joints. This statement may be true for some individuals, however many people tend to work in unnatural positions without even realizing it. These positions place additional stress on certain joints that, over time, can lead to arthritis or other joint problems, as well as chronic pain from muscle strain. 

Every occupation has ergonomic principles that you can follow in order to maximize your workplace efficiency, while preventing discomfort and injury. For non-office occupations, there are specific guidelines based on the type of profession. For people who work in an office, here are a few tips on how to maintain your joints as you work: 

Keep Your Elbows at a 90 Degree Angle

When working at a desk, it is important to always keep your elbows at a 90 degree angle and your arms parallel to your spine. Holding your elbows at a 90 degree angle naturally drops your shoulder and prevents it from becoming unnecessarily strained throughout the day. Keeping your arms parallel to your spine also pushes your shoulder blades together and your chest out, which prevents you from hunching over your desk. In order to provide your elbows with additional support, you should buy a chair with armrests that can be adjusted to a height that keeps your elbows in the proper position. 

Feet on the Floor

As you work, you should also take special care to keep your feet placed evenly on the floor, with your knees at a 90 degree angle. Keeping your knees at a 90 degree angle reduces the amount of strain on your knees and hips, while sitting with your knees crossed or bent under you can place additional strain on the joint. Furthermore, keeping your feet on the ground prevents leg pain associated with having your legs hanging all day. If you cannot easily reach the floor, then invest in a footstool to plant your feet on top of. 

Check the Height of Your Workspace

The height of your chair and desk should allow you to sit comfortably with your elbows and knees both at 90 degree angles, and your feet on the floor or a footstool. Workspaces that are too tall or too short cause your body to contort into unnatural positions while you work, which negatively affects all the joints in the body. In particular, a chair that is too low will cause your knees to be constantly bent, which can cause knee pain and joint problems. 

Move 

Even if you practice proper ergonomics when sitting at your desk, it is still important to move somewhat frequently during the work day. This is because sitting for long periods of time, anywhere from 6-8 hours, has the potential to cause joint pain, stiffness, and muscle fatigue. To prevent these things from happening, make sure to stand up and stretch at least once every hour. At the end of the day, your joints will thank you. 

 

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