Ergonomics Simple Lessons: How to Save Your Back
While the majority of people act instinctively to minimise self-harm while working, the science of ergonomics goes further in considering quite specifically how task configuration and tool design can decrease the likelihood of injury.
- Always seek to keep the natural curves and perfect shape in your back. These curves provide strength and support for your back. This is especially important when lifting or when sitting for long period.
- Get as comfortable as you can in the car. Long commutes can be hard on your back. Adjust your seat and position your arms so that you can easily reach the steering wheel. Use a pillow in the seat if needed to support your lower back curve. Remember to stop to take stretch breaks when on a long trip.
- Warming Up for Work Just as an athlete prepares before playing a sport, you too should prepare before work to help prevent back injuries. These slow stretches help prevent back injuries and make your muscles more flexible. Hold each position for 20 seconds and repeat 3 times before work.
- Plan ahead before lifting. Check the weight first. A lot of injuries result from poor planning and overexertion.
- Keep objects close. A 10 pound bag of groceries can put 100 pounds of pressure on your lower back. Holding things away from your body greatly increases this pressure.
- When possible, use your hand and arm for added support when bending and lifting.Use a golfer’s lift to retrieve light objects, or when reaching into low containers like a hamper or shopping cart.
- Pivot with your feet when lifting and moving objects. Turn your whole body instead of twisting your spine – especially if you are holding something heavy. Your nose should always be in-line with your toes.
- Balance objects when you carry them. Use dollies and carts for heavy items whenever you can. Use your body weight to push the dolly or cart with your legs, rather than pulling with your back.
- When sitting, sit all the way back in the chair seat against the backrest. Let the chair do some of the work for you – no slumping allowed!
- Use a bookstand or a copyholder to elevate reading materials. Looking down puts a tremendous train on the neck and upper back.
- Change positions frequently when sitting or standing for prolonged periods.When standing, use a footstool to prop one foot up, and switch sides every so often. When at a sink or counter, see if you can open one of the cabinets and put one foot on the bottom shelf.
- Sleep on a firm mattress providing fine support. Place a pillow under than your knees when on your back, or between your knees if you are on your side.
- Stay on in excellent shape. Exercise. Do daily stretches and watch your weight. Extra weight, muscle weakness, or muscle imbalances due to tightness, can affect your posture and result in back discomfort or pain.
- Listen to your body! Be careful! Feeling discomfort or pain is an indication that something is wrong! Heed the signs! Combinations of awkward posture, force, repetitions, and insufficient rest periods are a set up for injury. Take more frequent “mini-breaks” before you become fatigued. Become aware of mounting stresses, aches and pains.