If you’re anything like me, you might spend long hours sitting at a desk, in a library or in an office, or maybe at your own kitchen table. Whatever the case, it can be very easy to get a sore back and neck from bad ergonomic design in your chair and work space. I know that especially as a college student, I’m sitting in a cramped classroom on plastic chairs, or in a cramped dorm room, or even in a library not always designed with ergonomics in mind. Here are six ways that you can use ergonomics to help you avoid injury at school or work.
1. Where are you sitting?
When you lock into long study sessions or are trying to crank out a paper or report, you need to make sure that you’re in the right chair. Sit up straight or lean slightly back against your chair with your knees at a 90 degree angle. Make sure that your chair is adjusted so that you’re not looking straight down at whatever you’re working on.
2. Don’t put a crick in your neck.
Working at desk or just sitting and studying, reading or writing can really do a number on your neck. If you can, raise your computer so that the top of the screen is at eye level. Sit up straight when you read, or lean comfortably back in a chair with your book closer to eye level. Make sure that your chair is at the right height for your desk, and if you’re reading outside or in a park, try to lean against something and rest your book or reading material on your knees so that you’re not bending your neck too drastically to read.
3. Move and Groove!
Make sure to get up and walk around during work at least once every half hour. Your back, legs, neck, shoulders, and arms can get sore and stiff from sitting down too long, so take a brisk walk around your office, dorm hall, wherever works best for you, so long as you get moving! Your brain works better and you’re able to think more clearly when there’s blood pumping through your veins.
4. Give those peepers a break.
Staring at a paper on your computer screen is about the worst thing you can do for your eyes. Remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Blink, let your gaze roam for a little bit, and then resume work. During high school, I had focusing muscles in my eye lock up because I was looking at a computer screen for too long and it was giving me eye soreness and tension. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Give your eyes a break once in a while.
5. When at your desk…
If you are in college do yourself a favor: save your back and neck now. They will be in better shape later. Work at a space where you don’t have to lean or twist to look at a paper; use a document holder instead. Keep your wrists straight and at a comfortable angle on your desk. Put something between your back and the back of the chair so your lower back is more aligned and less likely to hunch over. Don’t balance your laptop in bed-leave it at your desk or work space. Studies show that working at your laptop in bed can have pretty negative effects.
6. Shine your collarbones!
You might have heard these and other such sayings if you do yoga, but they may indeed be onto something! Stretching of any kind can be massively helpful, especially for those of us cuddled up to a laptop or desk all day long. Take time to stretch, and when you do, really stretch. There are countless tutorials on how to stretch safely without hurting yourself, and countless more articles and resources on different kinds of stretches, depending on which area of the body you want to target.
Want to learn more about ergonomics? Take our Healthcare Ergonomics course. Who needs to know about ergonomics, and who would greatly benefit from taking this course?
- Adult Foster Care
- Home Health Care Aids
- Nurse Practitioners
- Physical Therapists
- X-Ray Technicians
- Other Healthcare Professionals