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home : health : health April 28, 2016

3/8/2011 1:42:00 PM
Avoid injury in the workplace or in your hobby
By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Working used to be really dangerous. Loggers were crushed by falling trees, industrial workers got fingers caught in machinery, farmers got caught in combines.

These things still happen, of course, but fewer and fewer of us are factory workers, loggers or farmers.

Many Americans now work at a computer station, and while that's not likely to be fatal, it can lead to some unpleasant injuries associated with bad posture and repetitive motion.

From carpal tunnel syndrome to neck, back and shoulder pain, the nagging injuries of the workplace are preventable if you take basic precautions.

Gary Keown of Physical Therapy Associates recommends paying attention to the ergonomics of your work station. Your hands and elbows should be aligned when you're working your keyboard; if you are set up so you are reaching up or down or flexing your wrists to type, change it.

Head position is critical. You should be looking straight at your screen. If you're looking up or down, your neck will pay for it. If necessary, put a phone book or a ream of paper under your monitor to raise it to an appropriate height.

Keown notes that many people find themselves craning their neck to see properly through their glasses while looking at their monitor screen. He says that it's well worth the investment to get a pair of computer glasses that give you the appropriate correction right in the center of the lens, rather than forcing you to look through (or over) the tops of your regular glasses or straining your neck to look through the bottom part of your bifocals.

Get those computer glasses and leave them at your station.

Movement is critical. Get up and walk around your desk; stretch out, maybe do a little exercise. Your boss won't mind; she doesn't want you wracked up so you can't come to work.

Your chair may be seriously messing up your back.

"I don't think the human body was made to sit. I really don't," says Dr. Bonnie Malone. "And what we sit on often exacerbates problems. I think most office chairs are horribly constructed. I think they're more for looks than proper body mechanics."

Investing in an ergonomic chair, anything that preserves the proper curves in your back, is worthwhile.

Back injuries are probably the most common workplace injuries for people who lift as part of their work, says Dr. Inice Gough.

"We actually go in and teach workers how to lift properly," she says.

Avoid twisting while lifting; use your legs rather than simply levering up with your back. Get in shape, so your abdominals and other core muscles protect your back.

Ergonomics in the workplace are important, Gough says.

"There are a lot of different areas in the office you can change," she says.

If you're leaning over too much or working consistently with your arms either too far out in front of you or too close in, you run the risk of injury. If you stand a lot, make sure you are standing on appropriate padding.

A little time taken in engineering your work space can save you a lot of time and aggravation dealing with injury.

In Sisters, there is a particular sector of the work force - actually the art force is more accurate - at particular risk for repetitive motion injuries: Quilters.

The joy of creation can really be impinged upon by neck, shoulder and back pain, hand and wrist disorders and the general creakiness that sets in from too much work in one position.

Malone sees many quilters with chronic pains and sprains, most of which can be relieved through improving posture and the ergonomics of the work space.

Staying active is critical to avoiding modern work injuries. As Malone says, motion is life and life is motion.

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