Posts Tagged ‘Ergonomics’

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Proper ergonomics for computer work. Image by Wikipedia

Want new info on making your office at home or work more ergonomics? Check out Ergonomics Info here.

The site provides tips on ergonomic consideration for desktop computer users, laptop computer users and ideal monitor, chair and desk position to help those that work more than 2 hours a day on computers. For computer ergonomic tips, click here.  The site also includes chair reviews, keyboard and mouse reviews. The site also has a great graphic that shows proper seating positioning at a computer workstation. Go to this link and then scroll to the bottom of the page to see the graphic!

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Massage therapists see many people with neck and shoulder pain. In the U.S., a large proportion of people either work at a computer all day. A pain pattern I see commonly from those that place their keyboards far away from the edge of the desk and set papers in front of them on the desk before the keyboard. Then they lean far over the paper to type. This can result in tight and painful muscles in the middle of the back.

An easy and inexpensive fix for this is to buy a document holder and use it to stand your papers or books upright, at a slight angle so that you can see your documents and still have your keyboard closer to you as you type. I’ve provided a list of the best document stands I could find on Amazon below.

Jasmine Book Stand (Bookstand / Bookstands / Holder / Cookbook / Music)

$29.99 at Amazon click here.

Amazon reviewers say:

• This book stand is so amazing! As a graduate student, it has made all the difference in the world with my reading and research. It makes it much easier to take notes; it can accommodate quite thick books; it is very sturdy; and, it is a great size. My reading and note taking are happening with greater ease and speed. This is a wonderful product! C roberts

• I have degenerative disc disease in my cervical spine and I can hold my head in only one direction for longer than 5 minutes–straight ahead. I am a student and have a lot of reading to do. This bookstand has saved me a lot of pain and discomfort, allowing me to maintain good posture while I study. I highly recommend this product to anyone with neck pain.  j hunter

• I purchased this stand to hold thick textbooks, and it is exactly what I wanted. As an added benefit, I also use it to hold my computer tablet. Now I’m considering getting another one.  Sydney

• I’m a nursing student, and I got this stand because I was getting neck aches from studying so much. This stand put a prompt end to that! It is sturdy, easy to use, and it works well at my computer desk for my online class. I can easily set my book at a 45 degree angle to my computer screen and a bit to the side, and I can see the screen, the textbook, and have my binder open in front of my screen to follow along during a lecture. It is lightweight and stores fairly flat, too. I love it!  R H May

• I use this bookstand in front of my computer at work to hold file folders while I type letters and reports, etc. It’s excellent for this. Some of the files can be a little thick and heavy; this book stand holds up. It’s made much better than the one I had before that was made from plastic and had bent under the weight of the files over time. I don’t see that happening with this stand. I do wish the tray was slightly deeper to hold even thicker files (or books), but overall I’m very happy with it. In spite of its strength, it is very light weight, but a little bulky if you plan to carry it around with you a lot. I would definitely recommend this book stand to my family and friends.  SS

• This is a steal for $30. The best part is the smooth surface finish and the solid feel of the assembly. The main hinge assembly is made of black plastic, but it is very rigid and the screws are metal. Another great feature is that the stand folds up flat so that you can put it in a backpack or a large notebook bag. I went to the library today and whipped it out onto a desk. The clips that hold the pages in place are nice too: firm enough to keep the pages down but not too strong so as to be a nuisance when turning pages. I’m definitely recommending this to all my friends who are students or who are serious readers.  Mpay

Fellowes Kopy-Aid Black Letter Copyholder (11053)

$24.88 at Amazon, click here.

I like this stand because its affordable and because it’s metal, it is most likely easier to write on if you need to take notes.

Amazon reviewers say:

• Top of the line document holder. I use the Fellowes Kopy-Aid both at home and work. I’d be lost without it. I do accounting and bookkeeping entries and nothing beats the moveable magnetic line guide. I highly recommend the Fellowes Kopy-Aid. J. Ferrero “MontanaJoe”

• I purchased this after my plastic on broke for the second time. It is very stable and won’t be likely to break or turn over like the ones I have used previously. I like the way the magnetic line guide fits at the side. Easy to use on one sheet or 20 semi-rumpled sheets. Patricia Adcock

• This item was pretty sturdy and help avoid a stiff neck when copying something. It was delivered on time and in good condition. The price is right. Edgardo P. Yamsuan

Portabook Message Board and Multifunctional Book and Laptop Stand (Light Gray)

Price on Amazon $12.99 click here.

Amazon reviewers say:

• This is the 4th or 5th Portabook I’ve purchased. I recommend them to massage clients and give them to friends and family. The Portabook is lightweight and easy to pack into a backpack along with laptop. It holds books, papers and lap taps easily. A set of coated rubber bands holds large books or a laptop keyboard in place. Using the Portabook relieves neck and shoulder pain caused by looking down at papers and books. It can also be used to hold a laptop at an angle that is easier to viewing the screen. However, it’s best to plug-in an extended keyboard in this setup or you ave to type with your arms up to your shoulders!

We only broke one Portabook after 2 years of constant use. For such an inexpensive and lightweight product 2 years of use is pretty good. I highly recommend the Portabook if you want an easy way to hold books and papers at an angle while you read. Wellness Woman

Roberts 732310000 Book Holder

$35.25 at Amazon click here.

Fellowes Flex Arm Weighted Base Copyholder Platinum/Graphite

$26.23 at Amazon, click here.

I am leery of this stand but it does offer the flexibility of allowing you to position your document where its easiest for you to view. the down side is that the stand takes up a lot of room and that these types of arms tend to be flimsy and break often as noted by Amazon reviewers.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

In an effort to be as relevant as possible to my readers, I want to take a short poll to see which topics you’d like me to write more about. I wish I had good news about the Wii Fit and a Tai Chi module, but sadly, no news…YET!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, let me know what you are interested in. What burning questions do you have about massage, fitness, nutrition, wellness coaching, stress management, workplace wellness, ergonomics or any other topic you think might be relevant to your wellness.

If this is your first time to my blog or if you are an infrequent reader, I’d love to have you back more often. Tell me what you want to read more about!  Feel free to take the poll and/or provide comments in the comment section.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

A while ago I wrote about the ergonomic problems inherent is using the new iPad (and iPods and even reading books can put you in the same uncomfortable positions) Some people have theorized that Apple is counting on aftermarket vendors to come up with ergonomic products to support the nifty gadgets Apple creates.  And there are a slew of aftermarket products coming out now to make your “iViewing” more ergonomic. Below is a list of some of the aftermarket products I’ve found to help you more comfortably view your iPad, smart phone, etc.

Portabook is still one of my favorites for its light weight portability, versatility, ease of use and cost. It’s not designed specially for the iPad, but it can be used to read books, cookbooks, for laptop use as well as your iPad. Why buy multiple stands when one device can work for them all! And the Portabook costs about $20 and weighs only ounces so it fits into a backpack along with your iPad easily. Hmmm, if my clients use the iPad and Portabook on the Metra their neck pain may disappear!

iLounge has a great review of a more versatile iPad holder here. iLounge recommends the Luxa2’s H4 iPad Holder  for its versatility, price and polish. iLounge says that the H4 is “an iPad-matching aluminum base with a cable managing slot, and a rotating, pivoting cradle with expanding rubber-tipped metal arms that can hold a bare or encased iPad as firmly as you prefer…it feels solid and sturdy even without an iPad resting in its cradle; but unlike Griffin’s A-Frame, all of its edges are polished to prevent iPad or finger damage.”

MacWorld also weighs in on the various aftermarket iPad stands. Their top vote mirrors that of iLounge: the Luxa2 H4 iPad Holder. Check out their other reviews here.

A fantastic story and video about this iPad stand designed and made by  75-year-old Dutch woodworker, Simon Blazer, is only $5!  Reviewed by Wired and CrunchGear already, this simply wooden block stand is what it is-just a stand. But ti’s also only $5.

Simon Blazer and his $5 wooden iPad stand

The Articulating Easel has one of the best web presentations about the ergonomics of iPad viewing here. Their product looks very similar to the Portabook but as of today, according to the website, its’ not yet available. Ha!  So you can subscribe to their mailing list and get a 10% discount on the product when it becomes available. I’d guess it will likely retail for about the same price as the PortaBook, maybe $20 to $30. But with so many other products ALREADY available, the Articulating Easel may be marketing for the competition.

The Artculating Easel in use with an iPad

The  picture below shows the Articulating Easel in use on a plane. This is a great pic because it shows how much better you can sit using an iPad holder (although the Portabook could be used much the same way.)

Here’s the Articulating Easel’s diagram showing Steve Jobs uncomfortable viewing angle with the iPad:

Steve Jobs viewing angle of iPad

The Articulating Easel also has a great page showing ergonomic issues with the iPad (and how aftermarket stands like the Articulating Easel can help!) Check out the ergonomic explanation here.

iGearUSA sells leather case that can hold the IPad and stand it up at a more comfortable viewing angle. Cost about $30.00. Check it out and order here.

iGear iPad Stand

There is also an iPad Holder for your car. Which I DO NOT recommend. It’s bad enough that we are distracted by cell phones, board advertising, and GPS systems. now we are going to use the iPad in our cars? A scary marriage of social networking (which is already a distracting, multitasking activity) with something dangerous like operating a motor vehicle. I see the day when municipalities and state governments ban iPad use in your car!

If you have an iPad, tell us about your ergonomic issues in the Comments section. Do you like/love/hate the iPad? What do you use it for? What is your most comfortable iPad viewing position? (Downward facing dog?!)

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I have a number of corporate clients that come in for short tune up massages on either the chair or massage table each week. Invariably I hear the same complaints: my neck hurts, my shoulders hurt, my head hurts. Then I ask them, aside from computer work, do you have a smart phone? (iPhone, Blackberry, Android, etc.) Often the answer for those with the worst neck pain is: yes.

Megan Bubenyak, offered to let me photograph her in the “bad” iPhone viewing position, then in the modified, more comfortable position I recommend for smart phone viewing on the bus, train or subway.

In the first pic, Megan’s head is leaning too far forward and her arms are doing all the work to hold the phone up to her face.

Poor Smart Phone Ergonomics

In this second pic, Megan has balanced a backpack on her lap and uses it to wedge her elbows in. In this position, she can sit more upright, more comfortably hold her phone in front of her face and her arms and shoulder’s don’t have to do all the work to hold the phone up.

Better Smart Phone viewing position on public trans

If you don’t have a backpack, a purse will do. If you have neither, go ahead and invest in a cheap backpack and a small travel pillow. Stuff the pillow in the backpack and then viola! You have a comfy portable smart phone holder that is lightweight and as a bonus, it holds “stuff” for you too!

Close up of comfy backpack smart phone holder position

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Common shot of iPad showing only users lap. Image from Flickr.

By Sue Shekut, Owner,  Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist,  Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I’ve been noticing iPad advertisements all over town. I see iPads on billboards, ads on my computer and on television. Notice how the ads don’t show people sitting and using the iPad. They show people’s laps and legs and then a close up the iPad. Hmm, why hide the necks and shoulders of iPad users? My guess, because sitting hunched over a small but relatively heavy iPad makes people look pretty uncomfortable.

Ned Batchelder has a great post on the ergonomic issues of the new iPad here. Ned shows a video of someone using the iPad to make slides that shows just how awkward it is to use the iPad for data creation. Commenters say that hey, the iPad isn’t designed to be a data creation device but a data consumption device.  Do we really need separate devices for each use?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Apple fan. I’ve been using Macs since they first came out (Does anyone remember the old SE30’s with the 9″ monochrome monitor. That’s where I started. And interestingly enough that’s about the time I started needing to see a chiropractor, too.) But as slick as Apple’s touch screen iPod’s and iPad s are and are, they really cause a world of hurt for users’ necks and shoulders.

Whats Wrong With iPad?

1. iPad/iPod devices are small and relatively lightweight. So at first glance you may think, hey, it won’t hurt me, it’s a device under 1 pound. But that one pound gets pretty heavy if you hold it up over time.

Try this exercise. Hold a 1 pound weight up in front of your body for 5 minutes. Bet you can’t do it. The 60 seconds may be pretty easy. But as the clock ticks, the weight gets heavier and heavier. Now think about holding that weight for an hour. Two hours.  Even try holding just a real apple for ten minutes in front of you. (An edible apple I mean.) After a while your arm gets too heavy. It’s not so much the weight of the apple or the device that gets you. It’s the weight of holding your arm in front of you for long periods.

A Woman Named Rachel "holding" the Apple logo. Image from Flickr, luckmontague's photostream.

Even though the woman above is not holding any weights, just keeping her arm up will make her arm and shoulders fatigue. quickly. It’s unlikely you anyone would use their iPad in this position, but it gives you an idea of how heavy your arm can be.

2. The “iDevices” are small and to see the screen you have to bend over them. Your neck has to crane to position your eyes over the keypad. I watched a client use her new iPad yesterday. Even though she was sitting in a comfy overstuffed chair, with her legs up, resting the iPad on my knees, she still had to lean far forward and look down at the device.   Thanks Apple for keeping massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors and orthopedic docs busy for years to come!

Even Steven Jobs will need  a neck and shoulder massage after using the iPad!  Notice in the photo below that he is holding the iPad in his hands away from his lap unlike ads for the iPad where we see people holding the iPad on their laps. It’s a trade off in whether his neck gets tired faster from craning forward or his arms and shoulders from holding the iPad closer to his face.

Even Steve Jobs Looks Uncomfortable Using the iPad Image from curiouslee at Flickr.

3. The touch screen is “cool” but it requires you to move your arm in front of your body at an awkward angle. using a keyboard already causes users to tighten their pectoral (chest) muscles a great deal. Tighter pectoral muscles often leads to muscle tension in muscles in the upper back and neck. Why? These back muscles have to compensate for the pec muscles literally pulling your body forward.

Notice how the young man pictured below is leaning far forward over his keyboard? He is engaging his pectoral muscles and the muscles in the back of his neck and upper back are straining to hold him upright. I feel safe to say he may have some neck and shoulder pain from this position. You may think your posture is much better than his But then thick about how you sit if you work on a iPad or iPod!

Image from NatBat at Flickr

I don’t doubt that the new iPad will necessitate a whole slew of new products designed to hold your iPad at a more ergonomic position. Until these come out, I recommend you use the good old Porta Book to hold your iPad at a comfortable viewing angle. The Posta Book is inexpensive, about $20, and lightweight. And it’s available here.

Or if you have a common house cat, you can make use of your pet as an iPad holder. One man did in the pic below!

Image from Flickr.

More articles on iPad ergonomics

The ErgoLab’s Apple iPad Part Deux: Don’t Shoot The Messenger
Donald Clack Plan B, iPAD: ergonomic disaster – end of story

The ErgoLab: The Apple iPad; this Apple has a few worms.

Business Inside SAI: Apple Still Hasn’t Fixed The Big Problem With The iPad: It Looks Really Uncomfortable To Use

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From Spinehealth.com
October 29, 2009
by: Sylvia Marten

Having the best designed and most ergonomically-friendly office equipment may not necessarily mean much for preventing back pain, neck pain and other pain if such equipment is out of sync with your workstation, as confirmed in a recent study that provides a great forum for examining how you can adjust an office chair to your work environment.

Detailed in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a new study found that workers who received not only new ergonomic office furniture but professional set-up by an ergonomist had less symptoms of musculoskeletal pain and eyestrain 18 months later than those workers who had to set up their new furniture on their own based off instructions.

Now what if your employer can’t afford to hire a professional ergonomist to visit your office during these tough economic times? Well, there are still many ways to be proactive when setting up your office chair and desk just right to your needs and the principles of ergonomics.

Understand the Ultimate Goal


ergonomic chair

Having a special chair is often viewed as the be-all, end-all of correct office ergonomics. While an ergonomically-designed chair can certainly do wonders, remember that the ultimate goal is to achieve balance between finding a work chair that fits you, provides good support and minimizes stress on the back, and using it correctly in relation to your work environment.

Before providing instant analysis of your chair, examine other factors, including your optimal desk level, how you sit, and the height of your computer screen, and strive to improve on these areas.

Get Suited to Your Work Surface
Rather than just going out and buying a new chair, ask yourself “what type of chair will fit your work station?”

Examine how long you sit all day and how you sit at your desk.

Are you semi-seated (similar to sitting on a bar stool) or do you sit straight up? Do you need to adjust your chair? Where is your computer in relation to your body?

Determine your appropriate work surface (which takes into account the position of your arms, elbows and hands in relation to your desk’s height and your laptop or desktop computer) and be sure to have a chair that allows you to attain this specific height.

The correct surface level can vary from profession to profession (for example, architects and draftsmen often prefer to sit higher), and the final decision as to what’s appropriate is thus determined by each individual.

Become a Series of Right Angles While Sitting and Typing ergonomic deskt arrangement

Sit down straight and as close and comfortable as possible to your desk, with your upper arms parallel to the spine and your hands rested on the work surface.

At this point, take a step back and examine whether your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. If they are not, adjust your office chair higher or lower as deemed fit.

Also make sure that your legs are bent at the knees at a 90 degree angle. Try to maintain this ideal sitting posture as much as possible, and if you find yourself slacking, give yourself a break by getting up and stretching.

Don’t Sit Too High Unless Necessary
Did you know that all of our ankles swell up anywhere from 6 to 8 percent by the end of the day, but for patients with back, leg or circulation problems, this swelling can jump from 10 to 15 percent, especially if sitting in a chair that is too high and leaves the feet dangling?

Generally speaking, a seat height ranging from 16 to 21 inches off the ground is suitable for most workers. To tell whether your chair is too high or at the right height for the desk surface, slide your finger underneath your thigh at the front end of the chair.

If this proves easy to do, your chair is likely at a good height. However, if this proves difficult, your chair is likely too high, which can put extra pressure on your feet and require you to proceed to the next tip.=

Boost Your Feet in Certain Situations
In situations where you have to lift your feet off the ground because of a chair or even a desk that is too high, or where the chair height is right but you’re not that tall, consider using a foot stool to prop and rest your feet as opposed to leaving them hanging all day long.

Such action will reduce both pressure on the feet and the likelihood of foot pain at the end of the day.
Raise Your Work Surface When Applicable
Standard seats should allow for 2-4 inches between the back of the knees and chair.
However, if you’re a taller worker, you may be familiar with this problem: your chair seat is not long enough for your thighs, which have too much space underneath them. In these rarer situations, raising the work surface level may be necessary to ensure circulation at the back of the knee.

Make a Fist to Your Calf
Ensure that there is enough room between the front edge of your chair and calves by simply making a fist, bringing it to the edge of the chair and pushing it on the calf.

If you can fit your full fist between the front edge and your calf, you likely have enough space for circulation and pressure. If not, your chair is likely too deep.

Adjusting the backrest forward, inserting a cushion, pillow or rolled-up towel to support your lumbar spine (lower back), or purchasing a new office chair are some possible solutions to this problem.

Have the Support of Your Back
Back support is a main focus of many ergonomic chairs, but what makes a chair good in terms of supporting the back?

Ideally your work chair should do a couple of things: provide back support angling just past 90 degrees or up to 90 degrees, and include cushioning that pushes your back forward when sitting back in the chair.

Such low back support is essential in preventing slouching as you tire and minimizing the load or strain on your back. With this in mind, the backrest of an ideal ergonomic office chair is typically between 12 and 19 inches wide.
Sit Right

Good Posture

A lot of times, workers have chairs with great back support but don’t take advantage of these features because they sit on the edge of the chair.

Make a conscious effort to press your bottom against the back of the chair, and avoid slumping or slouching, which places extra stress on the lumbar discs and other structures of the lower back.

Apply A Different Kind of Eye Test
Once your chair has been adjusted to the height of the table, your legs have gotten comfortable and your back is supported, close your eyes and take a deep breath.

Casually look forward with your eyes closed, and then open your eyes, which should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. Depending on whether the computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you may need to raise or lower the monitor.

If you need to raise your laptop, consider using a stack of books or even a small box, which has personally helped me reduce the likelihood of neck strain at work.

Adjust Your Armrest
Armrests play an important role in reducing neck and shoulder strain and diminishing the likelihood of slouching forward in your chair.

Adjust the armrest to the point where your arms are slightly lifted at the shoulders. Doing so will allow the armrest to support just the elbow and take weight off the shoulders.

Perhaps after making all these changes, you ultimately decide that you do need a new office chair.

If you find yourself in the market for a new chair, you’ll want to consider many factors, including the seat’s height, width, depth, materials, armrests, back rest, lumbar support and swivel.

Full article at  Spinehealth.com

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