How Ergonomics Relates to Your Back Pain

The Science of Ergonomics Could Solve Your Back Pain

When it comes to furniture, one size will never fit all. The chair you use at your desk must fit you; otherwise, your body will start to compensate. One of the compensatory mechanisms is back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, and even arm and wrist pain from overstrained muscles while sitting in an incorrectly designed chair at work.

Ergonomics is the science of designing chairs, furniture, and other devices to optimize human performance. And your performance can’t be optimized if your desk chair (and desk) doesn’t fit you. Ergonomics is the study of back pain and what you sit on and sleep with.

What Happens When Your Chair Doesn’t Fit You

Here are some of the things that could be wrong with your chair at work:

• The seat is too low and you have to reach upwards with your forearms to type on the keyboard.

• The screen is too far away and you have to move your head forward to try to see the print.

• The chair back is immovable and at a 90-degree angle from the chair seat.

• The chair has no armrests.

• When sitting on the chair, your feet don’t touch the floor.

These postural changes will cause you to feel stress and strain in muscles, and begin to wear on your posture. Little by little, your body will start to develop trigger points that cause you pain. You’ll find yourself slouching and find it difficult to stand up straight on your days off from work.

You’ll feel drained at the end of the day of work, and begin to dread returning. Your body is smart and recognizes what is causing it pain! It will give you signs to not go to work! (It’s not the people at work that are the culprit; it’s your chair!)

By continuing to sit on an ill-fitting chair, a repetitive strain injury can occur. This is one of the ways that carpal tunnel syndrome starts. Repetitive strain injuries can leave a person in pain, and according to statistics, up to 5% of the working population is afflicted with carpal tunnel syndrome. This is why the field of ergonomics is so important these days; ergonomic consultants work with many companies to insure that their employees won’t suffer.

Ergonomists aren’t only concerned with your desk chair, but also your mattress, the floor you stand on, the height of your kitchen cabinets, the design of your car seat, pillows, sewing machines, and many other devices you use daily. They will hunt for the relationship between ergonomics and your back pain.

Read about what to look for in a chair.

Your Bedding Should be Ergonomically Correct, Too!

Your mattress and pillow are also very important and need to fit your body. You can read about what to look for in a mattress to eliminate back pain and find out more info about pillows below.

Three Important Pillow Criteria That Can Help Reduce Back Pain

  1. If your pillows on your bed are very large and fluffy, they are for show, not for sleeping. An oversized pillow will create an oversized angle in the cervical curve of your neck and can cause neck pain in as little as a few minutes. Imagine how you’d feel after a whole night of sleep on that pillow!
  1. Just because a pillow is a memory foam pillow doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. The critical point is how thick the pillow is, and how the pillow fits your neck curve. If you can lay your head on the pillow without causing your neck to go too far forward or backward, your pillow is a keeper! Ask your chiropractor to see if your pillow fits your neck, or to make appropriate recommendations for a new one.
  1. Small, light pillows are great to place underneath your knees when lying on your back. This removes the strain on your back. When you sleep on your side, you can transfer the pillow to the space between your knees. This will help insure that your back remains in perfect alignment. Perfect alignment means that the electrical activity of the muscles can die down and rest, eliminating any tenseness, and associated pain.