How many hours do you spend in the office each day?
In Canada, office hours for any full-time employment generally range from 35-45 hours. That is a minimum of 7 hours a day from Monday to Friday.
7 hours account for nearly one-third of the day.
If you take out the hours you are asleep, which is usually another 6 or 7 hours, you are spending half of your awake hours in the office, sitting in the chair, and most likely, staring at a screen.
That’s a lot of hours.
That means, if you are not sitting properly in front of the desk, you are damaging your body, constantly, for at least half of your waking time.
It doesn’t sound so good, does it?
Here, we’d like you to think:
Have you felt neck, shoulder, or back pain? When you tilt your head, do your bones pop? When you lift your arms too suddenly, does a muscle get pulled and twisted?
Put your hands on the lower part of your back, find your spine, and gently press on it with your knuckles. Do you feel sore when you do that?
If you answer yes to any of these questions...
Or if you often subconsciously squeeze the muscles on your neck and shoulders…
Chances are, you are out of your neutral position.
The Ergonomic Neutral Position & What It Does
The neutral position, or the neutral posture, is the “ideal” posture where your body is properly aligned and balanced.
It doesn’t matter if you are sitting or standing.
The point is…
The neutral position minimizes the stress placed on your body and joints.
And that’s why the ergonomics neutral position is also called a neutral zone or a comfort zone.
Below is a pair of illustrations that explain how a workstation should be set up to satisfy the neutral position.
There are a few key points that determine whether a position is neutral or not, as listed below:
If you are in the comfort zone, your joint will receive the minimum pressure.
For example… “The green bordered area can be comfortably accessed by rotating at the elbow” and “the blue bordered area can be accessed, with some effort, by a combination of shoulder and elbow rotation. (Ergopedia.ca)” Anywhere beyond these two areas is outside the comfort zone and will create additional stress to your joints.
Your primary works surface should remain the same as your elbow height.
According to Ergopedia: If the work surface is higher (or significantly lower) than the elbows, the user will have to compensate and overcome this height differential, greatly reducing their Comfort Zone.
Compare and Learn: Is Your Position Ergonomically Neutral?
A big kudos to our friends at Kinetic Kare, we are able to come up with a simple posture checklist.
In sitting, the neutral posture is recognized when:
- The back is in an upright position, preserving the natural curves of the lumbar and thoracic spine.
- The chin is tucked, stacked over the spine, and the arms are in close to the body in the handshake position.
- The feet are hip width apart. secured to the ground for a stable base of support.
When seated, the rule of 90s applies.
- Knees, and
- Elbows should be bent to 90 degrees
Benefits of staying in the neutral position
We get it…
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we are not positioning our bodies in the right fashion. I mean…
We are taught how to sit, read, write and even type when we were growing up, and our sitting habits develop over years of learning and working.
But the neutral position…
Is more than just a “sales pitch.”
Because people who maintain an ergonomic neutral position displayed significant health improvements compared to those who sit and stand differently.
What happens when you are out of your “neutral position”?
Your wrists twist outside the body…
Your shoulders and arms reach for unnecessary distances…
Your muscles get sore because… well...
Your position is kind of awkward, okay?
To put it professionally:
Extending out of the neutral zone, breaking the neutral position, or simply “overreaching” is a risk factor to your health, because your body adapts “potentially injury-prone postures in the upper extremities (Ergopedia.ca),” to perform any task outside of the comfort zone.
Your wrist may twist laterally. You are required to rotate your shoulder cuffs front and back, thus causing what is known as the Rotator Cuff Injury (RCI).
What is Rotator Cuff Injury (RCI)?
The rotator cuff is a set of muscles and the related tendons that hold the shoulders where they need to be.
The rotator cuff is a set of muscles and the related tendons that hold the shoulders where they need to be. These muscles hold the shoulder joint and aid the rotating movement of the shoulders. A rotator cuff injury is a repetitive strain injury that results in pain-restricted movement of the shoulder.
There are multiple reasons why RCI happens.
Most RCI happen overtime.
In other words,
An unhealthy work habit repetitively wears down the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, which is why these injuries are often seen in painters, carpenters and other professions which require continual shoulder movement.
This is just the same with office workers. Statistical fact/source?
Why do we tend to hurt ourselves at work?
It’s not like we want to hurt ourselves.
I bet nobody enjoys the muscle pain that creeps up our back every now and then.
And like that famous saying…
“Pain should not be a lifestyle.”
Why do we tend to hurt ourselves at work?
In most cases, it is because the environment we work in requires awkward, repetitive or forceful movements with our body in order to fulfill our tasks.
In other words…
We inevitably hurt ourselves at work because we are not working in an ergonomically designed environment.
Check Your Office
Luckily, to every question, there is always a solution.
That’s why we prepared you this checklist, so you can evaluate your work environment and make the adjustments.
Here you go:
- The top of the monitor should never be above your horizontal eye level.
- Your head and neck should be balanced, and be in-line with the torso.
- Your shoulders should feel relaxed.
- Your elbows and lower back should both be supported.
- Your wrists and hands are in-line with forearms.
- Adequate room for keyboard and mouse.
- Feet flat on the floor or supported using a foot rest.
These are the most basic tips in helping to avoid pain and discomfort after a day at the office. ..
Another quick solution to fixing up your office is… of course…
Ergonomic furniture and related accessories are designed to support your spine and limbs, to reduce the pressure placed on your joints, and to keep your body within the comfort zone.
But don’t worry…
Like we said: the neutral position is not a sales pitch.
Adjust your work environment and see if it improves your body posture and pain discomfort.
If you feel less pain.
If your muscles are less tense.
Maybe you will wonder: what magic could ergonomic furniture do, if simply adjusting my monitor height or mouse reach could ease so much of my work pain?
(For more information about office ergonomics, check out the fact sheet provided by OSH Answers.)