What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the person, rather than requiring the person to conform to the physical parameters of the job. Ergonomics focuses on identifying strategies to allow you to perform the job in the most efficient manner possible, with the least amount of strain on your body. The more frequently or forcefully you do a task, the more important it becomes for you to pay attention to the ergonomics of the task. Good ergonomics result in increased efficiency and productivity, and improved health.
Our therapists can provide ergonomic services to people who need an assessment of their work setting, home or leisure activities to relieve pain, increase performance and/or increase productivity.
What are your risk factors for a repetitive strain injury?
Repetitive strain injuries can be caused by excessive stress on joints and soft tissues such as muscles, tendons and ligaments, and nerves. This strain can cause changes immediately (macrotrauma) or over time (microtrauma.) The risk factors are divided into five categories, but can occur simultaneously during a task:
- Repetitive movements: Performing the same motions over and over can create microtrauma and inflammation in your tissues (ex. keyboarding, using a trigger-activated tool).
- Awkward or sustained postures: Working in a less-than-ideal posture loads your joints, muscles and nerves at a point in the range of motion where they are less able to tolerate the load (ex. twisting, kneeling, squatting, and bending). Staying in one position too long can decrease circulation, depriving the tissues of the nutrients they need to function and stay healthy. (e.g. sitting at a call cent
er desk without taking a break, working with your arms overhead)
- Forceful movement: forceful uscle contractions can overload the tissues rapidly, causing trauma and inflammation more immediately than repeated movements (ex. heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling like using your knee to stretch a carpe.).
- Contact pressure: Contact of part of the body against a hard surface decreases circulation and puts pressure on tissues, causing microtrauma and inflammation (ex. resting your wrists on a wrist rest while keyboarding, walking with a cane or crutches, and sitting on the edge of a table).
- Vibration: Whole body (ex. driving a truck) or segmental (ex. using a powered hand tool) may cause injury to soft tissues, especially nerve tissue. It is unclear to what extent vibration alone is a risk factor, but there is evidence that vibration compounds other risk factors.
How can you benefit from an ergonomic evaluation?
Ergonomic interventions can:
- Prevent fatigue to increase productivity
- Give the body optimal biomechanical advantage to improve leverage (increase ability to produce muscle force/strength) and reduce friction that causes microtrauma and inflammation
- Promote and sustain circulation
What would your ergonomic evaluation include?