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Workplace Posture and Ergonomics

Poor workplace posture is a major cause of back pain, workplace stress and can lead to repetitive strain injuries. This can result in poor employee health and low morale which will ultimately lead onto reduced productivity, lost time and higher business costs.

Chartered Physiotherapist, Eimear Fox discusses the ins and outs of posture and ergonomics. Applying these simple workplace posture and ergonomics techniques will help to improve the working environment and well-being of both you and your fellow staff members.

What is posture?

Posture is the position in which you hold your body upright against the forces of gravity while standing or sitting. The key to good posture is training your body to sit, stand and walk in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during weight-bearing activities.

What are the effects of poor posture?

  • Poor joint alignment

  • General muscle/head aches

  • Increased shear forces within the spine effecting disc integrity

  • Compression of disc and joint structures

  • Compression/reduced space for nerves to course through the body

  • Reduced blood flow to muscles resulting in increased fatigue

  • Overuse injuries

What other sensations might I notice?

In some cases nerves can become impinged or inflamed resulting in a range of sensations from hot and cold through to numbness and tingling in a given area, commonly the hands and feet. A characteristic of nerve damage is that sometimes the symptom is not in the place where the damage is being caused. For instance, a nerve being irritated in the neck may cause numbness and tingling in the arm or hand.

Good Standing Posture

  • The alignment of ankle, outside of hip, shoulder and just behind ear should all be in a vertical line

  • Engage lower abdominals drawing belly button in towards spine if back is arched

  • Squeeze gluteals if pelvis is rotated too far forward

  • Lift the arches of the feet so kneecap is in line with 2nd toe

  • Pull shoulders backwards drawing shoulder blades towards each other if they are rolled forwards

Good Sitting Posture

  • Sit well back into the chair

  • Tilt seat forward slightly to rotate top of pelvis so spine is in neutral

  • Adjust chair height so hip is slightly higher than knee

  • Ensure feet flat on floor, shoulder width apart

  • Sit in balanced upright posture with head over the shoulders

  • Move chair in close to desk to avoid stretching upper body forwards

Can Physiotherapy help?

Despite best efforts we have all come under extra work load and general life stress where remembering to maintain good posture can be the last thing on our mind. Physiotherapy can help to facilitate normal alignment through stretching of joint and muscle tissue along with ensuring nerve mobility. Home exercise programmes can be designed specifically for you to work on any weak areas you may have, helping you get back to a correct posture that you can maintain as quickly as possible.

In particular, it is essential that you seek out a medical opinion if you notice any tingling, pins or needles or numbness of any sort. This may result in a visit your GP, Occupational Health Doctor or to your local Physiotherapist. Eimear works in our Navan Road Clinic. If you would like to find out more about Eimear, click here.

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