Ergonomics is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system. Its study helps to improve principles and methods to optimize human well being and overall performance. It is important because when you are doing any work, your body can be stressed in different ways. This could lead to various problems like pain, change in body posture, vision affections, etc. One of the major issues is back pain.
Anatomy and its relation to back pain
The major anatomy of the back consists of the vertebrae, spinal cord, intervertebral discs, ligaments and muscles. There are 33 vertebrae consisting of 7 cervicals, 12 thoracics, 5 fused lumbar and 4 fused coccyx. These bear the weight of the body. They absorb the stresses of all movements- lifting, holding, twisting, bending, etc. Any overuse of a specific movement, overstretch in a direction or a weight lift beyond an individual’s limit, may lead to wear and tear, degeneration of the bone, compression or vertebrae instability.
They have a spinal canal in the middle through which the spinal cord passes. It also has nerves passing through it to various body tissues. When these nerves compress or swell, it leads to tingling back pain. This pain may also radiate, that is, spread to thighs, calves and feet. Spinal canal stenosis may also occur which narrows down the spinal canal.
Intervertebral discs are present between all the vertebrae. They help to absorb shocks and cushion the vertebrae. Due to overpressures, less rest and wrong postures, these may degenerate, herniate or get compressed.
There are various ligaments and muscles of the back that stabilise the spine, maintain posture and allow proper movements. Due to overwork, overpressures, overstretches and less rest, these may also deteriorate. It may lead to soreness, cramping, tightness, spasms, strains, etc.
Back pain and its effects on work
Back pain affects every part of your life, majorly work. It leads to discomfort and irritability. It is very distracting, so it may lead to difficulty in making work decisions. It also reduces productivity and work performance. It is also expensive. Doctor consultations, medical tests, medicines and some equipment may result in big bills.
Sleep cycles get affected. Chronic pain may also lead to depression. The frustration negatively affects interpersonal relationships. All in all, it creates a cycle of physical and mental problems.
Work from home and ergonomics
Nowadays, due to the pandemic, people have started working from home. This has increased the backache problems even more. People tend to sit in a slouched posture on a sofa or bed with their laptop on their laps. This has amplified the deterioration of back anatomy. Overwork and mental stresses have degraded the situation.
Practising good ergonomics is very important for good health. These are simple tips to help make sure you work in the right way:
- Avoid sitting for too long in one position.
- Every 20-30 minutes, get up and walk around.
- Stretch your back, neck, shoulders and legs at every interval.
Do not ignore any pain. Take consultations from a doctor or a physiotherapist. Sleep on a quality mattress that supports good posture. It should not be too hard or too soft, simply firm.
Sit in the following way:
- The backrest should support the lower back curve. If it is not comfortable, a pillow can be used.
- Keep upper back straight and shoulders relaxed.
- Wrists and elbows should be placed comfortably with elbows forming a 90° angle.
- The top of the monitor should be at eye level.
- Lower legs should be at 90°-110° angle with adequate legroom.
- The feet should be flat on the ground or resting on a footrest.
We should be committed to healthy, safe and productive work environments. You can follow and apply these simple methods for a healthier and pain-free back.