“Ergonomics” entails the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. It can be defined as the way in which we improve movement and function within daily life. Physical therapy with regards to ergonomics focuses on postural awareness and body mechanic strategies that focus on maximizing efficiency, comfort, and safety, in addition to identifying & altering factors that may lead to strain or injury.
There is no such thing as a ‘perfect posture’, our bodies are made to move, not to remain still. Posture is not just a position, but a dynamic pattern of reflexes, habits, and adaptive responses to anything that resists you being more or less upright and functional, such as: gravity, awkward working conditions, and athletic challenges. It stands to reason that any habitual positioning which causes unnecessary strain on the body is generally not great for us. Emotion plays a huge part too – if we are stressed out while we are in that hunched posture at work we are going to feel more pain than if we are hunched over hanging out watching our favorite TV show.
So what can we do about it? Some easy tips to focus on for postural health, instead of just trying to “sit up straight”
1. Moving is way more important than finding that perfect position
Our bodies are made to move, not stay stationary. You should take a break from being in the same position every 15 min. Stand up, walk to the water fountain, use the restroom, or simply shift your weight so you are situated differently than you just were. “The next posture is the best posture”
2. Take your shoes off or choose sensible footwear
Standing desks are pretty cool as they let us follow rule #1 – switch between positions while working. But what sense does it make to stand up wearing insensible shoes that put strain on the feet and the spine? If you can be barefoot at work without getting looked at like you’re crazy, go for it; your feet will thank you in the long run. If not, make sure your shoes fit well, are tied nice and snugly, and aren’t too old or worn out. Typically shoes last 1.5-2 years before the material starts to wear (even less time if you walk or run in them).
3. The best chair is two chairs and a wobble cushion
This one is a bit on the unconventional side, but consider this: Sitting in a super comfortable chair will encourage more sitting, which we don’t want. But, being uncomfortable for too long will cause our work to suffer. Seeing as we want to change positions as much as possible, having one chair that’s more comfortable paired with, say, a stool that isn’t as comfortable gives us variability that mixes comfort and attentiveness. Alternating between being more upright on a stool and more laid back in a comfy chair is a great way to spend the day, should you be sitting for most of it.
Add in a wobble cushion (which challenges you to sit more upright otherwise you’ll fall over) gives you 4 different sitting positions to rotate throughout the day.
At Central Park Physical Therapy, our physical therapists consider your ergonomic set-up to help resolve issues with pain you may face in your daily life, in addition to helping you prevent injuries. The items you use every day in your home or workplace are subject to modification, and we can help make them as properly fitted for you as possible. To learn more about ergonomics and how it can benefit you, contact our New York physical therapy office today!