Ergonomics for Your Office and Kitchen Counter
Feel like you need a full-body massage at the end of the day? Slouching in your desk chair, craning your neck in the car and hunching over the kitchen sink will do it. "Most back injuries and musculoskeletal disorders sneak up on you, building over the years," says Margo Fraser, the executive director of the Association of Canadian Ergonomists. Making a few simple adjustments to your everyday interactions can help prevent these problems before they become chronic. "The earlier you catch them, the easier it is to do something about it," says Fraser. Now that's a move in the right direction.
Computer: Position the computer screen directly in front of you about an arm's length away to minimize leaning forward and moving your neck from side to side. Place your keyboard and mouse on the same surface level at elbow height to stave off wrist, shoulder and arm pain.
Posture: Sit with your back straight against the chair, arms parallel to your torso and elbows at your sides at a 90-degree angle. Stick a tennis ball between the chair and the middle of your back. "This will make you more aware of your posture and help prevent hunching," says Toronto chiropractor and acupuncturist Michael A. Cohen, the creator of the Acuball, which can be used in the same way.
Wrists: Keep your wrists straight while typing and using the mouse; using a wrist rest can help, too.
Feet: Keep your feet flat on the floor. If they don't reach, adjust your chair or use a footrest.
More to try:
• Get a sit/stand workstation, which is configured so you can use your screen and keyboard while seated or standing by adjusting a lever.
• Follow the 20-20-20 rule, suggests Vancouver occupational therapist and ergonomics consultant Emma Christensen. "Take a 20-second stretch break every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away to relax your eye muscles." Until regular stretch breaks are a habit, use a timer or set appointments in your email calendar.
Counter height: Ideally, your counter's work height should be just below your elbow, especially when exerting force (such as kneading bread). If you're tall, use a thick cutting board to raise the height of the work surface and prevent hunching. If you're short, use a platform or a mobile island suited to your stature.
Posture: Try to stand up straight while working on any task in the kitchen to maintain the natural S-shaped curve of your spine.
• Use knives and spoons with rubberized handles. They provide a good grip so you don't have to hold on tightly.
• Sharpen knives regularly. "You have to use a lot more force when knives are dull, which may lead to wrist pain," says Fraser.
Photography, Fresh Juice.