Ergonomics While Driving


Driving can mean different for different people. It may be a way of leisure for some or as an everyday activity to commute to office using their car or as an occupation to drive those heavy duty vehicles on highways for transport. Be it any reason, driving for long time has always accompanied with some or the other musculoskeletal problems. The problem is treated but the root cause of it is never looked after or we just dont bother about it much.

So, what you think is Sitting in car same as sitting on a chair?
No, its not! because both the activities are different. When you are driving your hands, arm are higher than when you work at desk, also to operate brakes and /or accelerator you need to extend your legs more and again the vibrations are accompanied because of the vehicles or bumpy roads.
Driving does lead to lot of RSI (Repetitive stress injuries)  these include foot cramps, back ache, stiff neck. sore shoulders.

Why we get the pain or associated problems when we drive for long time?
When we sit our pelvis rolls backward and curve of the back flattens out.This increases the pressure in the discs of spine. In this position the discs are less prepared to bear the vibrations. Ligaments are also stretched and slacken if you sit down for long time. After standing up, they still remain slack for a while and cannot support the spine well.

If the seat is not correct it can develop pressure points in buttocks, back of legs and muscle strain in low back. Continuous back and neck muscle work is often required to hold the head position which again leads to strain. Holding foot pedal down over long period may cause stiffness and spasm of legs n low back.
If you are driving heavy duty vehicles like trucks, buses then the whole body vibration stimulates burst of activity which later causes easy muscle fatigue. Also long term exposure to vibration can lead to herniation of the disc in the back as increased pressure because of prolong speeding the damage speeds up.

So lets see some simple corrections which we can do to prevent the injuries:

 First and foremost stepping in and out: if you drive large vehicles with high step up or down add extra step or slow down.

1) Make sure you remove all the items from your pockets such as wallet, keys etc. they may compress your tissues.
2)Position items that you may need while driving” sunglass.,tissue, etc near by.

3)If the seat belt is uncomfortable put a small foam on the area of the strap which causes discomfort.
4)Adjust the mirror so you dont have to strain your neck.
5) If the lower back is not supported by the seat, use a lumber support or a small towel roll.
6) Back tilt: least amount of pressure on back occurs when seat is at 100-110 degree reclined seat should completely support your back. If you cannot recline take frequent break from the upright posture
7)Seat cushion: it should be comfortable and support your tail bone completely. Seat tilt of car should allow knees to be slightly lower than hips this opens hip flexors and increase circulation to back and decrease pressure

8) Seat Height: You should be able to see atleast 76 mm or 3 inches over the top of steering wheel.
seat cushion length:  if possible adjust seat length so that back of your knees is about 3-6 cm from front seat.

9) Head restraint(head rest)
The head restraint should be till the top of your head, if head restrain can be tilted adjust angle until is practically touching the back of head when you are in sitting position.

10) Steering wheel grip: It is advisable to keep two hands in steering wheel except while shifting gears.Change hand posture frequently to reduce fatigue and improve circulation.

Common posture to be avoided:
The death grip, the one arm cool dude” the Wrist resting at 12 o’clock position on steering wheel and fingers flop over the top, arm straight out in front and one arm propped on your window.

Some Do’s: 
1) Select a car that matches your height and suits your work.
2) Change posture as much as possible take frequent breaks recommended is atleast 15 minutes, every 2 hours
3) Place hand on steering wheels so that elbows are close to your side and not so high that you have to reach up for the wheel.
4) Place hands at 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock position this will reduce the amount of strain on shoulders and put hands in safer position.

Some Dont’s
Avoid lifting after driving long hours because your muscles are tired your ligaments are stretched and disc are at risk of injury, give yourself some time to stretch and relax.

The longest journey begins with a single step towards fitness, not with a turn of the ignition key !!!!


Ergonomics in Pregnancy


With many women working today, it is important to understand how pregnancy can affect workplace safety.
Pregnancy alters the body’s shape & thus, the interaction with the worksite. The abdomen becomes increasingly larger, causing progressive postural problems, backache, & impairment of dexterity, agility, coordination & balance. Hormonal changes affect the ligaments, increasing the likelihood of injury. Joints in the spine become less stable & show signs of separation & movement to accommodate the growing fetus. 
Following simple steps to adjust your computer workstation that suit your body and its changing needs in your pregnancy will greatly improve the way you feel at the end of the day.

Ergonomic concerns that a pregnant woman experience include:
Most employers immediately consider the harmful effects of chemicals in the workplace when first notified of a pregnancy.
Less obvious, yet equally important to the pregnant employee’s health & well-being, are ergonomic hazards such as awkward postures, heavy lifting, limited rest periods & repetitive force. Back pain & Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are relatively common side effects of pregnancy as well, & both may be aggravated by job tasks.
As the pregnant worker’s body changes shape, new hazards related to reach, balance, lifting and repetitive motion may develop. Employers must be aware of these changes in order to continue to provide a safe, comfortable workplace.

  • Sustained & repeated postures
  • Pressure on hard surfaces while typing
  • Improper mouse operations
  • Forward head
  • Leaning forward away from the back of the chair
  • Bending sideways to use alternate work space
  • Sliding the chair across the work surface
  • Awkwardness, fatigue & tendency to lose balance become critical when quick reaction time or work on elevated surfaces is required. For example, work on platforms or the use of step stools may now present a greater hazard. 
  • Standing for long.

Tips for pregnant working women:
While application of sound ergonomic principles benefits all workers, the following actions can be considered when modifying a pregnant worker’s job:

  • Tasks should be arranged to minimize twisting the body and stress on ligaments. For instance, a document holder placed next to the monitor reduces turning of the head and neck, protecting against straining these muscles and ligaments.
  • Sitting can be more difficult than usual, as immobility can lead to pain. This is especially a problem with the added back strain pregnancy causes. Moving around during the work day is therefore critical. Standing up for quick breaks or at least switching positions can help avoid the worst of these problems.
  • Limit standing time to less than three hours a day.
  • Use only adjustable ergonomic chairs. Use of a lumbar cushion is particularly useful during the third trimester.
  • Adjust the height of the work surface so that you can minimize the reaching distance. Women late in pregnancy may prefer a considerable lower table height than common guideline heights.
  • Modify the height of the monitor and keyboard to reduce the risk of CTS. As your abdomen gets larger, you should adjust the desk according to it.
  • Install foot rests (for seated and standing workers) so that one foot can be alternately raised.
  • Lift only items less than 10 pounds/5 kgs if it is necessary, to keep your spine safe.
  • Adjust work hours (e.g., flexible scheduling, day shift rather than night). Modify break schedule (e.g., shorter, more frequent breaks).

Pregnant workers require extra attention with respect to potential ergonomic hazards that are either created or exacerbated by pregnancy. Appropriate accommodations can prevent injuries, enhance the employee’s comfort, and help her better handle the stress of work combined with the physical changes related to pregnancy.


Also Read: Benefits of Exercising in PregnancyComfort in LabourBreathing in Labour & Workstation Ergonomics

Kitchen Ergonomics


Bend…Stretch…Twist…Turn…Duck…Reach…

This is you, making dinner.



The kitchen is typically the most used room in any house. And an efficient kitchen is typically a key point in having a happy life. If you do not believe me, try living with a poorly laid out kitchen and watch your quality of life plummet.


How to make Your Kitchen Efficient?

Kitchen Work Triangle: The 3 points of the kitchen work triangle are: Refrigerator, Sink & Stove. The sink, is located either adjacent to or across from the cooking surface & refrigerator.


Counter Design & Layout:

  • Make sure that your kitchen includes a working counter near the stove for dishes waiting to be cooked or those fresh out of the oven.
  • Provide for counter space close to the sink.
  • Proper counter height reduces excessive forward bending & shoulder elevation. For most activities, the work surface should be slightly below elbow height. Work requiring force, such as kneading bread, rolling dough, or cutting bones, should be done on a surface that is below elbow height.

Floors:

  • A cushioned floor surface such as cork or linoleum is best, and it minimizes breakage when things are dropped.
  • If the floor is hard, such as tile, use anti-fatigue mats or cushioned rugs.

Lighting: Every work surface should be well illuminated.

Reaching:
  • Minimize reaching by organizing your kitchen so that most cooking processes can be completed while keeping your elbows close to your body.
  • Place most commonly used tools within easy reach.
  • Assemble all ingredients and utensils needed before cooking near the work center, similar to preparing a lab for an experiment.
  • Hang pots and pans on racks on walls. Use accessories such as corner shelves or racks which can be hung on rods. Another economical way is to use ‘S’ hooks to hang pans & other utensils.
  • Use a step stool to avoid reaching above shoulder height.
Storage: 

  • For floor-level storage space, opt for drawers rather than cupboards. This way, you won’t need to bend over to look for whatever is stuck at the back of a cupboard. Whatever drawer units you select, go for the ones with self-closing glides.
  • Opt for “Flip” Over Cabinets as the door flips up, rather than to the side, avoiding twisting & double maneuvers.
  • Store frequently used accessories in the top drawers just beneath the counter or on the bottom shelf of the cupboards just above the counter. The remaining accessories can then be stored based on how often they’re used, with those used least often on the highest or lowest levels.
  • Make sure the range hood is at least 60 centimetres high so that you won’t bump your head.
Electrical Outlets: You can run a channel of outlets below your upper cabinets. This way anytime you need to plug something in, you just reach up and plug it in, from wherever you are standing — no need to lug appliances around.

Working in your Kitchen:

Consider keeping items at waist level or maximum till shoulder height to avoid excessive bending, stooping or reaching. 
  • It is more comfortable to sit to perform some tasks than to spend hours standing in the kitchen. W have observed that when most people sit on a stool, they sit balanced, & practice better posture.
  • Washing Dishes: There are three things you can do. First, renovate your kitchen and make the sink higher. Two, wash up in a bowl on top of the platform, or three, stand with your feet well apart on a non-slip mat, so you become shorter. 
  • When accessing storage below the platform, bend down using your knees instead of the back.
  • If you must use a step stool, get one with a bar to hold on to. Never use a chair as a step stool.

Note:

  • If you’re buying a standard refrigerator, designs with the freezer on the bottom are best, with most commonly used foods on the top shelf for easy access.
  • Think carefully about whether or not to buy a dishwasher. Packing and unpacking them can cause back pain too.

The kitchen is full of potential sources of strains, repetitive motion, force, and awkward posture, especially if you are a “non-standard” sized person or if you have already overworked certain body parts during the day at work. By coupling ergonomically designed appliances and fixtures with careful planning, working in your kitchen can become a pleasure.


If you have any tips which have helped in the kitchen, we would love to hear them!

Which is the Posture Right for me?


Is your posture RIGHT?
We have always been told to sit upright, keep our shoulders back & much more…to have good posture.
Our bodies have been subjected to varied stresses- long hours of sitting, backpack, carrying weights (hand bags, laptops, briefcases) on single shoulders, varied work related postures are some of them.
It’s easy to say use good/correct postures when beginning an activity. How many of us pay attention to our postures once we are engrossed in said activities?
I am not going to tell you to this is the right posture & this is what you have to do. Each individual is unique & hence the right posture for them would be unique too.
The common doorway to good posture- Ergonomics
What is Ergonomics?
Simply put, ergonomics is fitting the job to the worker’s abilities.
Ergonomics can be applied to all our daily activities too along with our professional lives. How? Most activities- personal & professional- use the same postures- Standing, Sitting, Forward Bending & Lying (Sleeping).

The Golden Rule: Change your posture every 15-20 minutes.
Standing Ergonomics:

  • When standing, always maintain equal weight on both feet. Standing with uneven weight bearing places increased load on your spine & leads to low back pain & muscle imbalances.
  • If standing for long, have a small stool (1-1.5inches height) & keep one foot on the stool. This reduces load on the spine. Alternate feet on the step.

Sitting Ergonomics:

  • Most of our day is spent sitting- the curse of Sedentary Lifestyle.
  • Sitting obliterates the low back curve as the pelvis tilts posteriorly. Along with flattening of the low back, there is increased curvature in the upper back & the neck moves forward- Causes low back & neck stiffness & pain, reduced movement of spine & overall poor posture.

Forward Bending/ Lifting:

  • Bending forwards with knees straight places increased stress on the vertebral joints & intervertebral discs-can lead to Slip Disc.
  • If you are lifting (for example) 10 pounds:
  • Bending forwards with knees straight, the load taken by the spine is 10 times the weight being lifted; 10×10=100 pounds!!
  • When, bending with your knees bent, the load on the spine equals the weight being lifted i.e. 10 pounds. This is because the weight is being taken by the leg musculature, mainly the Quadriceps, hence reducing the load on the spine.
  • Remember to hold the weight being lifted close to your body.

Lying:

  • If you sleep on your back, defer from using a pillow as it aggravates the forward head posture.
  • If you sleep on your side, use a pillow(s) to maintain the distance between the neck & shoulder. Do not keep your hand(s) under your head as this causes forward neck bending. Keep a pillow between your bent knees.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach as the neck is maintained in a rotated position & leads to muscle imbalances in the neck.
  • The mattress you sleep on plays an important role for having good posture & also for getting a good night’s rest. A firm mattress (coir) is the best choice (Goldilocks & the 3 bears).

Ergonomics for daily living is the easiest road to maintain the right posture while working & having fun. With these simple changes in your life, you can quit worrying about poor postures.

Electronic Ergonomics


The proliferation and use of PDAs & touchscreen smartphones, and the significant increase in time spent at computer keyboards or engaging in video gaming has created a whole new generation of people of all ages experiencing RSI(Repetitive Stress Injury). More and more, people are depending on these devices to stay in touch with friends and family. However, an increasing number are beginning to pay the price for such ready access to the world.


As mobile phone technology develops, mobiles are getting smaller, with buttons closer together. Small, fine movements tend to aggravate more than larger movements-this coupled with the smaller buttons can lead to injury as smaller buttons are harder to activate.

When you are text messaging, you tend to hold your shoulders and upper arms tense. This cuts down the circulation to the forearm, when in fact it needs a greater than normal blood flow to achieve the fine movements of the thumbs and fingers.

One of the commonest RSIs, popularly called “Blackberry Thumb” occurs because these devices rely almost solely on the use of your thumbs (not all of your fingers) for typing. Any device that relies on the thumbs for typing can cause this type of injury because the thumbs simply weren’t designed for such use. Additionally, there are also other stress injuries reported — wrist, forearm, shoulder, upper back and neck — as a result of constant texting.While it’s hard to use mobiles & tablets in the same way you’d use a computer, the risks of injury are the same:

  • Repeated motion
  • Unnatural postures
  • Bright screens, can all cause injury if you aren’t careful.
The problem with smartphones and tablets is that you can literally use them in a million different positions—most of which probably aren’t very good for your body.


Tips to Follow:
    You're Holding It Wrong: Here's How to Hold Your Touch Screen Gadgets Correctly

  • Holding your mobile/tablet flat is bad for your neck, but holding it completely perpendicular is bad for your wrists. As such, you’ll want to compromise by holding it at a 30 degree angle when you’re typing or using the touch screen. If you’re just reading, you can position it more perpendicular, at whatever angle makes it easy to see.
  • Tap lightly on the keyboard. Many people have a tendency to tap very hard on touch screen keyboards because they lack tactile feedback, like real physical keyboards do, and this is bad for your fingers, wrists, and forearms. If you’re typing something longer than just a few sentences at a time, it’s probably worth investing in a Bluetooth keyboard.
  • As you type or use the touch screen, be sure to keep your wrists straight, while keeping your arms and fingers loose and relaxed.
  • Avoid eye strain by making the font larger when possible. If you’re using a program that doesn’t allow you to set the font size, you can buy glasses specifically made for reading tablet displays. If you’re doing a lot of reading, try eye-friendly E-Ink readers like the Kindle or Nook as opposed to the iPad or Kindle Fire.

Its best to…

  • If texting starts to hurt. Stop. Use the other hand or call instead
  • Vary the hand you use
  • Vary the fingers you use
  • Don’t text for more than a few minutes without a break
  • The best option when it comes to touchscreen phones is to use a Stylus while using the phone, as it uses larger muscle groups compared to using only a finger. Hold the stylus like you would hold a pen.

The biggest sufferers are college students and young adults. Plus, there’s not enough attention paid to ergonomics. RSI is preventable. It happens because it’s not taken seriously.

And an increase in miniaturization, and decreased usability–rates of aching thumbs among today’s people is likely…to swell.
If you’ve found any tricks that work especially well for you, share them in the comments below.

Backpack Safety


As the twig is bent, so grows the tree”

Posture in which the natural curves of the spine are maintained is considered good posture. Every single movement, from sitting at our desks, driving a vehicle, standing for long hours to even how we sleep-affects our back.

There is a widely held belief that repeated carrying of backpacks places additional stress on rapidly growing structures in children making them more prone to postural changes.

The highest rate of growth for school children occurs during puberty, 10-12yrs for girls & 13-15yrs for boys. External forces such as backpacks, influences growth & maintenance of body alignment, making adolescents more susceptible to injury compared to adults.

Before we discuss Ergonomics to carry backpacks, it’s important to understand how bad posture is produced due to backpacks. When a backpack is worn, the spine bends forwards, causing the entire body slant forwards, increasing the chances of falling. Now to prevent falling, the back muscles overwork & fatigue. Fatigue further pronounces this bad posture, increasing the chances of injury.

What kind of backpack is the right one?
  • When you go shopping for a backpack, carry along all the articles you plan to carry in the backpack. Select an appropriate sized backpack (not larger than your torso) as it can lead to a more & uneven load.
  • Select a light-weight, multi-compartmentalized backpack.
  • It should have adjustable wide padded contoured straps along with chest & waist straps to place the backpack closer to your spine & engage larger muscle groups to take the load.
  • This avoids overworking & fatigue.
  • The back of the backpack should be well padded & contoured to fit against the alignment of your spine.
  • Low back curve in the backpack should fit snugly against your low back curve.
  • The inside compartment should have elastics compression straps to hold large items in place.

How do I wear a backpack?
  • Bend your knees while picking up the backpack to check its weight.
  • Put on one strap at a time.
  • Adjust the shoulder straps so that the backpack fits snugly against your spine. Use the Chest & Waist straps.

Always Remember…
  • Do not twist or swing the backpack while wearing it.
  • Do not wear only on one shoulder.
  • Do not bend your waist while wearing or lifting a heavy backpack.


The Ergonomics discussed in this article apply not only to children but also to adults.