What would you guess to be one of the leading causes of injury among NC State employees? Chances are the term ergonomic strain didn’t come to mind. According to data collected by the Environmental Health and Safety Center, slips, trips and falls cause the most injuries followed closely by ergonomic injuries brought on by repetitive strain and uncomfortable workstations.
Ergonomic strain refers to repetitive injuries caused by overuse of equipment and over strain. Symptoms can include headaches, shooting or throbbing pain, numbing and tingling along with overall muscle weakness.
Yet ergonomic strain is easily avoided says Occupational Safety Manager, Scott Mabry. Mabry chatted with the Bulletin this week to offer five tips for avoiding ergonomic strain so you can be your most productive this semester.
Tip 1: To avoid upper back and neck pain, keep your monitor at the proper height and angle. Ideally your eye level should be 2-3 inches below the top edge of the monitor and positioned so you don’t have to turn or tilt your head very much.
Tip 2: Sit up straight with your back pressed against the back of the chair and your feet flat. Keep a 90-degree angle from your lower leg to your hip bone and from your hip bone to your back. This reduces back and leg strain. Also avoid resting your arms on the arm rests. This will throw your shoulders out of proper alignment. This handy illustration shows how to correctly position your chair and this illustration shows the best way to position your keyboard.
Tip 3: Avoid cradling your phone. This ergonomic blunder will pinch one side of your neck while stretching out the other. “Cradling the phone with your neck even briefly may undo a day of good posturing,” Mabry warns.
Tip 4: Use a document holder at the same height of your monitor to read paperwork versus keeping papers on your desk. This helps avoid neck strain.
Tip 5: Take frequent breaks, every 20 minutes or so, even when tasking at home. Move your arms around and resist staring at your monitor for hours. Yoga or other stretches are ideal but breaks can include drinking water, answering your phone or walking to the printer. “Changing any repetitive behavior will help ease out any tension building in your upper back and neck. You need a range of motion,” Mabry recommends.
The Environmental Health and Safety Center offers more tips and guidelines online.