Suffering from chronic back and neck pain is an unfortunate reality for many working adults. The reason? Poor ergonomics.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) explains that Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) like back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome affect one’s muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. Short term pain relief may be a temporary fix, but ultimately many work-related MSDs can be prevented or improved by updated ergonomics.

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the science of fitting a workplace to the needs of the user. Over time the tools and workspace that you use on a daily basis have the ability to put strain on your body that can cause damage, like back, neck and wrist pain. Ergonomics are designed to increase productivity by reducing user fatigue and discomfort.

Who can help?

Occupational therapists (OT) specialize in the study of ergonomics and improvement of them. An OT will work to adapt the environment in which one works to its user rather than the other way around. The process begins with an OT conducting in-depth analysis of the environment, and the physical, cognitive, and social elements at play. After their analysis the OT will make their recommendations of potential ergonomic improvements which may include;

  • Designing and modifying workplace tools and equipment
  • Working with the user’s insurance company to develop preventative programs, and more.

How can you improve your ergonomics?

The first step in improving your own ergonomics is evaluating your work environment and tasks. Be mindful of what you’re doing and anticipate what movements feel awkward or uncomfortable and make note of them. If you notice you have back and neck pain at the end of every work day you might consider replacing your workplace seating or lifting heavy items less often. If you notice regular headaches you might consider adjusting your workplace lighting.

You might also consider adjusting your diet and exercise regimen. Simple things like walks during lunch and packing healthy lunches are simple adjustments to stay healthy at work. Before making any changes be sure to consult your doctor.