by Dr. Bridgett B. Simon, ND LAc
Hello everyone, welcome to the fall season. I like this topic because it turned out to be more than I expected. When I thought of ergonomics before this, posture and sitting time came to mind for me. Working with a lot of tech friends also, things like wrist and elbow issues can be common and work related. Work related is important because we spend a large amount of time there in our society. Before too long into this article I ran across a quote from Dorland’s Medical Dictionary saying ergonomics is “the science relating to humans and their work, including the factors affecting the efficient use of human energy”. The efficient use of human energy is more than just how we sit, though I like the ideas of addressing posture. In the following paragraphs I will discuss the broader idea of energy in the work space to broaden our perspective.
As an acupuncturist who works with pain, I see, a lot of reason to consider sitting time and posture to start. Making an effort not to lose the natural arch in the low back in a chair helps me a lot when I am on the computer. It is not always easy to hold the upper body in erect posture, but the benefits are more strength and less pain. Pilates can help you to find some deep core muscles that make it easier to hold your core. I would also consider sitting time which many people already do. Some desks go up and down and people can stand for a while as you may have seen. Taking a break to get some water and walk around once an hour is beneficial as well. Sitting too long lets stagnation in if you think of it in energetic medicine terms. Movement is your friend if you want your energy to flow which reduces the chance of pain, stiffness and weight gain.
Addressing the broader definition of ergonomics and the factors affecting efficient use of human energy makes me think of a few things including air quality, light and emotional atmosphere. Air quality is something I would not have included in ergonomics but I do now. I am getting more patients complaining about being affected by smells in the office and of course it is important not to overwhelm a space with perfumes and colognes which can make others feel sick. If they make others feel sick, chances are they are not good on your skin so be careful, my teachers would say what you put on your skin you essentially eat or absorb it into your body. Clean air and open windows when possible will nourish the air coming in and support healthy energy.
Light exposure including natural light exposure is important as well. Many people are reporting not feeling great working under fluorescent lights at large stores for example. Having a window seat is not just for airplanes. I think being near a window with natural light is amazing. I also think that being able to see out into the world a little is not a bad thing when you are shut inside for a work day. Light affects our hormones and keeps us in natural day and sleep cycles as well.
Finally, I would like to add a note on emotional energy and ergonomics. Having a healthy emotional environment is beneficial to all in an office. Making an effort to be relaxed and respectful can go a long way. We are all bringing in emotions from our families and our experiences outside the work place, and then we sit in an office for hours in a day. We are going to have a hard time not being exposed to each others’ energies which carry emotions, fears, stressors and the like. Taking time to acknowledge this on a regular basis can go a long way to being a supportive member of a work place. Be patient with people and consider their opinions. It makes them enjoy your company and be more likely to help you on projects too which never hurts.
To sum it up, get some movement in during the day and repeatedly find your core when you sit in a chair, don’t slump in it. You will build strength and it will get easier over time. In the environment itself, have a fresh air source when possible and refrain from overwhelming everyone with smells. Find a source of natural light if you can near a window and avoid overdoing the fluorescent lights. Share a smile and patience when you can to support others during their day when you can. Most of us just need a break when we are having a hard time. To improve stagnation that comes from a lack of ergonomics, consider acupuncture, reiki, massage and heat/sauna treatments to get things moving.