Ergonomics Are Not As Impressive As People Think
When it comes to ergonomics we have all heard that if we have a good setup at our desk we will have less pain. The research on the benefit of an ergonomic setup is small. In a review of the literature I was able to only find one randomized controlled trial on the effect of an ergonomic setup.
The results were a surprise.
What Happens With Better Ergonomics
In a study where 100 hospital orderlies were put into 2 groups only a few areas were found to have less of an issue after they were given an improved setup. The study took a look at neck, shoulder, arm, upper back, wrist/hand, lower back, hips, knees, and ankles. In the body only the arms, upper back, and lower back pain issues were reduced. This means that a better setup can help with a few issues but is not a fix for all.
Why Do Only A Few Areas Improve
Pain occurs for a number of reasons. When it comes to ergonomics when you do not have to reach as far and are in a more neutral spine position you should feel better. The upper and lower back tend to hurt when we are in a position of stretch. If this occurs over a long time the stretch turns to pain that lingers. This is a big reason why people with back pain benefits from an ergonomic setups.
Ergonomics does not stop at the chair. With a good setup you will also have items you use regularly close to you. This limits how far you reach. Our body is good at low level activity with repetition. When we increase the amount of force (or energy) we need to do a task we fatigue much faster. This is why we can lift a 25 pound box 20 times but are not able to lift a 500 pound box once. When you fatigue sooner you are more likely to have pain.
What This Means For You
This study does not mean you should skip out on an ergonomic setup. You should know it is not magical and taking breaks from sitting is more important to limit pain or stiffness. If you have arm, upper, or lower back pain a new setup at work could be key to reduce or eliminate your symptoms. Showing your employer the article above and how there was a 49 to 53% reduction in the rate of back and arm disorders related to work may help them understand how important this can be for people at work. Do you have a story about how you do with an ergonomic setup?