About 30 years ago I started researching and writing a story about repetitive motion injuries. Ironically, I incurred one of them by the time I met my deadline!
For the next five years, I would endure a highly random and uncomfortable tingling sensation in my left hand – that is, until a combination of physical and occupational therapy that included dipping my hand in hot paraffin wax and redesigning my office workstation bore results.
Thankfully, the pain would never return, but I learned a hard lesson about the importance of ergonomics, which is defined as “the study of people's efficiency in their working environment.” Just three years ago I became painfully re-acquainted with this topic – and it literally and figuratively became a pain in my neck.
Decades of viewing a desktop (and then laptop) computer monitor on too steep of a downward slope landed me in a chiropractor’s office where an X-ray of my then-chronically stiff neck revealed that the three lower vertebra were nearly bone on bone. Misguided workplace ergonomic practices finally caught up with me.
So I bought a wireless keyboard and adjustable shelf for my laptop to elevate the monitor. I also re-learned the importance of frequently stepping away from my workstation to relieve my hands, eyes and neck and not skipping the suggested 12-minute spinal daily spinal conditioning program that was prescribed. But it took about 18 months for daily neck discomfort to finally go away.
The next chapter in this ergonomics journey was written just three short months ago when I decided to finally purchase a split-level, adjustable standing desk that as the name suggests allows people to work on a computer in a sitting or standing position. There’s a place to put a wireless keyboard below a larger area for the computer to prevent neck pain associated with poorly designed workstations.
About a month or so later I decided to buy an adjustable stool that can significantly reduce low-back pain from prolonged sitting. Between these two recent acquisitions, I took my ergonomic knowledge to the next level in hopes of avoiding further work-related injuries. I’m gradually easing into the new arrangement, starting each work day on my feet getting caught up on email, which can take about half an hour, then sitting through most of the day with a few additional standing breaks.
I have high hopes for the remainder of my ergonomic journey and career. One of them is to no longer encounter any additional body pain that will eventually be turned into another blog on this topic!