Musculoskeletal System Friendly Workspace By Prashansa Jain

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Gone are the days when computers were new to the world. Today, technology is the air every sector breathes. The babies come out of the womb and see the parents already working away on their screens. A machine reduces human effort and while computers surely make humans less stressful, they also have a huge role in stressing out their musculoskeletal system. The long hours sitting in front of a computer do not only tire the body mentally, the long shifts affect the eyes, neck, shoulders, elbows, wrist & hands and back too. The problem can stem to hips, knees and ankles as well. These problems create mild discomfort in short term and turn into monsters who do not let you sleep in the long run.

In this new pandemic hit world, everyone regardless of age has found studies, work and life on their screens. The computers kept the world running when the virus hit the roads and shut down countries altogether. The world has learnt the way of living digitally but the problems it brings are yet to be tackled. In a research, done by medical students of Swami Vivekananda Subharti University under the guidance of Dr. Chhavi Kiran Gupta (Associate Professor)to find the baseline knowledge of correct practices of Computer Work Ergonomics amongst 100 employees it was concluded that the prevalence of headache and neck, shoulder, back pain in relation to age, sex, working hours and work set up was statistically significant. In the study, 83% were men and the rest 17% were women. It constituted of the age group between 25 to 45 year (62%), less than 45 years (15%) and less than 25 were 23%. Majority of the study constituted of working on computer for more than 6- 8 hours i.e. 40%. The rest 28% were working for more than 8 hours, 20% for 3-6 hours and 12% for less than 3 hours. The study inferred that only 37% and 52% employees were using correct wrist and hand posture respectively. The research showed that 32% had complaint of neck pain and 52% had more than one back and shoulder related pain while 24% had lower back pain. The study inferred that 52% employees had more than 1 eye problem.

When the problem has gripped so many and can cause a big threat by affecting activities of daily living of an even bigger population in the years to come its preventive measures and solutions should be sprinkled around. A physiotherapist can assess and treat all the above mentioned musculoskeletal problems but a professional’s work doesn’t end there. A professional spreads “awareness* and puts input where correction is needed to avoid future damage. A lot can be done to avoid work related injuries.

The physiotherapists can teach the people about correct sitting and standing posture by conducting workshops. The person should have a distance of at least 45 centimeters between the eyes and the monitor. The head should be held upright with eyes slightly looking downward without bending the neck. The back should be supported, elbows bent at 90° and forearms should be horizontal. The shoulders should be relaxed, but not depressed. The wrist in a neutral posture (straight) The thighs horizontal with a 90˚–120˚ angle at the hip and feet fully supported, flat on the floor. The workstation should be arranged in a smart manner. The space can be divided in three zones. Items used frequently should be located within easy reach, the primary zone. The items needed occasionally should be put a little far, the secondary zone. Lastly, rarely used items can be placed the farthest, the tertiary zone.

On an organizational level, they can advise the organizations on what kind of furniture and equipments to opt for when building a *workspace” for their students and employees. The height of the chair should be adjustable and it should support the neck and back properly. The chair should have armrests.  The table should have optimal height so that the wrist can rest parallel to the floor on it. A height adjustable table which can turn into a standing desk (sit-stand station) is a better choice. The organization can offer document holder, palm rest and foot rest if necessary. This will not only keep the pain at bay but also improve the work efficiency.

On a personal level, the importance of frequent breaks and stretching should be highlighted. The practice of taking breaks regularly should be ingrained in people. It can be followed actively by getting up for a quick walk around the room every 25-30 minutes or can be followed passively by putting off the tasks like printing documents to get done during these breaks. Following a stretching routine for 2-3 minutes every few hours throughout the day should be encouraged to avoid stiff muscles.

Along with the above mentioned tips, keeping an active lifestyle can help keep away issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, frozen shoulder, chronic shoulder pain, impingement syndrome, writer’s cramp, lower back pain, tension neck syndrome, occupational cervicobrachial disorder, herniated disc, etc. The use of computers is for the betterment of humanity. Just how we have adapted new technology in all work fields, measures to stay safe and healthy can also be taught and implemented with joint effort of professionals and general public. A musculoskeletal system friendly workspace is the need of the hour in this tech-savvy world.

“The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body”

William S. Burroughs

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