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Tips for Reducing Physical and Visual Stress at Your Desk Your neck and shoulders ache, your eyes are dry and blurry, and you think you've pinched a nerve in your 'posterior' from sitting in that darned wobbly chair. There are enough headaches in your job that you don't need the body aches that plague you. Many of the experts who design the equipment and furniture for the workspace go to great lengths to ensure their products are 'ergonomically' pleasing to the user. Chances are, however, that your office space isn't as up-to-date as it could be for comfort. And as you know only too well, ergonomics - - defined as fitting a workplace to the worker - - isn't a one size fits all proposition!

Make Your Chair Fit You

Whether its newly designed furniture or pieces that have been around, each chair needs to be adjusted to match your physical needs. Take the time to ensure that your chair is at the appropriate height for you, that there aren't loose pieces and that the backrest is positioned correctly.

  • When you sit, keep your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be kept close together.
  • Your chair should be able to support your legs without too much pressure on the back of your thighs.
  • Your back should fit snugly against the backrest; don't perch on the edge of the seat!
  • Don't sit in the same position for hours. Shift positions frequently.
  • Think about your posture. Slouching won't make you feel better at the end of the day. Learn how to sit properly in your chair so you feel great!
  • Tighten screws to stop the chair from wobbling or buy a new one if all else fails.

Statistically Speaking

Millions of employees have serious complaints of aches and pains that are aggravated by their work environment. Some of these stem from bad habits, such as neck aches caused by cradling the phone between the ear and shoulder, and can be prevented either by changing the habit or changing the tool. In this example, you could stop the pain by holding the phone in your hand or by investing in a headset that leaves your hands free for other tasks.

Ergonomics injuries are also costly to employers as they result in workers' compensation claims and loss of productivity. Consider these points:

  • The July 2000 report from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, estimated that each year almost 2 million workers will experience musculoskeletal disorders that are work- related and 600,000 workers will lose time from their jobs as they recover or are treated. OSHA points out that back injuries are among the most common workers' compensation claims, while repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, account for only 10 percent of the musculoskeletal injuries.
  • The American Optometric Association states that millions of workers are suffering from "computer vision syndrome," which can include temporary nearsightedness, eye fatigue, blurred vision, double vision, dry or watery eyes and headaches.

Reduce Eye Strain

The American Optometric Association offers these recommendations for reducing eye stress on the job:

Ensure Proper Lighting

  • Adjust the brightness of the monitor. Don't make it to bright or to dim. Select a brightness that is comfortable for your eyes.
  • Adjust the contrast so the letters can be read easily.
  • Minimize or eliminate reflective glare on the monitor. Use anti-glare screens that have received the American Optometric Association Seal of Acceptance, and don't allow direct sunlight to hit the monitor screen. Angle the blinds or close them.

Use Your Monitor and Keyboard Correctly

  • Keep the monitor 16" -30" from your eyes. The distance depends upon the size of your monitor and your individual vision conditions.
  • Your monitor should be slightly below horizontal eye level. That means the center of the monitor should be 10 to 20 degrees below your eyes.
  • Make sure document holders are close to your screen.
  • Adjust your keyboard so that your wrists are straight to lessen your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Keep Flexible and Healthy

  • Every 30 minutes or once an hour, rotate your head and neck very gently. Slightly turn to the right, then the left. Move your head up and down to relieve tension and relax neck muscles.
  • Take your hands out of their on-the-keyboard position. Do wrist or finger exercises. For example, fan out your fingers, clench and release your fist, move your wrists up and down.
  • Stand up. Walk around for a few minutes and relax.
  • Get a yearly eye exam to determine if your vision has changed.

Check with your physician, physical therapist or the company's medical advisors for suggestions on work exercises if you already have work-related ergonomics problems or symptoms.

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