ergonomics · fitness

Ergonomics and Fitness

Three years ago I had a winter driving accident that left me with lasting neck, shoulder and upper back issues on one side of my body. The treatment plan at the time included one of the best things I’ve ever done: an ergonomic assessment of my desk set-up (at home and at the office). What a gift!

The occupational therapist came to my office and then my home. In both places, I couldn’t have had it more wrong. And not just for managing the injury, but in general. My keyboard was way too low.  My monitor placement put undue strain on my neck. My chair height wasn’t high enough and the back of my chair wasn’t low enough to give me lumbar support. I needed a footrest and a document stand for reading. The OT warned against using a lap top as my regular computer — a lesson I had learned some years before when my home desktop choked.

For the past ten days I’ve been away from home on a writing retreat. I’m writing a LOT (averaging just over 5000 words a day). But my desk set-up is not ergonomically sound. I’m using a laptop. If I set it on the desk or table, the keyboard is too high and my monitor too low.  If I set it on my lap, the keyboard is too low and the monitor is WAY too low.  I’m doing battle with my chair. The back of it is seized into place, so I can’t adjust it properly for lumbar support. I can adjust the seat, but not quite to the right height. When I get as close as I can to optimal seat height, my feet don’t touch the ground.

The set-up is taking its toll even on my reasonably fit body.

Today I woke up with my upper back and neck all seized up in a knot, as unyielding as that chair back. I am fortunate that the facility I’m at has a team of Registered Massage Therapists.  This morning I went for a deep tissue massage. The sweet (oh so wonderful!) relief it delivered lasted as long as I was there.

But my muscles still feel strained. The three-year old injury has flared up the past few days like never before. The RMT, noticing my distress and feeling the knots in my upper back as she worked on me this morning, showed me some neck stretching exercises to do.

Throughout my stay, I have gotten up from my desk regularly. Every day I do something — go to the gym for weight training or do some form of activity every day (yoga or swimming or weight training or running or the elliptical trainer) or both. Samantha is a big proponent of the standing desk. But right now that’s just not available to me.

I miss the sound ergonomics of my familiar set-up.  Sitting is just the half of it. No amount of fitness can make up for hours a day at a computer work station that forces your body into a difficult posture.

[image is from about.com Guide to Setting Up and Ergonomic Computer Station, by Chris Adams]

2 thoughts on “Ergonomics and Fitness

  1. I work in pomodoros (25 minutes of intense focus on one task: http://bit.ly/HFUsTr) and then I take a 5 minute break to ease my chronically aching back. Recently, I’ve bought myself a massage table (it was inexpensive — from Costco) and it allows me to lie on my stomach for five minutes with my spine in neutral. I always end with 30 seconds in the pose of a child. This really helps.

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  2. Pomodoros are excellent. And thanks for the other recommendations. I wonder if there is a way of getting the spine into neutral like that without buying a massage table. I don’t know where I would put one.

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