Learning About Ergonomics

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What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics (say "er-guh-NAW-miks") is the study of the kind of work or play you do, the environment you do it in, and the tools you use.

The goal of ergonomics is to avoid physical problems related to your activities. That means knowing the best way to set up a work area, use tools, or use your body to do tasks.

When you practice good ergonomics, you may:

  • Be less likely to have problems such as headaches or eyestrain.
  • Reduce neck and back pain.
  • Prevent muscle or tendon problems that are linked to doing the same task over and over.

What can you do to help avoid an injury?

  • Arrange your tools so that you can work in comfort. For example, if you work at a desk, have your telephone within easy reach. In your kitchen or workshop, try to avoid working at counters that are so low that you have to bend your back or neck for periods of time.
  • Use the right tools. For example, use tools in your garden or workshop that are made to be safe for frequent use. Consider getting a cushioned floor mat if you do tasks, like cooking, that require you to stand in one place for a while.
  • Avoid overuse. Doing one action over and over again can cause injury over time. This type of injury is called a repetitive stress injury. It can happen, for example, to people who spend a lot of time at a computer keyboard or those who play a musical instrument.
  • Take regular breaks. For example, when you work at a computer, get up at least once every hour for 10 to 15 minutes. When you're out pulling weeds from your garden, change your position often.
  • Stretch. Learn stretching exercises you can do at your desk or workstation when you can't take a break. And do some stretching before you do tasks that involve bending or lifting.
  • Be smart with sports and other activities that take a lot of energy. Warm up before these activities. Afterwards, cool down and stretch your muscles. Try to avoid training too much. That can lead to problems like tennis elbow, which is a tendon injury. Also not using the right technique for an activity can cause problems. Baseball players and weight lifters may injure their shoulders if they use the wrong movements.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.