Posture and Power:
The Dynamic Use of Your Body at Your Computer
Ergonomics is the study of the body as it works. Work implies movement that accomplishes a set task. Yet, our work at the computer often is done with very little movement of the body as we attempt to accomplish many tasks. Therein lies the problem. Some parts of our body moves, and some parts are still. Where movement meets stillness is the place where most of the repetitive stress injuries occur. This can be in the low back, in the neck or in the wrist. In my 40 years as a physical therapist, this has been one of the biggest problems I have encountered—how does posture support movement and work?
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Seen from this light, most of the ways we are injured while working on the computer is insanity. The injured worker is usually not the problem, the problem is the misinformation that is given to that worker regarding computer use and workstation set-up. At a recent ergonomics conference, I was talking with one of the sales reps for a very high end, space age looking chair, which allows a person to recline while working. (I personally only recommend the reclining position for astronauts). He said that people are basically lazy and that the ergonomics industry has to design chairs to support lazy people while they work. I told him if that is what he believed about people, then that is what he would see in people. My experience is that people want to be strong, healthy and powerful in their bodies. They want buff abs and strong backs. They especially don’t want to be injured.
When we look at the Worker’s Compensation statistics and see the increase in the number of computer related injuries, we only see part of the picture. What we don’t see are people whose lives are devastated by injury. These injured people can’t button their own shirts, can’t lift a cup of coffee or open a can, can’t pick up their own children and hold them in their laps. They have become disempowered in their lives. My work involves how to empower a person in their body and how that power will manifest in other aspects of their lives.
The major problems that I have identified with increased computer use are working in a poorly designed workstation and the way the work is being done. Usually the solution has been to replace the equipment, count the number of keystrokes or miles traveled on the mouse, tell people to take breaks (while expecting the same amount of productivity) and then expect results. But often the person who is working on the computer is left out of the equation. The new equipment or change of set-up may be essential, but if we don’t teach people effective ways of moving differently, and how to apply what they learn into other aspects of their lives, we are less likely to have the outcome we want. Professionals in the ergonomics field need to understand what dynamic support looks like in the body, how a person develops tone, strength and endurance, how this can be accomplished while working on a computer, and what the best workstation set-up is to support these changes.
When you work with me you will learn how to:
- Engage Core Muscles to support good posture
- Find neutral in sitting and use your body in a dynamic and powerful way while at your computer.
- Integrate stretching, breathing, toning and strengthening programs into your everyday activities.
- Assess whether your environment (car seat, chairs and sofas at home) and your computer set up supports the changes you are making in your body.