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Good vs. Bad Posture

20 February 2023

Tens of millions of people suffer from all kinds of diseases and injuries. A fairly large number of injuries per year are a result of poor workplace ergonomics, and a decent portion of these injuries fall under the umbrella of musculoskeletal disorders - or MSDs.

But what are musculoskeletal disorders and what causes them?



What are Musculoskeletal Disorders?

MSDs are any kind of problem that affects the bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues between these, like tendons and ligaments. Musculoskeletal disorders can be acute - that is, they are sudden and severe, but last a short period of time - or they can be chronic and long-lasting. The pain isn't necessarily contained in one place either.

You may have localized pain that occurs in one part, or it can spread through and affect your whole body.

The most common types of problems that fall under MSD include:

Bone pain - which includes injuries such as fractures in the bone or other such problems.

Joint pain - which usually includes stiffness or inflammation and difficulty moving around. Joint pain is usually treatable by making sure you get adequate rest, but can also easily get worse if you engage in more activity.

Muscle pain - which includes anything from injuries to spasms and cramps. Sometimes, more serious problems like tumors and infections can also result in muscle pain.

Tendon or ligament pain - ligaments and tendons are the connective tissues that join your bone to bone, or muscle to the point. Sometimes, when you are straining or overusing your body, you may end up with this kind of pain as well.

Causes of Musculoskeletal Disorders

There are plenty of things that could result in the development of musculoskeletal disorders. It usually starts off as fatigue when someone is exposed to any of the risk factors of MSDs. As time goes by, the imbalance between the amount of time the body remains fatigued and the amount it gets to recover becomes greater, and the problem turns into a musculoskeletal disorder.

There are two main risk factors when it comes to MSDs - ergonomic ones, or individual ones.



Work-related Ergonomic Risk Factors

When workers are asked to do anything that goes beyond their body's natural capabilities or limitations, their musculoskeletal system is what is being put at risk. To carry out a task that their body can't perform naturally, they will end up straining themselves to fulfill their responsibilities, and this results in problems.

Three main problems come out of work-related risk factors.

Highly Repetitive Task

At the workplace, many tasks and work cycles are repetitive by nature. Whether that's an assembly line worker or someone typing away at a desk, their daily tasks involve a great deal of repetition.

These tasks are also often controlled by targets and deadlines, which causes workers to put their health aside to meet these targets. Repetitive tasks are a very major contributor to ergonomic problems. In fact, some of the most common types of MSDs, like carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow, are a result of repetition.

Jobs are considered repetitive if the cycle time is less than 30 seconds - that is, less than 30 seconds after the task is done, it starts all over again.

To prevent the problems that come with repetitive tasks, you should space them out and fill the time with other things. Also, take breaks as frequently as you can.

Putting in Too Much Force

A lot of work-related tasks involve putting force on the body, such as carrying heavy items around. This could also increase fatigue and result in MSDs.

Poor Posture

Poor posture is one of the biggest problems nowadays when it comes to MSDs. When your body is put into an awkward posture, it places excessive force on your joints and the muscles and tendons around the joint. This can cause pain and develop into fatigue. If you don't address the problem in time, this can easily develop into an MSD.

For desk workers, posture is a leading cause of musculoskeletal disorders. When you have to sit for a long time, you need to be careful about what kind of position you're holding your body in. If you don't address the problem in time, you could have a much bigger problem on your hands.

You'd be surprised, but your posture can do quite a lot for your back and shoulders - either keep them straight and safe or put pressure on them and make them hurt. Your posture can put pressure on all parts of your body.

When you sit at a desk, you may often find yourself hunched over your computer or papers, and this can cause the muscles around your upper back and neck to get stiff and tense. Over a few hours at a time is enough to make you notice the stiffness, but if this happens every day, you'll start to notice consistent pain that doesn't go away.

The same is true for your lower back. Without proper lumbar support, you will end up with consistent back pain, because the muscles in the area remain tense even when you're not putting pressure on them. Since back pain frequently results in MSDs that affect your arms and legs, taking care of your posture is important. To avoid these problems, investing in a good chair is necessary.

The Flexispot Ergonomic Mesh Swivel Office Chair is one example of a good chair. It comes with an S-shaped backrest that keeps your posture straight and avoids the pain that comes with longer sitting time. It also has a headrest to keep your neck and head supported so that you don't end up with pain in this area.

The chair also has armrests for you to avoid muscle, joint, or nerve problems in the arms as well, and the height adjustment lets you customize your workspace depending on your height and stature. It also has a mesh back that provides optimal airflow.

If you need a good chair to keep your back safe while you work, this chair is perfect for you.



Individual Risk Factors

Not everything is a result of ergonomics though. Besides workplace ergonomics, your own approach to your work is also a factor.

Work Practices

A major part of your safety is what kind of work practices you include in your daily life. For example, if you're not carrying yourself properly or taking care of your posture, you'll likely end up putting unnecessary stress on your body which can result in fatigue. Your equipment can only do so much - you have to put in your own effort as well.

Rest & Recovery

MSDs will develop if your body is fatigued but doesn't get the chance to recover properly. If you don't get enough rest, you are hindering your body's recovery process and increasing the likelihood of the problem developing into a more severe one.

Taking Breaks

A major aspect of postural problems is that you spend a long time sitting in the same position, putting strain on your body and forcing it to adjust to the unnatural position.

That's why taking breaks every once in a while is necessary! When we think of breaks, we usually consider them to be longer breaks after a long stretch of work - such as lunch hour, or a mid-morning coffee break. While helpful, these don't necessarily offset the issues that stem from spending too much time in the wrong position.

Instead, taking microbreaks is what makes a difference. Short breaks after shorter periods - say, ten minutes after every hour of work. This isn't so much that you don't get any work done, but also not short enough that your body doesn't get to relax a bit.

But remember! You have to use these breaks wisely. It wouldn't really mean much if you spend those short breaks scrolling through social media or slumped in your chair. Instead, take the time to stretch your muscles a bit, maybe take a walk around the office and get the blood flowing back to your muscles properly.

If your day is full of work and work and more work and no breaks between it, even if you get a decent amount of sleep and rest afterward, you'll find that you're still tired.

Nutrition & Fitness

Your health is also a major contributor to musculoskeletal problems. For example, if you're not eating healthy or working out, your body isn't just fatigued, it's also developing other kinds of problems. To avoid them, you should be eating a healthy, balanced diet and getting as much physical exercise as you can.