Your Safety: Everyday ergonomics

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Straighten up!

“Stand up straight!” Remember when your mother used to nag you about your posture? Well, it turns out that she was giving you the best advice for protecting your back. Maintaining good posture is one of the easiest and simplest ways to help keep your back healthy and pain-free.

Maintaining the curves
Good posture is actually quite simple. A normal spine is shaped like a double “S” curve. These curves balance each other, so that your head sits on top of a very stable pillar. To maintain good posture, your goal is to keep these natural curves in balance while standing, sitting or lying down. If these curves are increased (sway back) or decreased (flat back), your spine becomes unstable. Your muscles, ligaments and joints have to work much harder to support your head, which inevitably leads to muscle fatigue and back pain.

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll find that your posture will improve and you’ll look and feel much better.

A good standing position brings your body into straight, vertical alignment.
If you’re standing properly, your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles are stacked directly on top of each other. You should be able to draw a straight line from the top of your head, through your body’s centre, down to the bottom of your feet.
Even if you have the best posture, you can fatigue your back by standing in one place too long. To give your back some relief, try these tips:
oTake a break and walk around from time to time.
oRest one foot on a block or stool approximately six to eight inches high.
oStretch forward or backward or crouch down for a few minutes to relax your back muscles.

Just like the standing position, a good sitting position will stack your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips. You should be able to draw a straight line directly from the top of your head to your hips.
When you sit, your pelvis should be in a neutral position and your buttocks should be resting against the back of the chair. Your spine should be supported along its natural curves, allowing your muscles to relax.
Poor sitting posture is a frequent hazard for many people, because we tend to sit in poorly designed chairs with inadequate back support. Keep these points in mind whenever you sit for long periods:
oThe height of your seat should keep your knees level with, or slightly higher than your hips.
oKeep your feet supported – if your chair is too high, rest your feet on a footstool or box.
oTo prevent lower back strain, keep a lumbar roll or rolled up towel between your lower back and the back of the chair.
oIf you sit at a computer, adjust the screen height to eye level and adjust your chair so that you don’t have to lean forward.
oStand up regularly (at least every 45 minutes) and walk around.

Lying down
When you’re lying down or sleeping, try resting on your side, with your hips and knees bent. If you prefer to bend only one knee, place a pillow under your knee to prevent twisting and strain on your back.
If you prefer to lie on your back, try bending your knees and put a pillow underneath them to relieve unnecessary pressure.
Your mattress can be an ongoing cause of tired, aching back muscles. Here are some valuable tips to make your bedtime more comfortable:
oChoose a firm mattress. A sagging mattress gives you very poor back support.
oA good mattress gives firm support along the length of your body and comfortably follows the natural curve of your back.
oSleeping with more than one pillow can exaggerate the curve of your neck and put extra pressure on your back.

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If you’re sitting at your computer for long periods, try these simple exercises for instant relief of tired, aching muscles.

Learn more about maintaining a healthy back and safe lifting techniques.

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