By Leomilka Torres
Ergonomics is a science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and safely. We can apply ergonomics as it relates to our waking moments like our posture while sitting and standing. Sleep ergonomics refers to our posture and position during sleep. Throughout the day, and night, the spine is under constant stress and without proper support it can lead to pain and discomfort. Here are a few tips to help maintain a neutral spine while sitting, standing and sleeping.
When we stand or sit it is important we maintain the natural “S” curve of the spine and work in a neutral position. When we sit for prolonged times the tendency is to arch the back making it have a “C” curvature and places strain on your back. Good lumbar support is often helpful in relieving low back pain and maintaining a neutral spine. As we sit the pelvis should rock forward into a neutral position. The knees should be slightly lower than the hips. By purchasing a seat wedge you can make sure you have a proper position. Other ways to do this include using a small cushion or a folded towel to make the back of the seat higher. If working on a computer all day make sure it’s at eye level so the neck is aligned with the rest of the body and the wrist is in the same plane as the forearm. When using a computer mouse avoiding putting stress on it, which means, you can help the fight against carpal tunnel.
Standing for long periods of time can also put unnecessary stress on your back, by putting one foot up on a footrest helps to keep the spinal column in proper alignment. This can be included as part of your daily routine too, for example, when brushing your teeth, doing dishes or cooking.
Now comes nighttime and yes, we need to improve our sleeping postures as well. The recommended position to sleep in is on your side, knees bent, pillow between the knees, and your head resting on a single pillow. For those of you that need to sleep on your back an additional pillow can be positioned under the knees, this way the lumbar spine maintained in a neutral position. The pillow you use as well as the firmness of the mattress play an important role in keeping the spine safe. Make sure the pillow is a little bit thicker under the neck but doesn’t over extend it. Custom-made pillows can be ordered that better suit your needs, depending on the sleeping position you like. A firm mattress offers better support than a soft one, but for some this can be very uncomfortable. A good solution is an adjustable mattress where you can change the level of firmness depending on the person’s preference.
Overall, the science of ergonomics is all about maintaining our spines healthy and making it comfortable at the same time. Applying these tips can help greatly improve the quality of daily living therefore improving the quality of life.