Ergonomics has become a billion dollar industry. And with any billion dollar industry, come many charlatans.
If you work for a large business, particularly one with greater than 500 employees, it’s likely you’ve had the ergonomic or ‘posture people’ come in to do an assessment of the workplace. They probably charged the company $300/hr, took a bunch of measurements, ordered custom equipment, and made claims that “with this equipment, and based on our algorithms, this will reduce workplace injury by 33%.”
This is all well and good, and workplace injuries/pain are important to address, however are these $300/hr consultants actually worth it? Do they actually provide value? As most things go in life, there are some that are worth their weight in gold and should charge more than that, and there are others that should be working for free due to how ineffective and outdated their methods are.
As a physical therapist, I see hundreds of people per year who are dealing with some sort of pain. Some of it is work related, some of it due to recreational activities, and some of it doesn’t have a clear origin. The work related issues are interesting. These issues are almost viewed as something completely different than just a typical course of back and shoulder pain and then elevated to a more severe level due to the current nature of worker’s comp claims. (i’ll write another blog post on the craziness of work comp and temporary/permanent disability).
For the past 25 years, ergonomic consultants have been coming to offices, changing people’s work stations, postures, using cognitive behavioral therapies, giving stretches, and teaching strength training principles. It’s likely that many of these consultants are well intentioned, but, if they are not promoting the number one method to reduce musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace, then they should be fired, as the evidence has evolved over time.
What is that method? Resistance training. Based on the highest levels of evidence that we currently have, resistance training with weights or bodyweight based exercises are the most effective tool we have to combat workplace related pain and injuries. This honestly does not surprise me as this is the same approach I use in the clinic. I use an active approach with people where weight training and controlling bodyweight movements is implemented on day one. To me, there is no difference of helping someone in the workplace vs. helping someone in the clinic. There is literally no difference. Our physiology doesn’t magically change just because we are working. We don’t turn into feeble humans just because we are working. We are still resilient.
Resistance training, aerobic activity such as walking, cycling, or swimming, all have ridiculous positive effects not only on our ‘work life,’ but when we are outside of work. Various studies over the past years have shown that even by getting 30 minutes of physical activity in a day, even if that’s just walking, will provide us with a significant reduction of not only musculoskeletal pain and injury but heart related conditions as well.
Nearly everyone knows what i’ve just written about in the paragraph above. It’s not news to people that if we could just get outside or get to the gym we’d be healthier, happier people. So, I won’t bore you with platitudes of ‘you can do it,’ rather, i’ll provide you with one strategy that you can start implementing today to help with putting exercise back into your routine.
That strategy is, add it to your calendar. If you don’t have a calendar, make one. If you don’t know how to make a calendar, search on google or youtube and i’m sure you can find many different strategies. If you add in “walk 30 mins” to your calendar, even if you don’t succeed with it everyday, you’ll succeed much more than if you don’t add it at all. Physical activity does not need to be a chore, and based on what you want out of life, and what things you want to be able to do later on in life, it’s not an option.
Often times we do not make decisions that will benefit our future self. This is due to an inability to see our future self as ourself. We view our future self as a stranger… and why the hell would we commit so much time to a stranger? Your future self is NOT a stranger and is intricately intertwined to each decision you make today.
In the spirit of not getting too derailed in my thought process in this blog post, here’s a quick recap of what we talked about…
- Ergonomics boil down to a few things
- Implement a resistance training and stretching routine for employees
- Provide Arm Rests for employees who work at desks
- Add physical activity to your calendar. This will drastically improve your success rate.
- Your future self is not a stranger.
Have you had an ergonomic specialist come into your workplace? What was that experience like? Was it helpful?
Are you looking for someone to help you with pain or injury that you’ve developed at work or outside of work? Click the link below and setup a completely complimentary consult with us!