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Is your job stressing your body out?

Sep 28, 2017

An ergonomics evaluation can determine if your environment is causing stress to your back, neck

We’ve all experienced stress at work whether it’s a looming deadline, major presentation or difficult colleagues. Your work environment also can cause stress to your body. 

Angela Thomas

For example, do you find yourself sitting at a computer for hours on end without taking regular breaks? Have you bent over to pick up something, or twisted your body awkwardly to reach for something?

Any of these actions, plus a host of others, can cause stress and strain on your body resulting in stiffness and pain in the neck, back and other joints or other, more serious injuries. To determine if you are performing certain tasks correctly, an ergonomics evaluation can provide the answer.

Ergonomics is the study of how people perform work and home activities in relation to their capabilities. The goal is to improve health and safety and prevent injuries, says Angela Thomas, Director of Outpatient Physical Therapy and certified ergonomics assessment specialist. That’s why many businesses or industrial plants call in ergonomics experts to check out how their employees are performing their jobs.

At St. Joseph’s/Candler, many of our outpatient physical therapists are highly trained in occupational medicine and ergonomics.

Quiz: Are your daily habits causing back pain?

During an ergonomics evaluation, our experts will look at workplace dynamics including keyboard placement, chair height, posture, equipment and work design to determine if any factors are causing unnecessary stress to the back, neck or other joints. An evaluation lasts around 15 minutes per employee, depending on environmental factors

“Sometimes the ergonomics report may suggest items that can be bought to improve a workplace situation,” Thomas says. “Keep in mind, however, that many ergonomic problems can be fixed by rearrangement, adjustment or modifications of existing items, and how the individual carries out his or her assignments.”

How physical therapy can help with a workplace injury

If you currently experience body aches and pains or have suffered an injury, then you may need to visit your primary care physician or a physical therapist.

Rachel Sikes

At the St. Joseph’s/Candler Outpatient Physical Therapy's new Pooler location, industrial medicine (a branch of medicine that helps prevent diseases and accidental injuries in the workplace) and ergonomic are among the specialties treated. 

During an evaluation, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants will examine a patient’s flexibility and strength to determine if he or she meets the job’s expectations, says Rachel Sikes, PTA, physical therapist assistant at the SJ/C Outpatient Physical Therapy Pooler location. Therapists also will look at repetitive motion performed on the job or during an activity and techniques in lifting, pushing and pulling.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize they can be sitting at the wrong height or their computer monitor can be off-centered just a little bit and how much stress that can cause to your neck and back,” Sikes says.

Patients that seek physical therapy can expect to be seen two or three times a week for about an hour. The length of therapy depends on the injury. During a session, therapists will work with patients on stretching, strengthening, stabilization, pain control and education on topics such as posture, body mechanics and other ergonomic factors. 

“In the long run, paying attention to good ergonomics, whether at work or home, will mean improved efficiency and productivity and less pain and suffering as you age,” Thomas says.

If you’d like to make an appointment with one of our physical therapists at any of the six St. Joseph’s/Candler Outpatient Rehabilitation Centers, please visit our website to find the one nearest you.  A physician’s referral is required to see a physical therapist. 

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