Ergonomics is the study of the science of how our environment affects our bodies. Because of the costs involved, most ergonomics have to do with the work environment. There are postures and activities which we perform on a regualr basis and if done improperly can add up to a lot of stress and subsequent injuries. These include the way we sleep, sit, lift, walk, and breathe.
We sleep for six to eight hours each night and this literally reforms or deforms our spine due to the connective tissues in our body and the way they mold like plastic when subjected to sustained postures. If we sleep curled up, we are more likely to sit with poor posture.
Most of us sit a lot each day and this posture has a lot to do with the development of back and neck problems, which can even cause pain and numbness into the arms and legs.
Lifting, when done wrong, is the most common mechanism for severe low back injuries. The adage "bend your knees and lift with your legs" is not accurate. "Brace your abdomen and hinge in your hips, don't bend your back" is correct.
Gait or walking causes a whole host of problems due to the fact that the average person takes 5000 to 10,000 steps per day. There are 26 named diagnoses attributable to faulty gait. Hyperpronation or collapsed arches during walking can cause foot pain, ankle pain, knee pain, pelvic pain, low back pain, mid back pain, and neck pain.
The average person takes 12,000 to 16,000 breaths while awake each day thereby making a seemingly innocuous activity like breathing potentially stressful especially in the neck and upper back region due to recruitment of improper muscles used for breathing. The breathing pattern is one of the most important to evaluate and correct for spinal stabilization.
Evaluation of ergonomic issues for each patient is a critical part of patient care to identify offending activities that could prolong care or prevent healing of structural problems.