on a computer all day can become a real pain in the neck (and the back and
forearms and hands). Fortunately, a new ergonomics Web site created by
Information Technology Services has several suggestions to keep bodies in
offers advice on good working positions, stretches, workstation guidelines
for health, an office ergonomics checklist and even the Occupational Safety
& Health Administration’s guidelines for proper video display viewing.
Ergonomics is the science that studies the relationship of humans to their
working environment and seeks to improve working conditions and increase
efficiency. Proper ergonomics can prevent repetitive strain injury, explains
Steve Windsor, database administrator.
“Repetitive strain injuries are a subtle affliction which may develop
undetected for months or years before it is noticed by the user,” Windsor
says. “Correspondingly, it may take the same amount of time for the user to
Windsor knows about work-related physical stress first hand. Ten years ago,
the then-corporate programmer noticed tightness in his neck and shoulders
and pain in his arms and wrists. He tried to ignore the pain for several
months, but by the time he saw a doctor and was prescribed physical therapy,
it was too late. For six months, he was unable to type, and any forms of
gripping – jars, door handles, steering wheel and even shaking hands –
became too painful to bear.
Windsor lost his job as a result.
In 1997, Windsor came to Wesleyan where “they
were very receptive and supportive of my condition,” he explains. Windsor
currently goes to physical therapy sessions in combination with
anti-inflammatory drugs and nutritive supplements.
At work, he uses a rubber-ball chair to align his spine, a specially
designed mouse, a headset that he can use to dictate text rather than type
it, and a touch-sensitive keyboard that eliminates the need to push keys.
Several body-aligning illustrations are depicted on Wesleyan’s ergonomics
Web site. The site suggests simple stretches, such as a head rotation,
lateral neck stretch, finger flexor stretch, standing back bend and arm
Each stretch should be performed throughout the workday, explains Brandi
Hood, senior project coordinator for Physical Plant and ergonomics expert.
Hood makes formal assessment of Wesleyan employees’ workstations.
Windsor says when an employee is diagnosed with a repetitive strain injury a
typical reaction is to throw ergonomic equipment at the problem. However,
the employee's posture and work habits are the most important issues to
study for a correct diagnosis.
“All the ergonomic equipment in the world will not affect positive change
unless the user addresses postural and working habits,” says Windsor.
When setting up a computer workstation, Hood suggests that employees should
be aware of neutral body positioning. This is a comfortable working posture
in which joins are naturally aligned. This reduced stress and strain on the
muscles, tendons and skeletal system.
“Proper posture and limb alignment include making sure your feet are flat on
the floor, your butt is all the way back in the chair, your back is in
contact with the back of the chair, and your arms are relaxed close to your
sides to reduce the severe angles between your shoulder and elbow and your
elbow and wrists,” she says.
These postures are illustrated on the ergonomics site.
This year, Hood and Julia Hicks, associate director of Human Resources, are
planning at least one ergonomics session for Wesleyan employees.