Ergonomics and Kyphosis

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If you have kyphosis, you need to be thinking about ergonomics. Ergonomics looks at how we work and what the environment is like where we work. It's a scientific discipline that studies how to make work less painful (that's a simplified explanation of ergonomics, but it works).

Poor PostureFollow this progression: postural kyphosis is aggravated by poor posture. Many of us spend many hours a day hunched over a desk or straining forward to see a computer screen—i.e., many of us spend many hours a day with poor posture. How we work, therefore, is quite important to preventing possible effects of kyphosis (not to mention general back and neck pain).

Even if you have structural kyphosis—abnormal kyphosis caused by a problem with a part of the spine—it's important to think about how you work and what the environment is like where you work. Practicing good posture at work won't correct or prevent a structural kyphotic curve, but taking care of your spine with good ergonomics can prevent some of the pain associated with kyphosis.

How We Work
As a workforce, we spend a lot of time in front of computers, and if we're honest with ourselves, most of us don't sit with our best posture. We slump forward. We round our backs. We crane our necks. And we go home at the end of the day with tight muscles and a strong desire to crack our backs.

Eight hours of poor posture at the office is not a job requirement, and it certainly doesn't help people with postural kyphosis.

Here are some tips to help you work better:

  • Take breaks. Get up, take a lap around the office, go for a walk at lunch, stretch your muscles. Sitting in one position all day (and it doesn't matter how perfect your posture is) will cause tight, tense, tired muscles—muscles that aren't able to support your spine well.
  • Position your computer correctly. The keyboard should tilt down and a bit away from you. Do that, and your wrists, arms, and shoulders will be at a good, comfortable position. The computer screen should be directly in front of you at eye level—not to the left or to the right so that you have to adjust your head position to see it. You should be looking straight forward.
  • Don't cross your legs. Keep your feet flat on the floor; this is a tip that relates to choosing the right kind of office equipment, too. With your feet flat on the floor, your body weight will be better supported, and you'll be less likely to hunch forward over the desk.

Work Environment
Ergonomics also takes into account the environment where we work: the desk and chair, for example. The chair is especially important for people with kyphosis. It needs to be supportive and encourage good posture.

Finding a good, ergonomic chair isn't as easy as heading to the store and buying one that's labeled "ergonomic." You need to test them out and decide which one is best for you. Ergonomic chairs aren't a one-size-fits-all item.

Here are some basic items to consider in buying an ergonomic chair that will help you get through work with good posture:

  • Lumbar support: If your low back (lumbar spine) is well-supported and well-positioned, you're more likely to have good posture all the way up your spine.
  • Recline: Really, you shouldn't be sitting straight up at 90º. The chair should have a tilt of 100º-110º.
  • Height: Your feet should be able to comfortably reach the floor.

Read this article on choosing a good ergonomic chair for more tips about how to promote good work skills through the right office equipment.

Updated on: 08/09/16
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Ergonomic Guidelines for Computer Workstations - 10 Steps for Users
Jason M. Highsmith, MD
This article was reviewed by Jason M. Highsmith, MD.
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Ergonomic Guidelines for Computer Workstations - 10 Steps for Users

Creating a good ergonomic working arrangement is important to protecting your health.
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