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How to prevent backaches at work

Ergonomic furniture, right posture and exercise are some of the ingredients to keep from pains attached to sedentary jobs.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 19, 2008 01:37 PM IST

Backaches and neck pains have become common complaints among those with sedentary lifestyles. And experts stress that the incorporation of ergonomic workstations, the right posture and exercise are essential to increase the productivity of employees.

According to doctors, nearly 90 per cent of people suffer from back problems at some point in life. What aggravates the problem is not maintaining the right posture and not being able to adjust their fixed workstation according to their needs.

Sanjay Sarup, a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here, explains ergonomics as the science of making one's workplace safe and comfortable as per individual needs.

The use of a healthy workstation could boost the attendance as well as the productivity of the workforce significantly, Sarup told IANS.

An ergonomically designed workstation, which can be readjusted, will allow a computer user to work in a neutral, relaxed and ideal typing posture that will minimise the risk of developing any back-related problems.

Gaurav Gupta from BP Ergo, a company dealing in modular furniture systems, said ergonomic furniture is made of composite material like aluminium, steel and stainless steel, and is designed to suit specific needs of different individuals at the workplace.

The price of ergonomically designed furniture starts from Rs 8,000 and varies according to size.

So have firms in India started using ergonomic furniture?

"It is very much in demand and we have already provided such furniture to companies like Nokia, American Express, Bank of America, Reliance and Birla Sun Life Insurance amongst others," he said.

But Mehernaaz Damania, a Mumbai-based corporate fitness consultant and back pain therapist, explains that an ergonomically designed workplace alone cannot prevent backache problems. Sitting in the right posture is important to reap its benefits.

"Posture is the place from where health begins," Mehernaaz said.

She added that if the right posture was not maintained while sitting for 8-10 hours a day in office, it affects breathing and blood circulation, disrupts the functioning of internal organs, besides affecting the functions of muscles and joints.

"One has to know how to sit properly. How high or how low the chair and computer should be placed are important considerations in reducing the incidence of such ailments," she said.

Mehernaaz, who has trained many people to make proper use of ergonomics at their workplace, suggests that if a firm installs such furniture, the staff should be trained for its proper use.

However, Sarup and Mehernaaz maintained that there was no substitute for adequate exercise.

The fitness expert advised that a person should ideally get up and move around every 15 minutes or include regular stretches between their working hours. This is important to avoid stiffness in the muscles and joints that lead to pain in the neck and back, she said.

"India is a nation sitting on the butt," remarked Sarup. The orthopaedic surgeon suggested that people go for regular walks, go to the gym or engage in some physical activity to boost their productivity in a natural way.

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