Ergonomics matters when your back complaint is aggravated by your work or home environment

Author:  Heath Williams, occupational health osteopath & strength and conditioning coach

What does your Melbourne city cbd osteopath say

Osteopath Heath Williams says that “reviewing ones ergonomics is essential when it comes to those individuals whose back pain is aggravated or maintained by their working environment.  There are many drivers of pain and a thorough approach to back pain management that is aggravated by ergonomics involves a review of all the ergonomic domains.  This means we take a look at the physical, cognitive and organisational facets to identify where there is an opportunity to eliminate or reduce ones exposure to various hazards.”

Back pain and ergonomics

Ergonomics matters when it comes to those individuals whose complaints are aggravated by their working environment.  Every individual’s back complaint is unique to their specific set of circumstances and your Melbourne city CBD osteopath will go through a methodical approach to discussing your current working circumstances and environment and review these either in person or virtually to identify where changes can be made to reduce this aggravation.

What do our Melbourne city cbd osteopaths do differently

All of the osteopaths at Principle Four Osteopathy have undertaken additional post graduate training in ergonomics (office workstation, vehicle and manual task training) and collectively we have > 30 years of experience in occupational health.

Osteopaths Heath Williams and Shaun Coghlan are one of only a handful of practitioners who have been awarded the title “Occupational health osteopath” by Osteopathy Australia.  Osteopathy Australia has a credentialling pathway that involved Heath and Shaun undertaking a rigorous application process that demonstrates their breadth of experience that is assessed externally by professionals working in occupational health.  

All of the osteopaths at Principle Four Osteopathy (Heath, Shaun, Jarrod and Tim) all currently consult in occupational health for Corporate Work Health Australia.  Corporate Work Health Australia is one of Australia’s leading providers in occupational health.

What Does A Consult Focused On Reviewing Your Ergonomics Look Like

Our team of Melbourne city cbd osteoapths offer face to face consults within the clinic, at your work or home or via telehealth.  Our consults involve a 30 – 45 minute assessment and we will provide a summary report of recommendations. 

Starting with the case history and task analysis

Our osteopaths will sit down with you to discuss your current musculoskeletal complaints to determine which ergonomic factors may be contributing to your complaint.  We will ask you a series of questions relating specifically to your work ergonomics and home and lifestyle ergonomics to gain an understanding of what your day looks like with regards to tasks performed and postures and movements undertaken.  We will be looking to determine where you may be exposed to the following risk factors:

  • Awkward postures
  • Repetitive movements
  • Forceful movements
  • Static postures
  • Duration
  • Vibration

We will also discuss more broadly with you about your general health and wellbeing to determine where non physical stress factors may be involved i.e. when and where in your day may there be an increased need for cognitive demand and/or where organisational stresses may be involved within a working context. 

Next we take a look at your ergonomics and how you interact with your environment

Depending on what has been identified as being a potential aggravator or maintaining factor, we may wish to review in person or virtually a variety of ergonomic aspects of your life.  This may involve assessing your office workstation, the manual tasks performed within your job or at home, the ergonomics relating to how you relax and socialise at home and your vehicle ergonomics.  Reviewing how you spend time and move and be in these environments will allow us to perform a specific task analysis so that we can look to either change the ergonomics to eliminate your exposure to those risk factors highlighted previously or whether we need to change the way you operate within the environment.  This might mean we modify the way you move, sit, work etc to avoid aggravation of your complaint.  In some circumstances we may need to look at increasing your physical capacity so that you can safely perform tasks requires within your life.

Case Example:  Office Workstation Ergonomic Assessment

The home or office workstation is often identified as being an aggravating or maintaining factor for those who experience back pain.  We will look to identify which postures and movements trigger your complaint and will want to observe how you move and perform these tasks.  We will assess the following factors relating to your home or office ergonomics

  • Job tasks and work flow and how this differs within the day, week and month
  • Job tasks performed and how you perform these
  • Your current workstation set up i.e. desk, chair, computer accessories
  • Movement breaks and behavioursS

Step 1: Job tasks and work flow

After your case history and task analysis discussion we will look to observe how you interact with your work environment and have you demonstrate your typical work tasks.  Here we will observe what body positions you get yourself into and which body regions are impacted.  We will observe for awkward postures, repetition and use of all body regions.  We will also discuss the frequency of these tasks and exposure to these tasks.

Step 2: Assessing your current workstation set up

We will assess your current workstation and equipment to ensure it meets Australian standards and will look to gain an understanding of how you interact with this equipment whilst working. 

We will review your desk and chair and look to adjust your seat set so that you have optimised the chair to meet your specific needs and then provide advice on how to optimise how work sit and work at the desk.

If you have a sit stand desk, we will educate you on how to adjust the desk to an optimal height for sitting or standing work tasks.  We will also provide advice on how often you should alternate between the two working postures. 

Depending on the number of computer monitors you have (1, 2 or more), we will provide advice on how to optimise the position of these monitors with regards to position (arrangement), height, distance to ensure you can work comfortably and minimise awkward working postures.

We will then review how you interact with your inputting devices (keyboard and mouse) and provide guidance on how to set this up to optimise your working position and overall comfort.

In some circumstances we may provide advice on replacing or upgrading various pieces of equipment so that you can eliminate any hazards identified or to optimise your working postures so that you can perform these tasks more comfortably.

We will also review the environmental factors (temperature, lighting and noise) within your working environment as these factors can also contribute to the aggravation and maintenance of your complaints.

Step 3. Movement and break behaviours

Movement variability and regular breaks are just as important, if not more than creating an ideal work environment.  The person who has an ideal set up that doesn’t move all day is likely to experience aches and pains because the body is simply not moving enough.  Some simple strategies to improve your movement throughout the work day include:

  • Take a microbreak from typing and mouse use i.e. 30 seconds every 5-7 minutes if you are using these inputting devices regularly
  • Try and stand and move around for 1-2 minutes every 30-45 minutes
  • Take an eye break regularly i.e. look away 20 metres for 20 seconds every 20 minutes
  • If you have a sit stand desk, alternate between sitting and standing regularly throughout the day
  • Go for several short walks through the work day rather than one long walk or try performing some movements or stretches every 30-60 minutes for 1-2 minutes.

Are our osteopaths the right fit for you?

If you have any questions about your back complaint and whether we can assist, we encourage you to give us a call 03 9662 2147  or email us at info@principle4.com about any questions that you might have.  One of our practitioners will give you a call to discuss your specific questions and how we can assist. 

Where Can Your Source Equipment

For those clients based in Melbourne, Back Care and Seating Carlton North offer a range of great office workstation ergonomic equipment.  They have a showroom full of desks, chairs and equipment accessories.  Check them out online at https://backcare.com.au/.  If you are needing guidance on equipment for your home or office set up, please touch base with one of our Melbourne city cbd osteopaths and we can discuss equipment recommendations with you.

Melbourne CBD Osteopathy Clinic Location

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Our osteopathic clinic is conveniently located in the heart of the Melbourne City CBD at 178 Collins st.  We are easily accessible for all in the CBD via tram, training, walking or driving.  

For those coming from nearby inner Melbourne suburbs, we are a short walk from the train at Flinders St and the nearby intersections of Collins and Swanston and Collins and Russell st. 

Find out more about our great range of health services below:

Melbourne osteopathy

Shockwave therapy

Strength and conditioning

Ergonomic workstation assessments

Functional movement screening

Telehealth

Book your osteopathy appointment today by calling 03 9662 2147 or book online here.

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