The word “Ergonomics” is thrown around a lot when it comes to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). The term comes from the Greek ergon, meaning “work”, and nomos, meaning “natural laws.” By definition, ergonomics means “…the study of efficiency in working environments.” Wikipedia describes it as, “…the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, and its cognitive abilities.” The International Ergonomics Association offers this definition: “Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”
The study of ergonomics is not new as it dates back to Ancient Greece with substantial evidence that, in the 5th century BCE, ergonomic principles were applied to tool design, job activities, and workplaces. One example is Hippocrates giving surgeons recommendations on how to arrange their table and tools during surgery.
Some ergonomic concepts we can employ on a daily basis include:
- Take frequent breaks, every half-hour if possible, but at least every 60 to 90 minutes. Get up, stretch, and walk around. If nothing else, perform stretches while sitting in your work chair.
- Maintain “good posture” (tuck in the chin and hold the retracted position).
- Evaluate your workstation: proper sitting position, how you hold the phone, keyboard/monitor positions, type & position of the mouse, reaching requirements, avoid twist/bending the wrists.
- When grasping/gripping, use the whole hand – not just the fingers or thumb tips alone.
- Keep cutting instruments sharp (scissors, knives, etc.) and maintain locks on hinged knives.
- Consider modifications if tools are too heavy, buttons too high, too much required force, etc.
- Stay in shape as obesity is a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Rotate job tasks rather than continuing with one task until finished (less repetition)!
- Communicate with your supervisor and HR person about improving the workplace.