Recently I started teaching ergonomics at Victoria University to 5th year osteopathic students. As a colleague and good friend pointed out, for the majority of people this conjures up images of desk assessments and postural correction.
Last week, in conjunction with Heath Williams -osteopath from Principle Four Osteopathy in Melbourne and director of Corporate Work Health Australia- we did cover how to assess and correct the desk setup to support seated posture whilst using display screen equipment along with other considerations for movement. The drivers of functional movement are just as relevant in this seated position in that the range of reaching in particular will be in part dictated by the location of equipment (i.e. mouse, keyboard). Vision will drive head position relative to the screen distance and location. Contact with the ground establishes a significant generation of force from the lower limb in these reaching tasks- a feat not possible for the desk worker with poor ground contact due to improper setup.
This is one aspect of ergonomics, but contemporary definitions expand the topic…
(1) Ergonomics is basically Applied Biomechanics
(2) Ergonomics is the application of scientific information concerning human beings to the design of objects, systems and environments for human use.
(3) Ergonomics is the science of matching the job to the worker and the product to the user.
(4) Ergonomics is the scientific study of human work.
If we think of ‘work’ in terms of tasks or activity and the ‘user’ to person or athlete or client. It becomes clear that as therapists we have a lot to offer in this area in terms of advice, product design and selection (e.g. mobility aids, joint braces, sporting equipment, work place risk assessment…etc.). The aim being to either improve efficiency and performance, or reduce the risk of injury.
This has evolved into a patient centred approach with collaborative efforts occurring between the therapist, worker and management to deal with musculoskeletal injury in the workplace. Similarly, this joint approach between coaches, trainers, therapists and athletes – with particular reference to equipment (e.g. Bike setup, racquet design, footwear) results in better outcomes in performance and injury prevention.
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