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Mom Was Right! Sitting Up Straight Essential for Employee Health, Bottom Line

Many workers sit all day long, whether at the office, in the car or even during leisure time. This behavior can be hazardous to your employee’s health and safety, especially if they are not sitting correctly. Half of computer users have posture related back pain, according to the Department of Labor. Of those, 67 percent report neck and shoulder pain and 40 percent report low back pain.

Americans spend $87.6 billion a year on treating neck and back pain, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The cost of musculoskeletal conditions, which encompasses back and neck pain along with arthritic conditions, totals an estimated $213 billion in annual treatment, care and lost wages, according to a report issued today by the United States Bone and Joint Initiative (USBJI). That’s 1.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011, according to USBJI. Back and neck pain alone affects more than 75.7 million adults—that’s one in three.

In addition to lost wages, these disorders cost your business a lot in terms of employee productivity and help to drive up the cost of health care and what you pay for your employees’ health insurance.

Having good posture is integral to everyone’s health, including your employees. One-quarter of American adults have suffered back pain in the past three months, and 7.6 million are currently disabled with back pain, according to posturemonth.org. But it’s not just about the orthopedics: They cite research suggesting that folks who spend 12 hours or more per day seated—think about your commute to work and then the eight to 10 hours you spend at your desk—are at a greater risk for diabetes, heart disease and even life-threatening falls.

One way to help ease back and neck issues are to ensure your employees use good posture when they are working. One way to do this is to ensure they are sitting correctly and workstations are properly adjusted to their needs.

So, what can you do to fix it?

Sitting correctly is the most important thing for correct posture. Your feet should rest comfortably flat on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree angle. If your office chair does not have built-in lumbar support, a rolled-up towel at the lumbar offers extra spine support and allows the back muscles to relax, reducing fatigue. Your pelvis should be at the back of the seat of your chair, so your lower back is touching the backrest.

When sitting in your chair, try to avoid leaning on the armrest and putting all your weight on one side, which can strain back muscles. Also avoid sitting on the edge or your chair or, even worse, leaning forward to squint at the screen—this is bad for the back and the eyes!

Another idea could be to ditch the chair all together and consider a standing desk that allows for you to stand – or even pull up an exercise bike or treadmill – to make your workday more active and promote improved posture.

Taking care when picking up that paper clip is also another way to help your posture and reduce strain on your back. Bending at the waist only puts enormous pressure on the lumbar spine—about half your body weigh—as you reach down to the floor and come back up. When picking up the dropped item, bend at the knees to reduce strain on the back.

If you wear a support brace, or back belt as part of your uniform, remember that this doesn’t work like Popeye’s can of spinach—it doesn’t give you superpower. Keep in mind how much you can normally comfortably pick up without strain. The belt only helps to keep your spine in line and does not add strength to your back.

Ergonomics and preventing musculoskeletal conditions are so important to your business, we have a dedicated safety manager who can assist you in reducing your risks from poor workplace posture and ergonomics to your employees’ safety.  Specifically, we perform on-site safety inspections, conduct training and on-the-job hazard analysis to help you have the healthiest employees.

Reach out to our safety manager at 800-400-1968 or email at info@abelhr.com

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