Chronic Lyme Disease Summit 2

Ergonomics

If you're like me, you have poor body mechanics,and it contributes mightily to your fibromyalgia. In fact, I have discovered that my posture puts me into a fibro-flare faster than just about anything else.

 I wonder how many fibromytes have poor posture and sloppy body mechanics... This is where ergonomics comes into the picture.

 And it doesn't have to just be at the workplace or on the job, ergonomics, healthy body mechanics and postural adjustments should be used everywhere: walking, running, watching TV, reading, eating, sleeping, driving.

 You name it, no matter what your activity is (or even just sitting still) your posture and poor body mechanics can get you into trouble, fast.

 Starting with the obvious, the computer you're sitting in front of right now. What's it like? How is it set up? Are you sitting on a bed with a laptop, or are you at a desk? If you're in bed with your laptop, you should go somewhere else immediately. Beds should be for sleeping and lovemaking only (although I do make the exception and read and watch TV in bed, and yes, the pets sleep with me sometimes...but computing? No way!)

 You don't have to take the word "laptop" literally. Put it on a desk or a table, and position it so it's directly in front of you.

 You should not have to twist your head or contort your body to use the computer.

 If you need to wear glasses while using the computer, then always make sure you have them on. 

Don't lean forward, bring the laptop closer to your body instead.

 Choose a good chair with a back that will support your back. Try not to use a chair with arms, that way you can get as close to the desk or table as you need to (chair arms can get in the way by putting you too far away, thus making you have to reach to type, and this will assuredly seize up your shoulders, neck and arms).

 You should not be looking up, or down, into the laptop's screen. You should look straight ahead, no slouching, no leaning, no straining. If you don't have access to a desk or chair, thereby having to use the laptop in its literal sense, then by all means prop yourself up against a wall or sturdy piece of furniture to support your back. Put the laptop on your lap, with a pillow under it, so you're avoiding leaning forward, squinting, straining or slouching as much as possible. Sitting with your head bent forward and your legs straight out in front of you, or folded under you, for too long of a period of time will put you into a flare.

 Get up and walk around every few minutes. All of these tips obviously apply to any computer use, whether desktop or laptop.

And the same applies if you work with office machines of any kind.

 Telephones are probably the worst, it's absolutely forbidden to cradle the phone between your ear and neck.  Get a good headset instead. Or, you can always do what I do: make yourself unavailable by phone (all right, I guess your boss wouldn't like that very much so don't try it!!). Seriously, when I do talk on the phone (which is rare just because of the nature of my job), I never multi-task. I have to switch hands if the call is longer than a minute or two because my fingers and hands "fall asleep" very quickly from holding the phone up to my ear, and then they turn to pins and needles and go totally numb. A headset would come in handy, if you're prone to numbness and tingling of the hands, a common fibromyalgia symptom.

 Check and re-check the alignment of your body: spine, neck, head, hips, hands, and ask yourself whether you're clenching your jaw or otherwise making unconscious mouth movements.

 You'd be surprised how many ergonomic missteps you probably make in a day.

 If you can afford it, visit an osteopath or a physical therapist (insurance sometimes covers the latter), and learn how your body is supposed to be aligned.

 Another way to learn body alignment is at yoga classes (not self-learning, and not at a gym, please -- see a real yoga teacher). I was fortunate to meet both an osteopath and a full-fledged yogi right here in my little tiny town, and they each taught me invaluable lessons about how my body was supposed to be aligned. Little did I know that I was clenching and grinding my teeth all the time, that my shoulders were constantly hunched up beneath my ears, that I was constantly clenching all of my muscles in my legs, buttocks and back, and that one leg was shorter than the other because my hips had become misaligned after a couple of bad falls walking my dogs.

 The osteopath and the yogi each taught me how to properly align my body, and I still use their techniques every day.

 Deep breathing is another invaluable technique. It helps calm you down, it forces you to be aware of the placement of your body parts, and causes you to relax. It is amazing how many fibromytes don't breathe correctly, or simply don't breathe at all! Shallow-breathing is a problem for many of us.

 The same common-sense tips apply when doing any of the aforementioned activities: if you drive for a living, make sure you're not too far away, nor too close, to the steering wheel. Be sure you can see over the front of the car, and always wear glasses if you're supposed to. Squinting, slouching, leaning forward are all no-nos, especially on long drives. Try not to drive a car with a clutch and stick-shift transmission -- there's just too much bad ergonomics movement going on! I drove a 5-speed Subaru for many years, the last two years of owning that car were the worst two with fibromyalgia. If I drove for more than a few minutes, I became exhausted and in severe, body-wide pain. Don't let this happen to you!

 Stop and get out of the car and walk around as often as you can, while staying within the parameters of your company's rules. Deep breathing is a must while driving.

 Sometimes, I choke while eating because I get short of breath. Someone pointed out to me that my posture while I eat is horrible! Who knew? I'm certainly not going to sit in front of a mirror to study my eating stance, but keep this in mind if you're on a work-related assignment that requires eating. There's nothing more embarrassing than choking on your food and having it fly out your nose and mouth while you're at a business luncheon. I know, because it's happened to me! The same applies if you're just on your lunch break with your buddies at Mickey D's (you shouldn't be eating there, but that's covered on another page in this web site).

 If your job is of the non-office variety (medical profession, physical labor, service industry, etc.) learn about body mechanics and proper body alignment asap, and apply what you learn every minute of every day.

 This is particularly true if you travel by air, boat or train for your job and have to carry that laptop we've been talking about, plus a bag of clothes and a brief case. Learn body mechanics and travel as light as humanly possible.

 Don't put all your bags on one shoulder -- OUCH! Get something with wheels and push rather than pull your stuff around. Pulling is less ergonomically sound than pushing, but either is better than carrying things on your shoulders like a mule.

 No matter what your career, whether company executive, police officer, stay-at-home-mom, doctor, lawyer, butcher, baker, candlestick-maker, your employer (or you, if you're self-employed) is required to make "reasonable accommodations" for you if you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and if you ask for such accommodations.

 The definition of a reasonable accommodation (in my own words) is: minor adjustments to make your workplace or work situation more comfortable for you, physically. This isn't about bullies and office politics, nay-sayers and complainers -- that's covered somewhere else on the internet. We're talking about your physical comfort while you're working, and your overall knowledge of body mechanics. What constitutes healthy body mechanics vs. poor posture, movement and ergonomics for your particular situation.

 We all need to be aware of the simple things we can do to make ourselves more comfortable in our work-a-day lives.

 Some things are so simple, it will astonish you. For instance, learning how to relax your jaw. An invisible, one-second, instantaneous stress-buster and pain reliever from the yogis -- place the tip of your tongue on that funny little ridge just behind your top front teeth. Et voila! instant relief. Try it now, no one can see you. Keep it there. Often.

 Yes, you can remain employed even if you have fibromyalgia, and you should. Quitting work should be your absolute last option when all else has failed. That's what this web site is all about, working with fibromyalgia -- Fibro Works!! And we're here to prove it!

 This web site is intended for educational and informational purposes only and does not promote medical advice nor substitute for treatment by a licensed physician. Readers should not try any of the methods described here themselves without consulting a professional.

Comments