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Takes a Pro to Make Offices Pain-Free

Ergonomist's adjustments to desks, chairs reduce eyestrain, poor posture, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 28, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Taking a proactive approach can help reduce the level of pain linked to poor posture in office workers, researchers have found.

Employers shouldn't just assume that problems will be solved by purchasing specially designed ergonomic office equipment including desks and chairs. It's also important to make sure the furniture is properly adjusted, according to study author Dr. Jasminka Goldoni Laestadius, of the World Bank's Joint Bank/Fund Health Services Department, and colleagues.

The researchers studied employees of the World Bank when they moved to a new headquarters. One group of employees received new furniture designed to be ergonomically appropriate, and the workers adjusted the furniture themselves. Another group also received new furniture, and a professional ergonomist adjusted it for the employees.

Among workers who had reported pain and eyestrain at the start of the study, those who had access to the professional ergonomist reported fewer symptoms after the ergonomic program, and their productivity also went up, the researchers found.

"Better postures meant less pain," the study authors wrote. "This verifies our experience that equipment such as an adjustable chair does not add value unless properly adjusted."

But neither group had fewer sick days. And the professional adjustment didn't make a difference for workers who developed symptoms later, according to the study published in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The researchers stressed that each office station needs to be set up individually. "Just providing new office furniture and written instructions is not sufficient to achieve proper accommodation," Laestadius and colleagues concluded. "Good office equipment is a poor substitute for good working positions."

More information

Learn more about ergonomics from U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

SOURCE: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, news release, Oct. 23, 2009
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