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The 6 Strangest-Looking Ergonomic Chairs

Some people will do anything in an effort to improve their health -- and that includes looking like a fool. (Shake Weight, anyone?) This axiom even holds true in the world of ergonomic chairs. While the majority of consumers might settle for the standard multi-adjustable, comfortable office chair, some people just won't be swayed by anything less than the most outlandish and eccentric products they can find.

This is the list for them: the six strangest-looking ergonomic chairs.

  1. Kneeling ergonomic chair
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This is the most common type of nontraditional ergonomic chair, but that doesn't make the design any less weird. It is intended to improve posture by keeping your spine straight while removing pressure from your back while you kneel on the pads. But the unmistakable truth is that chairs are like pants: yes, some people do buy them without backs, but they look REALLY strange using them.

  1. Stand angle chair

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This product claims to "optimize blood flow" by opening up into several different positions (although the price tag of $1200 might be enough to get your blood boiling). The end result is that it looks more like a "Transformers"-style office chair. In fact, the bottom right quadrant appears to resemble something Hannibal Lecter would be wheeled around in.

  1. Gaiam balance ball chair
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No, they didn't rip a chair seat off of a frame and stick a Hippity Hop ball on it. This chair forces you to sit up straight, thus relieving pressure from your back and shoulders and transferring it to your body's core area. Now you too can combine the soul-sucking drudgery of office work with the pain and agony of exercise equipment!

  1. ErgoChair

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You may be tempted to call it the "Egg-o Chair." But this ErgoChair, which was created by a flock of engineers, health practitioners, and physicians inSwitzerland, claims to offer benefits similar to those of the abovementioned balance ball chair … even if it does look like you're perched on a mobile kegstand at a frat house.

  1. Neber

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Neber is a German word. It translates into English as "recumbent bicycle minus wheels and pedals plus monitor and keyboard." But the Korean company who makes the Neber believes that the comfortable reclining position which it provides for the user helps boost employee productivity. That's probably true - because it looks like it will take the average worker about a half hour just to climb out of the thing.

  1. Fluid Ribbon chair

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Developed by a biomechanical engineer, the Fluid Ribbon Chair ostensibly provides appropriate back support in the right places. Its split design allows both sides of the chair to move independently, thus promoting constant tiny bodily movements to lubricate joints (the layman refers to these movements as "struggling to get comfortable"). The good news: if you don't like using it in your office, you can always plop it in your den and call it modern art.

Image credits: ergonomicoffices.net, gearfuse.com, thisnext.com, actureans.com, freshpilot.com, trendir.com



5 Surprising Causes of Back Pain

Everyone knows the usual causes of back pain: bad posture, weak core muscles, and our personal favorite, weight gain. Most can be alleviated with a combination of exercise and small changes like using a more ergonomic chair.

Some causes of back pain will surprise you, though. Here are a few of our favorite oddballs:

1. Being too athletic.

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We love this cause. It turns out, too much exercise can be almost as bad for your back as too little. (Almost.) Athletes have some unusual causes of back pain, including a variety of oddball fractures from overuse, all of which have names longer than we can pronounce.

2. Depression.

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The relationship between back pain and depression goes both ways. Having chronic back pain can certainly lead to depression, but (depressingly) being depressed can also cause chronic back pain.

3. The wrong size bra.

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Everyone has heard some variation on the popular statistic: Anywhere from 70 to 85 percent of American women are supposedly wearing the wrong size bra. In addition to making the wearer look older, heavier, and less comfortable, the wrong size bra can cause significant back pain.

4. Smoking.

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Here’s final proof that smoking is bad for just about every single part of the body. A recent study showed a direct link between smoking cigarettes and degenerative lumbar spine problems. The cause is most likely decreased blood flow to the discs.

5. Genetics.

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A great big boo for this news: A recent study conducted at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Anatomy and Anthropology concluded that some kinds of back pain might be genetic. Subjects were three times more likely to have back pain if someone in their family did. But there is an upside: it’s one more thing you can blame on your folks. 



The 5 Most Dangerous Desk Posture Habits

We all know how we're supposed to sit at our desks: Feet flat on the floor, thighs parallel to the floor, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. But even with ergonomic chairs, keyboard trays, and all the other gadgets we have to help us sit correctly, how many of us actually sit the way we're supposed to? Here are five of the worst desk posture habits.

1. Slouching.

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The bane of your Mom's existence -- slouching -- does more than put stress on your joints. Researchers at the University of Leeds have found a connection between the muscles in your neck and your nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) -- the part of the brainstem that helps regulates blood pressure.

2. Crossing your legs.

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It's a myth that crossing your legs causes varicose veins, but this comfortable position can have negative consequences. Spider veins -- those tiny red squiggly lines that probably inspired the invention of pantyhose -- are more common in women than in men, in part because of the leg crossing habit. And crossing your legs definitely contributes to lower back pain.

3. Making like a turtle.

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Forward head posture is common among people who sit at desks all day. In addition to making us look like Yertle the Turtle, it's pretty bad for just about every part of your back. Forward head posture causes headaches, neck and shoulder pain, upper back pain, and permanent curvature of the upper back. And don’t forget that it makes us look like Yertle. Pain is one thing, but vanity is eternal.

4. Sitting cross-legged.

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This one makes us sad. Sitting cross-legged seems like it should be healthy -- it's practically yoga! It should probably make you thinner, too. Unfortunately, what it does is wreak havoc on your knees. Darn, knowing things. 

5. Not taking a break.

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Maybe the worst habit of all: Sitting all day long without taking a break. Experts say that you should take a break every 20 minutes at most, stand up, stretch and walk around. 



The New Office Trend: BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair)

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It's the office equipment of a centaur: A person who is so at one with his ergonomic chair that he seems to actually, you know, be at one with his ergonomic chair. A half-chair, half-man, if you will.

The most extreme incarnation of this modern mythical beastie is Mike Williams. The proud owner of a Steelcase "Think" Chair, Mr. Williams is a product-management executive at a Grand Rapids, Mich., food-service company. He convinced his wife to let him buy the $500 chair by bringing brown bag lunches and doing more yard work on the weekend.

It was a worthwhile investment. Office furniture retailer Staples says that 86 percent of office workers say their chairs make them uncomfortable, and half say that if they could make one change, it would be to buy a better chair.

Companies shell out big bucks for chairs. Bryant Rice, an analyst at DEGW, a workplace strategy consulting firm, says that companies generally spend about 10% to 15% of the office-furniture budget on chairs. For most organizations, this will mean about $300 to $600 a chair, but some fancier models can run up to $900.

It might seem strange, then, that folks like Mike Williams would dig into their own pockets and shell out their hard earned cash for their very own ergonomic chair. But consider this: poorly designed or adjusted ergonomic chairs can cause a host of ailments, including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, as well as other repetitive stress injuries.

Then there's the prestige of having a fancy chair. Mike Williams's coworkers fight over his chair the way kids fight for the shotgun seat. One of us coworkers borrows his chair whenever he goes on vacations. Others wait until he stands up to speak at a meeting, and then grab it out from under him.

So if you do purchase your own ergonomic chair, you could turn out to be the coolest kid in your cubicle farm.

Image credit: Workified.com



6 Ergonomic Nightmares Lurking In Your Home

The horror movies were right: Everything in your home is trying to kill you. Or at least trying to ruin your joints and suffuse your body with a thousand tiny (and not-so-tiny) aches and pains.

The fact is, most everyday items are ergonomic nightmares. And unlike the office, where we have ergonomic chairs, keyboard trays, and a host of other carefully designed implements to help us, our homes are full of repetitive stress injuries waiting to happen. Here are a few of the worst offenders.

1. Remote Controls

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Your channel changer is un-ergonomic in several ways, but probably its worst offense is the fact that it isn't standardized. As this post points out, there's absolutely no standardization between remote controls, which means that getting used to one won't help you with another. Also, the buttons are generally way too small, especially for people with arthritis or other joint disorders.

2. Can Openers

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We have never used a can opener that didn't make us think it would be easier to open the can by crushing it against a rock. This is because we are frugal, and only buy can openers at gas stations when we move and lose our old ones.

Until recently, we had no idea that there were any other options. But because we live in the future, there is now such a thing as a smooth edge can opener, which, as its name suggests, pops open lids without creating that raw edge. Also, the handle is designed for human hands instead of robot claws, which are clearly the appendages for which the classic can opener was designed.

3. Door Handles

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This guide to designing door handles suggests that the proper way to do so, from an ergonomic perspective, is to "to determine the average hand width. You may need [it says&91; to measure the hands of teenagers, old age pensioners or business people, depending on your potential customers."

This is excellent advice that was taken by no one who has ever designed a door handle in our homes. Really, your best bet is the old fashioned knob. At least those generally fit in the palm of your hand. Fancy, modern handles and sliding door pulls and the like often seem to have been created with aesthetics in mind, rather than comfort.

4. Just About Everything in the Kitchen

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Dishwashers are too low to the floor for people with bad backs. Sinks are too deep for shorter users. And faucets are hard to turn on or off, and often set in the sink in a way that creates splash-back. The kitchen is a breeding ground for bad ergonomics.

5. The Sofa

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What kind of a world do we live in, where even the sofa can turn against us? Most sofas encourage poor posture habits. For example, your spine is supposed to have an S-shaped curve. When you're slumped in front of the tube watching Dancing With the Stars, it's probably more like the letter C. Not great for folks with repetitive stress injuries -- or anyone who wants to look more like an after photo of one of those dancing celebs. 

6. The Toilet

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Oh, toilet. Without you, we wouldn't be a civilized society. Also, maybe we wouldn't have hemorrhoids, constipation, hernias, and varicose veins. Turns out, people aren't supposed to sit on a little stool when they do their business. Squatting is actually better for you. Don't believe us? Just look at the saddest man in the world up there in the picture, using a modern toilet. No one has ever felt worse about using a modern appliance.



Using a Chiropractor to Treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Is It Worth It?

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Carpal tunnel is a disease of the wrist. The pain, numbness, and tingling it causes come from the wrist, where the median nerve is compressed due to repetitive motions like typing, playing an instrument, or using machinery. It might surprise you, then, to learn that many chiropractors claim to be able to treat carpal tunnel syndrome -- some without ever touching the wrist itself. 

Treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome usually focus on decreasing the swelling in the wrist, and retraining the sufferer to prevent future injury. Home treatments include ice, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, and ergonomic improvements such as keyboards and mouse trays. Doctors may prescribe splints, rest, and, as a last resort, surgery.

Of course, most of us would rather avoid surgery. Enter chiropractors, who say that they can treat carpal tunnel syndrome without drugs, surgery, or injections.

Common chiropractic treatments for carpal tunnel include:

Wrist splints: Like your trusty neighborhood MD, chiropractors often advocate splints or braces to keep the wrist in the proper alignment.

Ultrasound: Some chiropractors use ultrasound to relax muscles and reduce inflammation.

Manipulation of the wrist or spine: The spine is the center of the chiropractor's practice. By correcting misalignments in the spine, they treat a variety of conditions, including carpal tunnel. The goal is to treat the median nerve where it leaves the spinal cord at the lower part of the neck, before it even reaches the wrist.

Two recent studies supported chiropractors' claims of success treating carpal tunnel syndrome. The first study showed significant improvement in strength and range of motion after chiropractic treatment. The participants also reported a significant reduction in pain.

The second study compared chiropractic treatment with "traditional" (i.e. western) medical treatment such as splints and anti-inflammatories. The participants seemed to show equal improvement with both treatment methods.

If you do decide to see a chiropractor to treat your carpal tunnel syndrome, look for someone who is willing to coordinate care with your regular doctor or a specialist, if necessary. As always, avoid anyone who claims to be able to treat unrelated diseases (e.g. eye problems, learning disabilities, or serious systemic illnesses) with chiropractic care.



The 5 Best Travel Pillows That Won't Ruin Your Neck

Before we all got so darn old, our idea of a travel pillow was a wadded up jacket, stuffed between our shoulder and the window. Now, wiser as well as more decrepit, we insist on an actual travel pillow whenever we fly off into the wild blue yonder. (Or even climb aboard the tamer gray Trailways.)

The ergonomic benefits of a travel pillow are clear. A good travel pillow will prevent headaches and neck pain, and even make it easier to catch a few winks while you're on the road. Choosing a good pillow, however, is less simple. Here are a few of the most popular neck pillow variations, and how to tell if they're for you.

1. Classic U-Shaped

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The original and still champion, the u-shaped travel pillow conforms perfectly to your neck, preventing your head from lolling onto the passenger next to you and your neck from cramping up. Anecdotally, we can also tell you these are great for preventing snoring. (Ahem.)

The pillow pictured is the Bucky Utopia, which is stuffed with buckwheat hulls, similar to many specialty neck pillows for the home. We've found pillows stuffed with everything from lavender to beanbag beans, and covered in everything from organic cotton to what looks suspiciously like teddy bear fur.

2. Inflatable

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Inflatable pillows come in all shapes and sizes, from the standard U-shape to this odd-looking bandolier configuration. In any case, the big advantage to the inflatable style pillow is that it's easy to pack. The downside is that many inflatable pillows lose steam (or rather air) fairly quickly. It's hard to get comfy if you have to keep inflating your headrest.

3. Memory Foam

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Our favorite space age miracle material, memory foam is so comfy because it conforms to your body. This particular model features a machine-washable plush cover that's especially handy for travelers. (Reason #347 not to accept the free pillows on the airplane: Who knows where they've been? Yuckers.)

4. Allergy Resistant

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If life were a comic book, our arch nemesis would be a giant dust mite. His super power? The ability to become invisible and invade every cushion, drape, and carpet we encounter. In this alternate universe, we would combat the almighty dust mite by buying absolutely everything with allergy-resistant properties. It's not as dramatic as some comics, but we think it has the advantage of being relatable.

Anyway, this travel pillow is allergy resistant. Take that, dust mites.

5. All Shapes and Sizes

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If you're shopping for a pillow for your kids (or you're a slight person) look for pillows sized for kids. Some are just smaller versions of the standard travel pillow, but others, like the one shown, are shaped like animals or decorated in ways that appeal to kids. This pillow, by the way, is not, in fact, a horrible possum, like we first thought, but rather an elephant. However, if there are any travel pillow manufacturers reading this, we would like to point out that a line of gross travel pillows would probably do very well with a certain segment of tween demographic. You're welcome! 



Should You Invest in an Ergonomic Starter Kit?

America's free market system has been fashioned around the idea that consumers should be able to get exactly what they want. And there are two key differentiators among competitors in a given marketplace: price and convenience. Offer the two together, and your business is sure to be a hit. Hence, the creation of combo meals, phone service bundles, automotive interior packages, and … ergonomic packages?

Yes, you heard right. Now, instead of buying a single item to help improve your workspace, you can go all out and purchase a pre-packaged "bundle" of ergonomic products!

They're called ergonomic starter kits, and they're designed to deal with common workplace issues that can cause discomfort and/or reduce productivity. These kits (which can cost anywhere between $40 and $80) claim to reduce or alleviate the common conditions that can result from poor office ergonomics, including eyestrain, poor posture, and pain in the back, neck, or wrist.

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A typical starter kit may include:

  • a keyboard wrist rest
  • a mouse pad with wrist rest
  • an ergonomic pen
  • an exercise grip

Other add-ons might include:

  • office desk footrest
  • adjustable monitor stand
  • mesh back support for office chair

So are these ergonomic starter kits as good as advertised?

A lot of the kits on the market today do provide good value. While it is possible to buy all of the components of a starter kit separately and still save money, the kits offer both a competitive price and the convenience of one-stop shopping. For many people, saving ten bucks may not be worth the hassle of purchasing each ergonomic item individually.

But, as with any package, remember that the value received by purchasing a kit will be lessened if you do not use all of the products in it. For example, if a person doesn't mind writing with regular pens and never uses an exercise grip, then buying an ergonomic starter kit with these items might be a waste of money. For these individuals, purchasing these ergonomic products "a la carte" might be the best way to go.

Moreover, workers may not gain much ergonomic benefit from the items in a starter kit when compared to other ergonomic products. For instance, a high-quality ergonomic chair can address many of the same problems that the starter kit items purport to solve, such as alleviating back and neck pain, promoting good posture, and establishing healthy arm, hand, and wrist positioning. So to get the best results, people would be better served by figuring out the smartest use of their money before making any purchases.

Ergonomic starter kits represent another option in the fast-growing array of ergonomic products available for consumers. But just like it's silly to buy a combo meal if you won't eat the french fries, purchasing a starter kit is not a wise move if you don't plan to take advantage of everything that it offers.



The 6 Best Online Ergonomics Forums

"Crowdsourcing" is one of newest buzzwords in business today. It describes the concept of enlisting the general public to solve a problem or complete a task -- and the more, the merrier. But this is far from a novel concept; the idea has been around for years in the form of online discussion boards.

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These forums are broken down by areas of interest, so if someone wants to talk about a topic, chances are there's a discussion board out there on which to do it. If you want to know more about the field of ergonomics, here are a half-dozen online forums you may want to check out.

  1. Ergoweb.com. This 17-year old discussion forum is billed as the "most popular and respected information sharing forum in the ergonomics industry." The General Ergonomics subsection alone has over a thousand entries. Topics range from ergonomic products to physical injuries to technical specifications.

  2. Ergonomictimes.com. If you’re looking for an in-depth look at the repetitive stress injuries related to non-ergonomic products, this is the forum for you. The discussion board covers everything from the different types of RSI injuries and how they occur to treatment options and products that can prevent them. You can even shop for ergonomic chairs and other products elsewhere on the site.

  3. Eng-tips.com. This site has brainy engineers addressing numerous complex topics, and the ergonomic engineering forum under the “Human Factors” setting has some well-researched information. Engineers are the ones tasked with incorporating ergonomics into systems and workplaces, so they have a vested interest in these kinds of issues. Recent discussions include grips for hand tools, ergonomic exercises, and the force application of fingers.

  4. DailyStrength.org. The parent site hosts message boards on a variety of topics that not only inform users about new developments, but also provide support for people going through tough times. Its Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Support Group is a treasure trove of advice and guidance from people who have suffered from the affliction. Posters discuss ergonomic products, pain relief, surgical options, and many more subjects which will resonate with the millions of people who have CPT.

  5. About Ergonomics. This is part of the massive About.com network of websites and forums which strive to educate consumers on practically every topic imaginable. Dozens of discussions are going on here, focusing on areas like back pain, productivity, and even ergonomic "starter kits." About.com actively recruits hundreds of writers to research specific topics of interest and provide articles which educate consumers.

  6. The V7 network. This web development discussion board covers a wide range of subject matters, but the Wrist Pain and Ergonomics subsection of its Off-Topic Forum is well-visited. Recent threads cover office keyboards, treatment plans, and stretching tips. After all, tech geeks are some of the prime candidates for carpal tunnel syndrome and related conditions.

Computer users have been exchanging ideas through virtual forums for almost as long as the Internet has been around. For individuals who want to learn more about ergonomics and many of its related subjects, these discussion boards are a good place to start.



Pregnant? Ergonomics Is a Whole New Ballgame

Pregnancy changes everything, and not just because it produces a new addition to the family. (A cute addition, but one that refuses to get a job or help clean the bathroom.) No, as any pregnant woman will tell you, the first thing pregnancy changes is the pregnant person's body. Shape, weight, center of gravity -- everything is different than it was before. What was once ergonomic may no longer be.

On the flip side, there are a whole bunch of specific products geared toward easing pregnancy aches and pains. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Boppy Prenatal Total Body Pillow

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Pregnant women are told not to sleep on their back, because it can cause heart burn. They can't sleep on their stomachs, because their tummies are in the way. And sometimes, doctors recommend that they not sleep on their right sides, because it can increase pressure on the liver and restrict blood flow to the heart. This gives them a choice of sleeping on their left side or … no, pretty much, they're stuck sleeping on their left side. Fortunately, there are body pillows like this one to make side-sleeping more comfy.

2. Soft Form Maternity Support Belt

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As a friend of ours once said, "Unless you have very serious back problems, don't ever tell a pregnant woman your back hurts." This back support belt is specifically designed to make everyday activities easy on a pregnant lady's overworked lower back.

3. Pea in the Pod Maternity Sleep Bra

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Here's another pregnancy product-related anecdote for you. This same friend once explained the necessity of the sleep bra thusly: "Things that were once small are now the size of the moon. No, really, the moon. I walked into the living room, and the remote control fell into the gravitational pull of my chestal region and now I have a channel changer in my bra." So, sleep bras are nice and make things more comfy. Here is one.

4. Leachco Cuddle-U Nursing Pillow

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This one isn't technically a product for pregnant women, but it's an ergonomic essential for new moms. Without proper support during nursing, carpal tunnel is the least of your worries.

5. Ergonomic Chair

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Ergonomic chairs might not seem like they're specifically related to pregnancy. However, pregnant women are at increased risk for carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and other repetitive stress injuries. Ergonomic chairs, as well as keyboard trays, help prevent these injuries.

 



The 6 Most Ergonomic Bicycles

Bicycling can be a fun activity. Of course, that’s when you’re not dealing with a sore spine, chafed thighs, and throbbing knees. Luckily, there are several ergonomic bikes out on the market that make the cycling experience much more pleasant. Here are six of them:

1. OVI Organik-Motion

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tuvie.com

This futuristic-looking bike is based on the Z-frame concept for maximum performance with a minimalist appearance. The Organik-Motion boasts integrated systems in its shaft drive and its front and rear suspension. Plus, the adjustable saddle and handlebars allow the rider to achieve the most comfortable body position possible on a racing bike. Finally, the gear and brake lever systems are operated using a simple joystick on the handlebars.

2. Evox 140

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brauns.com

The main advantage of the Evox is the upright positioning of the rider, which leads to a more comfortable cycling journey. The owner can adjust the telescoping stem and seat to a height of his or her liking. The superior lumbar support and the comfortable saddle make riding this bicycle a joy no matter how long the trip.

3. Pedersen

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pedersenbicycles.com

Don't judge a book by its cover - the Pedersen is a very comfortable bike. The rider's upright position results in a relaxed pedaling motion without the need to hunch over the handlebars. The unique hammock saddle cradles the buttocks, and the rider's posture virtually eliminates any stress on the hands and arms.

4. Lule Master

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trendhunter.com

This so-called "bendy" bike is preferred by many cyclists; not only does the seat move up and down, but also left and right. This allows the rider to customize his or her riding position more than on other racing bikes. In addition, both the handlebars and the middle of the Lule Master can be adjusted depending on the cyclist's style of riding. The braking system is very efficient as well.

5. Recumbent Bicycle

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designbuzz.com

At first glance, Recumbent bicycles appear to be strange and cumbersome. But the unique seating position allows the rider to more comfortably distribute his or her weight while on the road. This seat also provides support for the entire back as well as the shoulders. Finally, the bike features an innovative Infina-Gear CVT transmission, which eliminates the need to manually change gears.

6. Crank Forward Bicycle

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bicycleman.com

This bike is for the leisurely cyclist who gets a little exercise from pedaling to the park or corner market. The upright position creates a stable, comfy ride without needing to bend forward for balance. The saddle is wide (the backrest is optional), the frame is lightweight, and the whole bike is designed to make it easy for a rider to mount and dismount.



Finally … Ergonomics Take to the Sky

In recent years, the field of ergonomics has taken the world by storm. First, ergonomic chairs and office accessories arrived in our workplaces. Then, we took ergonomics home with us and completely changed our furniture, storage areas, and living spaces. We even put ergonomics in our cars to help make our commutes more efficient and pleasant.

And now, ergonomics is leaving terra firma and taking to the skies to tackle a very uncomfortable issue: airline seating. 

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This is how everyone feels in an airline seat. (The man, not the woman.)

Finally, there's an ergonomic airline seat which may represent the future of air travel. These new seats are made by Recaro, a German company which has been producing airline seats for over four decades, and are being installed in all Lufthansa aircraft flying in continental Europe (and some Air France planes flying domestic routes).

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Vive le Air France!

The most impressive aspect of these innovative seats is that they provide ergonomic benefits for both the passenger and the airline. Travelers report that the new seat is comfortable enough for flights lasting as long as three or four hours. They also rave about the additional legroom and overall space they have while seated in the aircraft. In addition, airlines will appreciate the fact that each seat is actually two inches less deep than the average plane seat; meaning that the carriers can add more rows of seats and ferry more fare-paying passengers. Plus, the lightweight nature of the seats will reduce the total flying weight of each plane, which will, in turn, decrease fuel costs per flight.

In short, these new ergonomic seats are a win-win for airlines and passengers. So does that mean we'll be seeing them in U.S. commercial aircraft soon?

Perhaps not. 

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Which means we'll be seeing more passengers who look like this after flying San Diego-to-Boston nonstop in coach.

There are two reasons for this. The more obvious explanation is the sluggish economy, which is discouraging capital outlays for equipment refurbishment in all types of industries. Because airlines are more worried about their bottom lines these days, they may be less enthusiastic about allocating funds toward a major interior overhaul of their aircraft.

The other issue concerns the current business model for many U.S. carriers. Many of them are devoting their efforts toward smaller regional jets and higher-profit "business class" seating, and not necessarily focusing on traditional economy class travelers. Therefore, a switch to ergonomic seating is not a big priority in the minds of airline executives right now.

More likely, the proliferation of ergonomic seating will emerge in other European airlines who are competing for high-end travelers. So while the chances are good for U.S. airlines to eventually install ergonomic seats in their planes, American fliers may have to resign themselves to either paying a premium for preferred seating or accepting the cramped "cattle car" experience of traveling across the country for the near future.

Image credits: kansangirlchronicles.blogspot.com, businesstraveler.com, sagetherapycenter.com.



Warning: Text Neck on the Rise

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Look out, carpal tunnel syndrome and Blackberry thumb: there's a new repetitive stress injury in town, and it's taking over chiropractors' offices all over the country. It's called text neck, and as the name might imply, it's caused by bending over smartphones and other texting gadgets and typing text messages for long periods of time.

How pervasive is it? Dean L. Fishman, a chiropractor in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. renamed his entire practice for the term. Ninety percent of his patients at the Text Neck Institute report symptoms of the condition, which include shoulder pain, neck strain, headaches, and sore thumbs.

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"It's a global epidemic," Fishman says. His youngest patient is a three-year-old who loves handheld video games.

"It's starting younger and younger. There are more than six billion phones connected, and that's not counting the Kindles, iPads, tablets and all these devices we rely on daily," Fishman says. "Go outside, to a restaurant, the supermarket, a gym, the airport and notice the posture of almost everyone around you. You will see this everywhere, and now multiply that by every city in the world."

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How can you combat text neck?

If you're not going to stop texting and use the phone for its original purpose (and let's face it, we're not, because no one would pick up anyway), you can alleviate the problem by altering your posture. Practice holding your phone in front of your face while texting, so that your neck maintains its natural curve. You can also spring for ergonomic aids like orthopedic pillows that will support your neck while you're sleeping.

Lastly, for those of you who are hard-core technology addicts, you'll be pleased to know that there's an app for that. Fishman created an Android App called Text Neck that shows a green light when users are holding their phones correctly and a red light when they're not. 



The 3 Most Effective Yoga Poses for Back Pain

Up to 90 percent of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives. Those of us who have already joined the ranks of the chronically sore will tell you: A person with back pain will do almost anything to stop having back pain. But before you resort to drugs or surgery, consider giving yoga a try. There are several poses that can help alleviate pain, improve flexibility and prevent future injuries.

1. For Upper Back Pain: The Thunderbolt [click to view&91;

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If you work at a computer -- and if you don't, you're a rare and lucky soul -- you're familiar with upper back pain. Something about the slouching posture typing encourages cramps up the back faster than almost anything else in the world. (Except possibly sitting on the sofa, which is weirdly the only thing anyone ever wants to do after a day of typing.) Even ergonomic chairs may not be enough to relieve the pain  for some of us.

2. For the Lower Back: Child's Pose [click to view&91;

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One of our personal favorites, child pose seems like it's just you, taking a rest, on a mat. But while you're resting, you're also opening up your hips and stretching your lower back. This one feels really great if you have a tendency to overcorrect your posture by arching your low back while you sit.

3. For the Whole Back: The Bow [click to view&91;

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Want to stretch your whole back in about five minutes? Try the bow pose. In addition to loosening up the muscles of your upper, lower, and mid-back, the bow pose opens up your chest, massages the abdominal organs, aids in digestion, and helps alleviate anxiety. That's a lot of work for one little pose.

A cautionary note: If you have certain types of back injuries, you might want to avoid certain poses. The standing forward bend and seated forward bend can put too much strain on the lower back. The best advice is always to move slowly and listen to your body. 



The True Cost of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

How much does carpal tunnel syndrome cost the average sufferer? Would you believe $30,000 over the course of a lifetime, including both medical bills and time lost at work? Costs vary for each individual based on the severity of their problem and the treatment approach they choose, but here are some of the costs a sufferer might incur.

Surgery - Up to $20,000

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No one wants surgery, and most of us do everything we can to avoid it. But if you wind up with the worst case scenario of carpal tunnel syndrome treatment, be prepared to pay: Either you or your insurance company will shell out between $5000 and $10,000 per wrist, including post-surgery rehabilitation.

Lost Work - $1270 per year

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The median income in the United States in 2010 was $46,326. Half of carpal tunnel sufferers who missed work missed 10 days or more. Move those numbers around a bit, and you get a cost of $1270 per year, per worker. 

Braces and Wraps and Splints, Oh My - Up to $544

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Now, don't misunderstand us: We do not recommend that you spend $544 on a wrist splint. All we're saying is that if you wanted to, you could totally do so on Amazon right now. For this, you apparently get a built-in proprietary computer calibrated spring mechanism, a 30-day money back guarantee, and a 97 percent success rate. However, since there are no reviews, we can't say one way or the other how effective this brace actually is. It might be great: All we're saying is, there are other braces on there for $6.97. We'd probably try those first.

As a final note, we would be remiss if we didn't point out that prevention is always cheaper than a cure. Preventative equipment like keyboard trays, specialized computer mice, and yes, ergonomic chairs, cost only a fraction of surgery and treatment and save big in pain and suffering. 



The 6 Most Ergonomic Sporting Goods

Ergonomics has long been an important feature in the workplace. This field has led to the creation of ergonomic chairs, keyboards, desks, and other office equipment to help people stay comfortable and productive at work.

But what about at play?

Comfort and safety are a priority for both serious athletes and weekend warriors. So it's refreshing to see ergonomic trends finally seeping in to recreational equipment. Here are the six most ergonomic sporting goods products on the market today.

  1. Smooth Fitness Ergonomic Push Up Bars
    Sport: Muscle-building
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Did you ever notice that when you do a lot of push ups, your wrists start to really hurt? And those aren't even the muscles that you're trying to strengthen when you do push ups. These push up bars let you place each hand around a grooved and padded handle while providing stability for each repetition.

  1.  PING Hoofer golf bag
    Sport: Golf
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Schlepping your golf bag from place to place can really do a number on your torso. Not only does this golf bag weigh just five pounds, its weight is evenly distributed to prevent muscle strain. In addition, the two adjustable sliding straps let you achieve a "backpack fit" to minimize the strain on your shoulders and back.

  1. Uhlsport Ergonomic AbsolutGrip Bionik X-Change Goalie Gloves
    Sport: Soccer
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Serious goalkeepers need to have gloves which offer both durable protection and freedom of movement. The revolutionary padding on this pair will protect your hands when catching or punching shots or crosses, and the fingers allow excellent motion and grip on the ball.

  1. Gamma Xuron Ergonomic Handle Micro Shear Cutter for Racquet Stringing
    Sport: Tennis
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Serious tennis players want their rackets to be strung in a manner which complements their style of play. This means spending some time stretching and loosening the strings on a racket to achieve the precise combination of power and control. This racket stringing tool has ergonomically-designed grips on the handles to prevent hand strain.

  1. UTG Carbine Ergonomic Vertical Foregrip Tactical Grip
    Sport: Shooting
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When you're firing rounds from a machine gun, you want to have a firm, yet comfortable, grip on the weapon, right? This grip comes with ergonomic finger grooves to help you grasp the gun tightly. It also comes with a smartly-designed end cap and a Picanniny mounting deck, which enables the grip to slide on easily and screw on tightly.

  1. Everlast Women's Ergo Foam Gloves

          Sport: Boxing (Ladies)

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Who says women aren't allowed to get into the ring and mix it up? These boxing gloves feature injection-molded protective foam, which not only safeguard the boxer's hands, but also keep her fists in the proper position during a fight. They even boast a THUMBLOK design which keeps the thumbs positioned properly to avoid injury.

Sports can be grueling enough on your body without the added strain and pain that comes with poor equipment design. Thankfully, sporting goods manufacturers are starting to embrace ergonomic concepts in their products in order to help athletes achieve their maximum levels of performance.

Image credits: smoothfitness.com, golfinternationalmag.com, bestcovery.com,  iowacareerexpo.org, vendio.com, dickssportinggods.com.



5 Ways to Make Your Next Trip Pain-Free

Traveling is the worst. "But wait!" you say. "Traveling is great. I love traveling." Hear us out: Being in a new place is great. The process of getting there? It’s about as comfortable as mailing yourself to your vacation home in a box.

Something about riding in planes, trains, and automobiles really takes it out of the body. Here, because we love you, we present five things that will make traveling more ergonomic and less painful.

1. Travel Pillow

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Possibly the greatest comfort aid since the ergonomic chair, the travel pillow is designed to keep your head from falling to the side when you zonk out on the plane. This is truly one of those things that you appreciate most when you don't have it. Folks who have spent their vacation with their neck permanently bent to one side know what we're talking about.

2. Lap Desk

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Want to be a disappointed traveler? Count on the seat-back table to actually fold down when you need it. If you're bringing a laptop along, bring one of these babies as well. It’s not as great ergonomically as sitting at a proper desk, with a keyboard tray and all the accoutrements of home, but it’s better than nothing.

3. IPad Stand

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IPads and e-readers have made it easy to bring a library full of books and magazines with us wherever we go. However, they also encourage forward head posture, which eventually becomes a literal pain in the neck. IPad stands make this less likely.

4. Your Own Personal Cup Holder

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There are never enough cup holders when you need them. (This might have something to do with our tendency to store loose change, toll plaza tickets, and orphaned buttons in the regular cup holder, but we digress.) Bring an extra cup holder and you never have to worry about being without.

5. Camera Strap

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Most digital cameras come with dinky little wrist straps, which promptly break or get so knotted up that they become useless. Get a longer camera strap, and you won't wind up clutching your camera in your cramped up little T-Rex paw.



Why Even 20-Somethings Are Now Back Pain Sufferers

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Today in depressing news: Even 20-somethings are now suffering from lower back pain, thanks to the fact that no one, of any age, gets out of their chairs anymore. (Unless it's to go sit on the couch, of course.) A recent study in the UK showed that 62 percent of people aged 18 to 34 suffered from back pain, with half reporting that they'd had pain for at least five years. But why, exactly, are so many young people suffering from back pain?

1. We sit at work.

Increasingly, young people have sedentary jobs that encourage the "sit still" culture that's contributing to back problems. Ask any 22-year-old who's gained weight at his first post-college job: Sitting around all day is hard on your body. Do yourself a favor and pick up an ergonomic chair.

2. We sit at home.

Why go outside when you can order food on the internet, fight zombies on your TV, and read about other people's lives on the internet? Technology is making it easier and easier to be lazy.

3. We don't exercise.

Yes, folks, Americans are exercising less with each passing year. It’s hard to counteract the effects of all that sitting if you don't do much of anything else in your off hours.

What can we do to reverse the trend?

The sad thing is that the only real hope we have of turning things around is to get up and get moving. Although doctors might recommend rest for very short periods of time following an episode of severe back pain, most will want you up and around within 72 hours at most.

Pilates, the Alexander technique, yoga, and other exercise methods that strengthen the core are your best bet for preventing future episodes. Some physicians will also suggest chiropractic or acupuncture for pain relief and prevention.

But the bottom line is that sitting isn't good for you. For maximum health benefits, you'll have to get off the couch.

Image: Profimedia.rs



The 5 Strangest-Looking Ergonomic Products

Most ergonomic products look like a more space-age version of their original incarnation. An ergonomic chair, for example, still looks like a chair -- just maybe one you'd sit in if there were offices on the space station. Ditto for things like pillows, handles, and many computer accessories: You can look at whatever it is, and say definitively, "I know what I’m looking at."

That’s not so with some of the stranger looking ergonomic products, which appear to be anything but what they actually are.

1. The Adapta Mouse

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This article rightly says that the Adapta Mouse looks more like a Smurf's hat than a standard computer mouse. We would also add that it looks like a blob of frosting, a cartoon snow drift, or the Nike swoop if someone left it on the radiator. It's apparently super good for your wrist though.

2. Combimouse

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Standard keyboards are notoriously hard on the wrists. We just weren't meant to hold our hands at that angle. One solution is to split the keyboard into two pieces. Australian designer Ari Zagnovey did this, and added in a mouse for good measure. It looks like something Tim Burton would have dreamed up. Delia Deetz should be pounding away on this right now.

3. The Stand Angle Chair

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The first time we saw a picture of this chair, we assumed it was some sort of hydraulic lift. "Convenient for after lunch-time, when the food coma sets in," we thought. "And also at 3 PM when our blood sugar is low." Turns out, it's just a chair that adjusts to allow you to sit, stand, or sort of hang out in-between sitting and standing. Pretty cool and all, but we like our version better.

4. DataHand

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This alternative to a QWERTY keyboard works by placing a radial menu at each fingertip. Users choose the letter they mean to type, and hopefully reduce stress on their wrists at the same time. If it looks retro, it is: The DataHand hails from 1990. No wonder it looks like something out of Total Recall.

5. AirMouse

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This lady is obviously coming to kill us. Most of the descriptions of this wearable mouse glove contraption stress its resemblance to Tom Cruise's air screen computer dealie in The Minority Report, but we are actually way more terrified of this gadget than we were of anything in that film.  Just look at the cold gleam in the model's eye as she ferrets out your future crimes. Chilling. 



An ISO Standard for Ergonomics (Finally!)

You always hear businesses crowing about the quality of their production processes. But are these processes really first-class, or is it all just marketing hype?

Globally-accepted benchmarks for production processes were created to address this very question. The International Standards Organization (ISO) solicits input from specialists from all areas of expertise and then compiles a list of standards for each industry. When individual companies meet all of these rigorous criteria, they receive ISO certification -- which tells the world that their processes are indeed top-notch.

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Image: iso.org

 Now, the ISO has dipped its feet into a new area of production … ergonomics.

The 26-page document issued by ISO this year acts as a blueprint for companies who wish to create a workplace that fully embraces the theories of ergonomics. Because this standard is meant to apply to all industries, its precepts are very general and conceptual. That's why these principles focus on processes and systems instead of spelling out a checklist of quantifiable measures to be implemented by any one company.

Here are the basic tenets of the ISO ergonomics standard:

  • Ergonomics must be taken into account at the beginning of and throughout the design of a production process.
  • Ergonomic principles must be applied sufficiently in order to eliminate any negative effects on workers.
  • Criteria should be established to help measure successful application of ergonomic principles.
  • Ergonomic principles must be included in conceptual and detailed designs of workplace processes.
  • Human tasks and interactions shall be accounted for in any process.
  • End users or workers should be involved in designing processes where appropriate.
  • Process evaluations under realistic conditions should be conducted and corrections or improvements made as needed.
  • The entire design process should be flexible enough to allow for repetition of the design solution when needed.

The entire ISO Ergonomics Standard can be purchased online here.

Once again, the nonspecific nature of these tenets is intentional so as to encompass every conceivable type of industry -- from tool manufacturers to nuclear power generators to customer service call centers and everything in between. Meeting the ISO standard is more than just a matter of ordering a certain number of ergonomic chairs or building user-friendly workstations. It requires a comprehensive plan for maximizing workplace productivity while protecting employee safety and well-being.

Obviously, achieving the goal of ISO certification in ergonomics is a major undertaking for any company. But those that do invest the time and effort to become ergonomically certified will not only garner the worldwide recognition that comes with meeting an ISO standard, but will also reap the myriad of benefits that come with having workplaces and processes that are ergonomically sound.



The 6 Most Ergonomic Products for Toting Around Your Baby

Taking care of a baby at home is difficult enough; but taking the infant out with you can be extremely demanding -- and painful. For years, parents had to deal with aching backs, sore shoulders, and stiff necks from carrying or pushing their ever-growing bundle of joy.

Thankfully, baby product manufacturers are starting to incorporate ergonomic principles into the designs of their carriers and strollers. So if you enjoy toting around your little one, be sure to check out these six ergonomic baby products:

  1. ERGObaby performance carrier
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This baby carrier can be adjusted to fit parents between five feet and 6 1/2 feet tall. In addition, the waist belt can accommodate pant sizes of up to 48 inches. The lightweight, polyester mesh fabric is durable and breathable to maximize comfort for both baby and parent.

  1. Evenflo BabyGo Glide Soft Carrier
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This carrier comes with lots of soft padding to cradle your baby while remaining flexible on your body. The infant can face forward or backward and will stay secured with a three-step side entry buckle. You'll appreciate the Auto-Fit back straps which support the child evenly, thus taking pressure off your shoulders and back.

  1. Jeep 2 in 1 Sport Baby Carrier
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Finally - a baby carrier which doesn't require two adults to secure a single child! The revolutionary secure-fit indicator gives parents peace of mind by turning red when the baby is safely fastened in the carrier. Plus, the shoulder straps are extra wide, self-adjusting, and well-padded to keep the adult comfortable for a long time.

  1. Inglesina Zippy Ergonomic Stroller
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Thanks to the ergonomically-designed soft touch handles, you won't wear out your arms and wrists pushing around your baby in this stroller. The four-position reclining backrest and adjustable footrest means that your child will be comfortable as well. It also has a roomy storage basket, protective canopy, and convenient cup holder.

  1. Orbit Stroller Travel System
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Someone finally made a stroller that allows parents to swivel the baby seat a full 360 degrees! Plus, the no-pump tires and the Quad Shock suspension assure a smooth journey for the little passenger. Finally, the frame folds up easily with a twist and lift motion that can be performed with just one hand.

  1. Baby Trend Sit N Stand Double - Elixer
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For those families who have more than one baby, here's a stroller that can ferry them both around! Each seat can be tilted forward or backward, covered by a canopy, and cleaned easily with soap and water. The Comfort Grip handles allow parents to easily push the stroller anywhere they want to go, and there are even cup holders to secure the parents' beverages!



The 8 Funniest “Ergonomic” Images

“Ergonomic” is a hot term in today’s market. We are bombarded with ergonomic messages and suggestions while at work. And as the omnipresence of ergonomics grows, the potential for sensory overload increases along with it. Inevitably, a comedic backlash is created -- and this manifests itself through drawings, photos, and other images.

Today, we present to you the 8 funniest ergonomic images of all time -- or at least until someone generates funnier ones. Enjoy!

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1. We've all seen these instructional and motivational "posters" that seem to be a requirement in every office's interior design. This poster takes the concept of workplace stretching exercises and adds a heavy dose of humor.

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2. Randy Glasbergen has been a freelance cartoonist for 35 years. His daily syndicated "Thin Lines" single-panel series highlights the lighter side of a wide array of topics -- including ergonomics.

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3. One sign of ergonomics' influence in society is the fact that its principles are being mocked in full-color comic strips. This trio represents the idea that any concept, no matter how beneficial, can be taken a little too far.

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4. Ergonomics is all about adapting the workplace to suit the physical needs of the worker. But if science were somehow able to adapt the worker to suit the needs of the workplace, this might be the ultimate result.

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5. Some managers solicit employee suggestions for improving the ergonomics of company workstations. The moral of this photo? Don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer.

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6. Here's a perfect example of what happens when capitalism and creativity are injected into ergonomic products. (It might also represent a collision course between workplace ergonomic initiatives and workplace sexual harassment policies.) 

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7. One of the principles of ergonomics is the notion of making workplace tools more lightweight and user-friendly. But these alterations defeat the purpose if the tool becomes useless - especially if you are employed as a soldier.

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8. When you mix anything with kittens, the result is almost always cute and funny. Obviously, ergonomics is no exception.

Image credits: iisretard.com, ergonomics-info.com, ergoblog.com, ipwatchdog.com, glasbergen.com, funnycoffee.com, saveyourself.ca, spewingforth.blogspot.com, rimafauzi.com, funnychill.com, cheezburger.com



5 Ergonomic Products for Winter Sports

Our favorite winter sport is ergonomic chair racing. This is when you stay indoors, and scoot from one conference room to another without ever standing up. It has the advantage of being extremely kind to your spine and joints, while never actually requiring you to leave the comfort of your heated office. However, we understand that many people prefer to actually go outside and (shudder) exercise during the winter. For these people, we present a list of the very best ergonomic products for actual winter sports.

1. Astro Ultralight Collapsible Hiking & Skiing Poles

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Ski poles never looked totally comfortable to us. Unless they have a neat, ergonomically-designed grip like these do, it seems like your hand would just freeze up. And if you're skiing, enough of you is already freezing up already. You don't need to add your muscles to the mix.

2. Sports Skate Mate Lace Puller

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Anyone who has ever been ice skating can attest to the fact that lacing up your skates is one of the hardest parts of getting out on the ice. (OK, that and all the crazy people on the rink who seem intent on mowing you down.) These lace pullers make it easy to lace up your skates … and get out of them in a hurry and over to the snack bar for some cocoa.

3. MSR Evo Snow Shoes

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If we ever do become super outdoorsy people, this is the first thing we'll buy. We will then become the kind of person who breaks out the snow shoes as soon as there's even two inches of snow on the ground. We'll walk to 7-Eleven and the grocery store like we're on some kind of wilderness trek. You may then feel free to make totally ergonomic snowballs and throw them at us as we trek by.

4. Ski Grip - Ski Carrier Handle

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Ergonomic sports equipment is one thing, but what you really need is a better way to carry all your gear. This ski carrier is cheap at less than $9, and highly rated: 8 out of 9 reviewers on Amazon gave it 5 stars. Our favorite review starts with: "We actually use them!" There is no higher compliment for any ergonomic product.

5. Aluminum Body Ratchet Tie-Down

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OK, so this item isn't as much fun as the rest of the stuff on our list, but it does help you secure more fun things to your car. Sometimes it's the little things that make everything great -- for example, the tie-down that keeps your snowmobile from flying off your vehicle.



The Ugly Necklaces Baseball Players Are Wearing (and How They May Be Reducing Pain)

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Baseball players are famously superstitious and do a lot of weird things to up their chances of a winning streak. We've all heard about players who wear the same socks for weeks in a row, or refuse to cut their hair or shave until their luck turns. Less hygienically noxious but equally odd: the titanium-infused ropes some players have taken to wearing while they play ball.

Invented by a Japanese company called Phiten, the ropes are supposed to reduce the chance of injury by stabilizing wearers' electrical field. The theory is that players, who are obviously more active than the folks who sit around at home watching their antics on their big-screen TV, regularly disrupt their energy fields by exercising strenuously.

If that sounds bananas, get ready for the really crazy part: Phiten claims that these ropes, specially infused with titanium via a process that they invented, somehow keep wearers' bio-electric currents from being disrupted, which in turn prevents athletes from being injured, imbues people of all athletic ability with more energy, and can even help carpal tunnel sufferers reduce their pain.

Anyone with carpal tunnel syndrome will tell you that they'd do almost anything to feel a little bit better. There's very little more annoying than the constant zinging and twinging of carpal tunnel pain. Every year, people buy pricey ergonomic chairs, rack up huge doctor's bills, and undergo painful and expensive surgery in order to seek some relief. Not so strange, then, that some are willing to pay $40 or so on something that Randy Johnson claims helps him recover faster from the rigors of pitching.

Of course, the real question is, does it work? Scientists are skeptical, to put it mildly.

"There’s no science and physiology," said Dr. Orrin Sherman, chief of sports medicine at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases. "There's just no way the chemical structure of the body can be influenced by magnets that small. It's all superstitions with no scientific basis."

But perhaps more persuasively to our friends on the field, there are plenty of baseball players who have tried Phiten and found it lacking.

"I tried it when I pitched on Sunday and I lost, so, needless to say, I'll never wear it again," said Mets pitcher Tom Glavine in 2005.

Image: Skeptico.blogs.com



Is Your Home Office Unsafe?

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Many of us long to bid adieu to the cubicle farms at our offices and start working from home. Some people have already achieved this goal by either formulating a telecommuting arrangement with their employer or going into business on their own. These are the lucky few who hit their snooze buttons a few extra times, measure their commute in steps rather than miles, and consider shoes to be "formal wear."

But are these home office workers putting their health at risk more so than those who slave away at the office?

While a number of companies pay attention to the ergonomics of their workspaces, many "work at home" types do not. As a result, home office inhabitants may be subjecting themselves to repetitive stress injuries or other conditions that could affect their well-being.

Thankfully, most of these potential health hazards can be eliminated by making a handful of ergonomic changes to a home office. Here are some tips:

  • Invest in ergonomic products. Most home workstations are more about fashion than function. So augment them with products like a mouse wrist rest, footrest, and laptop stand.
  • Find a high-quality ergonomic chair. Purchase a comfortable chair on which the seat height, seat tilt, back, armrests, and lumbar support can all be adjusted. It's worth spending a little extra money on a home office chair that will help prevent sore shoulders, a stiff neck, and an aching back.
  • Take steps to minimize glare and eyestrain. A computer monitor should be placed about 20 inches away from your head with your eyes aligned with the top two inches of the screen. Also, position your monitor so it is perpendicular to windows and keep ambient lighting from shining onto the screen.
  • Adhere to healthy typing practices. The proper typing position includes relaxed shoulders, elbows down at your sides, straight wrists, and forearms which are parallel to the floor. Adjust your keyboard height accordingly (or buy an ergonomic keyboard) and keep your mouse within easy reach at all times.
  • Make adjustments for laptops. If you do a lot of work on a laptop, try to mimic the computing experience that you would get from a desktop model. This means raising the laptop to the proper eye height (or getting an adjustable stand for this purpose) and investing in a wireless mouse.

It's silly to free yourself from the shackles of the corporate workplace and still be encumbered by common office injuries. A home office designed with ergonomics in mind will boost your productivity and minimize your chances of pain and discomfort.



8 Ergonomic Products for the “Larger” Crowd

Despite all of the societal encouragement directed at losing weight and getting healthier, more than two thirds of Americans are still overweight or obese. As a result, many manufacturers have been creating products that are ergonomic specifically for plus-sized and bulky body types. Here are eight of these products:

  1. Roland La-Z-Time Recliner

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Think of it as a cross between a traditional recliner and a "chair-and-a-half." This recliner boasts a 53-inch wide seat (which is almost 50% wider than most recliner seats), as well as extra springs and thicker foam for better overall weight support.

  1. The Living Extra Large Hangers

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Bigger people need bigger clothes, which tend to slip off regular hangers (or grow "camel humps" in the shoulders). This polypropylene I-beam design hanger is over 20 inches long -- but just a half inch wide -- so it can support larger garments without taking up extra closet space.

  1. Wind Pro Executive Umbrella

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Regular umbrellas might not protect the hips or bellies of larger-sized holders. But this product has a diameter of 68 inches (compared to around 46 inches for standard-sized umbrellas) as well as an ergonomically-friendly textured rubber handle with a cushion grip.

  1. ShowerBow

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No one likes to feel claustrophobic in the shower. This innovative product easily attaches to a standard shower rod and holds the curtain away from the showering person (and removes the need for installing a curved shower rod).

  1. Supersized Newsboy or Newsgirl Bicycle

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Some overweight individuals want to shed those excess pounds, but find that most exercise equipment isn't strong enough to support them. This bicycle comes with a wider saddle, puncture-proof tires, and a steel frame that is built to transport up to 330 pounds.

  1. ConvaQuip Model 900XL Series Manual Wheelchair.

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Often, obesity can lead to health problems which curtail personal mobility. This wheelchair features a seat width of up to 30 inches, a seat depth of 20 inches, and a frame which can support a 700-pound occupant.

  1. Big John Toilet Seat

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Fat or skinny, everyone needs a comfortable place to "do their business." This seat is not only 3.5 inches wider than its traditional counterparts, but it also claims to support all sizes of sitters.

  1. Goliath Homestead Casket

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Aside from taxes, death is the only certainty for people of any shape or size. This 52-inch "double-wide" coffin, which must be transported by truck and interred using a crane, assures that larger individuals will rest comfortably for eternity.



The 5 Best Ergonomic Products for the Left-Handed

Everything is harder for our left-handed friends. Their life spans are shorter. Their office equipment is less adapted to their needs. They had to use those dumb, green-handled scissors in grade school. What's an enterprising lefty to do? Grab one of these excellent ergonomic products for the left-handed, of course. To the Leftorium, Flanders!

1. Left-Handed Can Openers

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This is something we have never, ever thought about before: standard can openers only really work if you're right-handed. We can't even imagine how hard it must be to open a can of peas if you have to work from the wrong side. It would be like trying to open it with your chin, or a dull pair of scissors. Right at the beginning of our list, we're starting to keenly feel our right-handed privileges. We're so sorry, lefties. We didn't know.

2. Left-Handed School and Office Supplies

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These scissors are much cooler than those weird ones from grade school, and the left-handed pen is pretty rad, too. However, our favorite part of this collection is definitely the ruler. It reads: "I may be left-handed, but I'm always right." Yay, puns!

3. Left-Handed Mugs

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"Now wait just a minute," we hear you say. "There's no such thing as a left-handed mug." There is if you make a hole in one side so that righties spill things all over themselves. Possibly not totally ergonomic, but definitely hilarious and fun at parties. Also, there's that slogan again. Apparently, it's very popular at <a href="https://www.leftyslefthanded.com">Lefty's</a>, the real-life internet Leftorium we visited for this list.

4. Left-Handed Gardening Tools

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Here's one that we imagine could get really dicey, really fast: Gardening tools. If you're a lefty and you're not using left-handed gardening tools, well, soon you might not have a lot of options, vis a vis the whole dominant hand issue.

5. Left-Handed Stuff for Kids

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Won't someone think of the children? There are actually a ton of left-handed products out there for kids, but our favorites are the wackier items, such as the left-handed boomerang and the left-handed Teddy Bear. OK, it's just a Teddy Bear in a t-shirt that says "Lefties Rule." Still, self esteem is very important. 



Is There Any Proof That Ergonomics = Increased Workplace Productivity?

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Few would argue that ergonomics are not important. Even if companies don't care about worker satisfaction, there's ample evidence that ergonomic improvements save money by decreasing sick time -- itself, a perpetual leader in Corporate America's loss-of-money sweepstakes. But one supposed benefit of ergonomics, increased workplace productivity, is more difficult to prove. We examined the evidence.

A recent case study conducted by ergonomics expert and author Dan Macleod examined financial benefits of ergonomics improvements at a small die cast plant in Central Ohio. The plant made a large number of ergonomic improvements, including the installation of equipment such as pallet lifts, improved use of existing equipment like power washers, and employee education. The study examined benefits for the decade following the improvements.

Macleod did a cost-benefit analysis, determining that the company made a one-time investment of $495,000 for improvements and saw $1,910,000 annually. In his benefits breakdown, he specifies that Worker's Compensation claims decreased by 93 percent, absenteeism decreased by 67 percent, and turnover decreased by 94 percent. Most significantly for our purposes, though, was the productivity factor: The plant saw a 54 percent increase in productivity.

The results were measurable and clear. Overall production rates on the plant floor increased from 125 per hour to 150 per hour. A single packing job took 10 seconds per 3 products, as opposed to 23.5 seconds previously. This wasn't, in other words, the kind of vague claims of productivity improvements generally seen in similar studies.

But Macleod's case was special in a few ways: namely, there was a pretty small sample size (100 employees) and a large number of changes. However, the results don't seem atypical. Other studies, focusing on call centers, note a 17.8 percent productivity gain (or $367 per day per employee) as a result of installing ergonomic furniture and training employees to use it properly.

 

In most cases, productivity gains center around the following areas:

1) Decreased time spent on a given task. Specialized ergonomic equipment, such as the pallet lifts in Macleod's study, substantially reduce the amount of time needed to do a job.

2) Increased numbers of tasks per unit of time. Reduced time on individual tasks = more tasks per hour.

3) More employee hours. Employees who benefit from ergonomic equipment and training are less likely to miss work and more likely to stay with their present employer. This is turn reduces training costs and lost work time that comes with replacing and training new workers.



Do You Have De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis?

When personal computers became a must-have household (and office) item, the incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome skyrocketed. Fast forward to the 21st century, where a similar phenomenon is taking place with handheld digital devices.

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People are using their cell phones, smartphones, digital music players, and other similar devices to text, play games, and surf the Web. Millions of Americans spend hours using their thumbs to operate these devices, which aren’t exactly ergonomic. If you’re a “user” who is starting to feel some pain and discomfort, you may have a condition that’s likely to become a household name in a few years.

The ailment is called De Quervain’s tenosynovitis.

Named after the Swiss surgeon who first identified the condition way back in 1895, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis (which is pronounced duh-kare-VAHS TEN-o-SYE-no-VYE-tis) is similar to carpal tunnel syndrome, in that it develops from overuse of joints and muscles in the hands. However, the pain associated with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is focused on the thumb and the part of the wrist which connects to it.

There are two tendons which run down the length of the forearm, past the wrist, and into the thumb. With De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, the slippery sheaths surrounding the tendons become inflamed and hinder the tendons' movements.

In the old days, this problem was found in musicians, carpenters, or knitters. But today, individuals who text with their thumbs are becoming the most common class of patients suffering from De Quervain’s tenosynovitis. Like carpal tunnel syndrome, the only relief for De Quervain’s tenosynovitis comes from treating its symptoms and limiting or eliminating the activities which cause it (like texting).

The symptoms of this condition include pain and/or swelling near the base of the thumb and sometimes the emergence of a cyst filled with fluid in the same area. The pain is exacerbated by movements which involving pinching, grasping, or bending the thumbs. Sufferers also may note a "sticking" sensation or a "squeaking" sound when moving the thumb back and forth.

If you think you might be afflicted with De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, the first step is to cut back on the amount of texting (and similar activities) that you do. To reduce the pain, you should apply ice to the affected region and take over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen and naproxen. If the pain persists, you should make an appointment with your physician, who can prescribe corticosteroid medications or other more powerful drugs. He or she may also tell you to wear a splint or brace on your wrist to help immobilize the affected tendons.

You may also be given a physical therapy regimen -- to be performed on your own or with the aid of a health care professional. In severe cases, outpatient surgery may be recommended.

The prevalence of handheld devices doesn't appear to be abating, so doctors can expect to see more cases of De Quervain’s tenosynovitis in people of all ages. But a little knowledge and a few preventive measures can help reduce the odds of being stricken with this painful condition. The easiest way to avoid it? Put down the smartphone.



A New (Drug-Free) Option for Pain Relief

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If you suffer from repetitive stress injuries, you've probably tried every remedy on the market. And while it is possible to experience better living through chemistry, many of us would like to find pain relief that doesn't require popping pills or getting injections. Thankfully, there’s finally a new ray of hope for people like us.

The latest (and perhaps greatest) treatment for chronic pain sufferers is called "dry needling." And it goes something like this:

A monofilament (read: tiny) needle is inserted into trigger points, which are basically small contractures of muscle. The needles cause neurological and mechanical changes in soft tissue, eliminating the trigger point and resolving the pain.

Dr. Michael Shin at Redmond Regional Medical Center's Rehab Center in Georgia has seen around 100 patients who have used dry needling as a means of pain relief. So far, what he's seen appears promising.

"These changes help to eliminate the trigger point and any associated pain by decreasing inflammation and modulating response of sensory nerve fibers to pain," says Dr. Shin, who is smarter than us.

It might sound like acupuncture, but Dr. Shin says it's completely different. Acupuncture treats and prevents disease by improving the flow of energy, or Qi, throughout the body. Dry needling directly treats "soft tissue dysfunction," according to Dr. Shin.

Conditions responding to dry needling include lower back pain, neck pain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, jaw pain, ankle sprain, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis. It's often a last ditch effort for patients who have tried everything to get pain relief.

Possible side effects include soreness at the site of treatment, which can last from a few hours to a few days, and infection. The risk of infection can be greatly reduced by using disposable needles and observing the usual infection control precautions.



5 Things You Should Never Do If You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

You've done everything you can to reduce those carpal tunnel flare-ups. You've seen a doctor, or a physical therapist. You've done exercises. You've outfitted your desk with a keyboard tray and swapped your old broken down seat for a fancy new ergonomic chair. And you're feeling better! So you should be able to go back to your old way of doing things, right?

Think again. Unfortunately, for carpal tunnel sufferers, even the best treatment and prevention aren't enough. If you want to avoid pain, and we're just assuming you do, there are a few things you should never, ever do. Here are five of the biggies.

 

1. Typing on the fly.

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Increased use of mobile phones, tablets, and laptop computers has made us a nation of people who write emails from the couch and check Google from the bus stop. If your wrists are already hurting, avoid these ergonomically unsound behaviors.

 

2. Playing through the pain.

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is scary for anyone, but it's especially terrifying to musicians, whose art depends on spending long hours making the same motions over and over again. If you play music, and start to feel the first twinges of carpal tunnel, don't ignore your symptoms. Get help before your joints are seriously damaged.

 

3. Downward facing dog.

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This beloved yoga pose is great for strengthening the back, stretching the shoulders, and boosting energy. It's not so great for carpal tunnel sufferers. The pose compresses the median nerve in the wrist, causing numbness and tingling in the fingers.

 

4. Slumping.

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We tend to think of carpal tunnel syndrome as being caused by poor typing habits or faulty equipment, but the truth is that your posture is every bit as important as the position of your hands on the keyboards. This is one time when your mother was right: Sitting up straight is the best way to avoid tingly wrists.

 

5. Smoking.

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Not that you needed another reason not to light up, but here's one anyway: Smoking reduces blood flow to the median nerve, which is the same nerve that's causing those zapping sensations and numbness in your hands.



5 Celebrity Ergonomics Professionals

 

Ergonomics is one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S. As companies become more aware of how ergonomics can impact productivity and health care costs, the people who are knowledgeable in ergonomics and related fields are becoming more in demand. In fact, some of them are even considered “celebrities.”

Here are five of those "celebrity" ergonomic professionals. We’re sure we'll continue to hear these names in the months and years to come. 

 

Alan Hodge.

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A professor in the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, Dr. Hodge was the 2003 recipient of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's Alexander J. Williams Jr. Design Award. He is the director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics research and teaching programs at Cornell. Dr. Hodge has published 34 chapters and 180 journal articles on ergonomics, and has co-authored a book entitled Healthy Buildings.

 

Michael Maddox.

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Dr. Maddox is the founder of Sisyphus Associates, a consultancy firm which specializes in human factors and behavior. He has a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering/Human Factors from Virginia Tech University and is a Human Factors columnist for Industrial Engineer magazine. Dr. Maddox's areas of expertise include workplace ergonomics, effects of fatigue and stress, and human error.

 

Pamela McCauley-Bush.

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You could say that Dr. McCauley-Bush wrote the book on ergonomics, because she has authored a textbook on that very subject (as well as 60 other technical papers). She serves on the faculty of both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Central Florida. Dr. McCauley-Bush is a nationally-recognized expert in the fields of ergonomics, human factors, and biomechanics.

 

Barry H. Beith.

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Dr. Beith is a past president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and is also a member of the United Kingdom's Ergonomics Society. He founded HumanCentric with the mission of having a positive impact on the human side of technology. A professor at North Carolina State University, Dr. Beith has been an authority in the fields of human factors, design, and evaluation for over three decades.

 

Anthony Andre.

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Arguably the next "shooting star" in the ergonomics genre, Dr. Andre is the founder of Interface Analysis Associates, a consulting firm which assists clients with their human factors, usability, and ergonomics issues. He is the current president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, as well as a professor at San Jose State University. Dr. Andre has authored over 100 publications on topics ranging from ergonomics and human factors to office environments and usability testing of computer software.

 

Since television has managed to make superstars out of chefs, clothing designers, and homebuilders, it's not out of the question that we may soon see a reality TV show about ergonomics. Like maybe "Project Office" or "Ergonomics Apprentice" or "The Human X Factor." If this happens, you can bet that these five individuals will be at the top of producers' lists for celebrity judges.



School Desks: The Anti-Ergonomic Chair

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Everyone remembers the traditional school desk: a tiny chair with a weird, half-desk extension attached to an arm rest on the right side. It's safe to say that no one has fond memories of sitting in these rock-hard horrors. But are they actually bad for kids? Could we be doing them damage by having them sit in such an uncomfortable chair all day? Is the school desk, in fact, the least ergonomic chair of all time? The answers below!

 

Are school desks bad for kids?

In a word: probably. Ill-fitting desks can definitely cause joint pain, and since school desks aren't adjustable, there's no way to change the way the desk fits the student.

 

Are we damaging them by making them sit in such uncomfortable chairs? Should we even be worried about this problem in 7-year-olds?

It's easier to learn good habits than it is to break bad ones. Teaching kids proper posture and getting them used to sitting in a relatively healthy manner is important. The average 7-year-old probably isn't going to develop joint problems today. But he or she could easily learn bad habits that will lead to issues down the road.

 

What about kids that are left-handed?

Left-handed desks do exist. The question is whether your school will have enough of them, or the budget to provide new desks should the number of lefties in class exceed expectations.

 

Are school desks the worst ergonomic chairs of all time?

No, probably not. The least ergonomic chair of all time is probably the bean bag chair. It encourages everything that shouldn't be encouraged: slouching, rounded shoulders and neck, and typing and writing at a bad angle. But traditional desks aren't great, either: They're not adjustable, for one thing, which is the cornerstone of any ergonomic design.

 

Is there a better option?

Some folks have suggested replacing traditional school desks with standing desks or balance balls, to encourage kids to move around more and develop core strength. This might seem a bit extreme, but certainly, we should consider developing chairs that incorporate ergonomic recommendations. You're never too young to start taking care of your back and your wrists.



Finally: Handles You Can Handle

Unless you have arthritis, you probably don't give handles a second thought. They're just those things you grab to lift or pull other things. We use them so often, we usually don't even notice them. After all, everything from the coffee mug you drink out of first thing in the morning to the bedroom door you shut last thing at night has a handle on it.

For folks who do have arthritis, or other types of injuries that make pulling and grabbing things difficult, a handle is a potential source of pain and embarrassment. Fortunately, there are now a wide variety of ergonomic handles to make things easier. Here are just a few:

 

1. Homemade

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Oh, Internets. If there's anything you can't teach us to do, we don't want to learn how to do it. In this article, we learn how to use coat hooks to make ergonomic handles for tools. The resulting handles are useful, cheap, and so cool and steampunky that we're thinking of pretending our little paws have already given out.

 

2. Add-ons

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We have much for which to thank Baby Boomers. In addition to the popularity of rock music and the right to not set your hair once a week like June Cleaver, ergonomic handles for everything are a boon to society. This is partly because the Baby Boomers are maturing, and are thus prone to grip-loosening diseases like arthritis. It’s also partly, we suspect, because the Boomers don't like to be told “no.” They will continue to build things and knit things and open and shut things, whether or not their joints like it. So there.

 

We found ergonomic handles for everything from screwdrivers to shovels, but we're featuring the crochet hook, because we love the fact that such intricate work can be made more comfortable and accessible for everyone.

 

3. Replacements

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When all else fails, take out the old unergonomic handles and replace them with ones that are kinder on your joints. The Elesa EBR Grab Handle is one such replacement handle product. The company recommends it for sliding doors, the building and furniture industries, and "marine environments" -- all of which probably just means that you can use it in all weathers, anywhere you need a handle. Bonus points for the push button feature, which is always easier on the joints than a latch.



Do You Need an Ergonomic Consultant?

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It sounds like one of those potentially silly luxury services -- like pet therapy, perhaps, or an aura analyst. But ergonomic consultants can be tremendously helpful to companies and private individuals who want to minimize the impact, economic and physical, of repetitive stress injuries.

The service itself isn't cheap. Costs vary depending on the consultant and the services provided, but many start at as much as $150 an hour, not including the expense of equipment, such as ergonomic chairs, keyboard and mouse trays, and similar. All of this begins to sound much more reasonable, though, when you stop to consider that companies spend huge amounts of money on lost working hours due to repetitive stress injuries -- $600 million in 2008 alone.

Most ergonomic consultants offer a variety of different levels of service, from classes to office assessments to OSHA compliance. Almost all appear to offer some type of workplace audit, in which they watch the employee use their work area and make recommendations about how to minimize the risk of injury and maximize production.

To determine whether or not your organization needs an ergonomic consultant, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What type of business are you in?

For some organizations, costs for improving ergonomics are fairly minimal, especially during the office planning stage. It may be worth the relatively minor expense of a few hours of consulting time to assess areas in which a small investment will have the greatest impact.

2. How much is it costing you to ignore ergonomic problems?

Are you already seeing significant productivity issues or costs associated with lost work hours?

3. What is your budget?

Your consultant doesn’t need to address every possible problem in order to make an impact on your business. Figuring out how much you're willing to spend ahead of time will help reduce sticker shock in the long run.

Once you've decided to hire an ergonomic consultant, make sure that he or she understands what you're looking for, how much you're willing to spend, and seems in sync with your company's culture and goals. Also, be sure to check their credentials. There are a number of different ergonomic certifications, but the main ones are CIE (Certified Industrial Ergonomist), CPE (Certified Professional Ergonomist), and CPEE (Certified Professional Ergonomic Evaluator.)

Finally, the usual advice for hiring contractors always applies: Ask for references. Anyone worth working with will have plenty of satisfied customers who are willing to tell you how the service has improved their companies.



7 Ways to Make Your Home Office More Productive

Okay, so you plan on working on a few projects in your living space. Or maybe you're joining the millions of Americans who telecommute. Either way, you're going to need a home office that's more complex and hospitable than the kitchen table. After all, a home office is worthless if you can't get any work done in it.

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Here are seven suggestions for boosting productivity in your home office.

 

  1. Set aside space. Ideally, you want a spare bedroom or a study where you can permanently maintain your home office. If space is at a premium, pick a corner of a living room, den, or bedroom and set up bookshelves, display cases, or freestanding screens to separate it from the rest of your home.
  2. Set boundaries. You need to be in a "work mindset" whenever you are inside your home office. You can help achieve this by keeping your door closed while working and/or telling other members of your household to leave you alone while you are sitting at your desk. Establishing these boundaries will enable you to better focus on your work tasks.
  3. Plan a layout. Take a moment to think about exactly what you want from your home office. Do you need a larger desk or just a computer stand? Will you need a spot for a printer, fax machine, or other office equipment? What about drawers or containers for pens, paper, and other office supplies? Make sure that everything is laid out so you can reach it easily.
  4. Get comfortable. If you plan on being productive (and who doesn’t?), comfort should be a top priority. Don't just settle for a folding chair, dining room chair, or even a discount office chair. Consider getting an adjustable ergonomic chair which will help reduce stress on your back, legs, and shoulders. Always try out a chair before you buy it!
  5. Let there be light. Another important trait of a home office is proper lighting. You shouldn't have to squint to read papers on your desk … but there shouldn't be too much natural light so that it washes out your computer screen, either. Put in the effort to get the lighting just right so you don't have to deal with eyestrain and fatigue.
  6. Get the proper storage. As you settle in to your home office, start thinking about your storage needs. You don't want to have to traipse into another room to get printer paper, power cords, or file folders. If you don't have enough drawer space, invest in a small filing cabinet or a set of shelf or desk organizers.
  7. Plan "rewards." If you're actually working out of your home, don't forget why you chose that lifestyle in the first place. Throughout the day, you should treat yourself to little "rewards" like a coffee break on the patio or reading the newspaper on the sofa. And every couple of weeks or so, plan a larger "reward" -- like a long lunch, shopping trip, or movie matinee. It will spice up your work week and give you something to look forward to.

A functional and ergonomic home office can improve your efficiency and boost your work output. So take the time to do the little things to make your home office more productive.



7 Ideas for Pain-Free Exercise

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“No pain, no gain.” We've all heard that mantra so many times that we don't even consider the notion that we can lose weight and build muscle without putting our bodies through bouts of agony. Here are seven ideas to get you started exercising the pain-free way.

  1. Walking (not running). You don't have to chew up miles on a track, sidewalk, or treadmill; the same cardiovascular and muscular benefits can be gained simply by walking around your neighborhood. You'll have to walk for a longer period of time, but you're less likely to twi style="padding-bottom:10px;"st ankles or wear out your knees.
  2. Swimming. Millions of people have taken their exercise regimens into the pool. They reap the results of working out without enduring the constant pounding on their body that comes with running and other exercises. And since you're moving your arms and legs constantly, swimming will get your blood pumping in a hurry.
  3. Water aerobics. This is another type of exercise that takes advantage of the relative weightlessness of being in the water. A properly-planned routine can help you tone and shape your body just as you would doing traditional aerobics. But your buoyancy in the pool reduces the stress on your legs and feet, which results in a painless workout.
  4. Yoga. It's the ultimate low-impact workout that can improve your mind as well as your body. The various stretches and slow movements associated with yoga are designed to gradually make your muscles stronger and more flexible -- without all the jerky movements seen in other exercises. Plus, yoga can be performed in a group setting or by yourself.
  5. Video games. No, not the "shoot' em up" or "slash 'em to pieces" kinds of games. Many of today's gaming systems now incorporate full body movement in front of a television as a method of controlling the onscreen action. And with dozens of games from tennis and baseball to skiing and soccer, you can plan a different workout each day without leaving home. Just make sure to use ergonomic accessories!
  6. Yard work. You have to do it anyway, so you might as well make it work for you. Tasks like mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or sweeping sidewalks can have lasting health benefits … if you do them at a moderate pace. To maintain that tempo, listen to a digital music player that pumps some upbeat tunes into your ears while you work.
  7. Dance. If you love to cut a rug, then why not dance your way to a healthy body? Just put on some music while you're cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry and boost your heart rate while getting things done. Or just dance while watching TV (many shows have upbeat music soundtracks that will keep your feet moving).

We all know that exercise is good for our health, but many of us despise the pain that often comes with it. Thankfully, you don't have to wince, groan, or grit your teeth while you train. And the less pain you feel while your exercise, the more likely you are to stick with your routine -- and the better you'll look and feel!



The 5 Most Ergonomic Bathroom Items

Quick: What's the most ergonomically-challenging room in your home? You might think it'd be the home office, when you crouch over your computer, or even the living room, where you spend so much time slouching on the sofa. But we suggest to you that the bathroom is actually the room that's the hardest on your poor little joints. Don't believe us? Consider this: much of what we do in the bathroom every day -- shaving, washing, brushing our teeth -- is composed of a series of repetitive motions. And unlike your home office setup, the simple addition of an ergonomic chair won't help. (Also: You will look really strange if you try it.)

Fortunately, there are plenty of ergonomic products to lessen the strain. Here are a few of our favorite ergonomic bathroom items.

 

1. Radius Scuba Left Hand Toothbrush 

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This ergonomic toothbrush comes in a right-handed version as well, but we started our list with the lefty, out of respect for our readers who shop at the Leftorium. Comes in a variety of colors, but for our money, you can't beat the taxicab yellow one.

 

2. Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor 

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A sort of combination manual/electric razor, the Gillette Fusion has an ergonomically-designed grip, a blade stabilizer to "maintain precise blade spacing for optimal comfort" and thin, fine blades with anti-resistance coating. It also has batteries and a microchip, which makes this razor essentially four wheels away from being a tiny little car.

 

3. Mommy's Helper Safer Grip Foot Rest 

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Our nominee for Best Ever Name of an Ergonomic Product is the Mommy's Helper Safer Grip Foot Rest. If you've ever shaved your legs in a shower without a ledge on which to rest your foot, you'll appreciate this little eight-dollar wonder.

 

4. Buckingham Easy Wipe 

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This product has a fancy name and is fit for your butt. Enough said.

 

5. Lu La Bath Brush 

 

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With an articulated 23-inch handle, if this brush doesn't reach all your hard-to-reach places, it's probably just time to soak instead. Per the description: "It folds in half for storage, opens to a useful 90 degrees to wash your neck, further opens another 45 degrees to help you wash your back and then extends to a full 180 degrees to help you reach your feet." We liked Cathio's comment: "This is a good back brush. It has rubber dealios as well … Good for back and other hard to reach places."

 



Fight Pain With … Exercise?

If you experienced pain every time you tried to move, what would you do? If you said, "I'd stop moving," you're our kind of person. But sadly, in addition to the fact that “our kind of people” aren't winning any Olympic Golds any time soon, we face even more terrifying consequences: for those of us with arthritis or other degenerative conditions, there's the possibly that not moving can actually accelerate the problem. Unfortunately, folks, simply wearing braces on our aching joints and filling our homes with cute little ergonomic products won’t help, either.

The Arthritis Foundation, together with tennis star and professional awesome person Billie Jean King, is trying to convince us to change all that. A series of ads debuted last year with the slogan "Moving is the best medicine," and featuring unlikely break dancers showing off their moves. (And presumably, fighting arthritis at the same time.)


Billie Jean King's ads debuted last week during the US Open, and feature the 67-year-old tennis player beating the pants off of arthritis in a singles match. King has had osteoarthritis for forty years, and refers to tennis as a weapon in her fight against the disease.

This is in keeping with the rest of the ad campaign for 2011, which features the slogan "In the fight against arthritis, you need a weapon. What's yours?"

The New York Times points out that this is a shift from last year's ads, which were lighter and funnier and aimed at raising awareness. Peggy Conlon, vice president of the Ad Council, said that, "For the second year, we wanted to be more empowering and more action-oriented."

In addition to the ads featuring Billie Jean King, the Arthritis Foundation has developed spots featuring other, non-famous middle-aged men and women engaging in a variety of sports, including swimming, boxing, and walking. The goal, according to associate professor of medicine Dorothy Dunlop, who consulted on the project, is to "help people not think of this as an exercise regimen, but part of their daily experience."



Ergonomic Showdown: Tablets vs. Notebooks

When it comes to ergonomics, you're probably best off working at an old-fashioned desktop computer. You know, like the kind the pilgrims used, with the usual ergonomic setup: monitor at or below eye level, keyboard and mouse tray, ergonomic chair with plenty of back support. Still, with the mobile workforce increasing every day, we're doing more and more work on portable computers. So which is better for your poor, overworked joints -- tablets or notebooks? Let's look at the evidence:

Tablets:

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  • It’s lighter than notebooks, and thus easier on your shoulder while traveling.
  • Viewing angle is less than ideal, without accessories. By itself, requires the user to place the tablet on a horizontal surface and crane her neck at an awkward angle to view, or to hold the tablet in one hand and scroll with the other. Neither option is very ergonomic.
  • Without an external keyboard and mouse, you're asking for wrist and shoulder problems. Think of the cramping you get in your thumb from overusing your smartphone and multiply that by however many hours you'd use a tablet as a computer substitute. It's not pretty.

Notebooks:

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  • Even the lightest notebook will likely be heavier than most tablets … but there are some pretty great thin and light models out there, for example, the Apple MacBook Air, which is small enough to fit in an interoffice envelope. (Although we don't recommend that for storage.)
  • Viewing angle is significantly better than the tablet, in that users don't have to hold their necks at a 45 degree angle to see the screen, but it still isn't the recommended distance or angle from users' eyes. Also, laptops, like all portable computing devices, encourage typing from the couch or guest chairs at the DMV -- not the best ergonomic situation.
  • They offer a hard keyboard, which is better than touchscreen keypads, but still isn't as easy on the wrists as a separate keyboard on a tray.

Verdict: The notebook is still the better option, ergonomically speaking, for a long-term desktop replacement. However, companies should encourage their workers to work at a desk as much as possible and to observe ergonomic guidelines.



The Future Just Called, and Everyone Has Ergonomic Furniture in Their Home

It's always fun to predict what the future will look like. How will the world look? Where will people spend their leisure time? What will be the new technological advancements?

What will our homes look like?

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The International Furnishings and Design Association has weighed in on that last question. The trade group surveyed its 2,000 members to come up with a report entitled 20/20: IFDA's Vision for the Future. Respondents were asked about what they thought the typical home would look like in the year 2020.

One of the key terms that came up repeatedly was "ergonomic." For instance:

  • Home furnishings will be designed to better fit the human body. This means more ergonomic chairs, sofas, recliners, and the like. Imagine: furniture that you actually feel comfortable sitting on! What a concept!
  • Furniture will become smaller and more versatile. Say goodbye to bulky built-ins, large cabinets, and display units. Tomorrow's furnishings will be more moveable and modular, while also taking up less space.
  • Bedrooms will become multi-use rooms. Specifically, the master bedroom may also double as a workout area, home office, or media center. In other words, there will be less emphasis on the "bed" and more on the "room."
  • Dining rooms are going the way of the dodo. Over 7 in 10 IFDA members believe that most homes in 2020 won't include a formal dining area. Instead, the space will be utilized for other things, such as study nooks or home offices.
  • We'll be eating in our kitchens. There's a strong feeling that future kitchens will not only be larger, but will also accommodate dining as well. (This should not be a major adjustment for today's bachelors who frequently eat over the sink.)
  • Home offices will be standard. You may have guessed this already. Not only do more than 3/4 of poll respondents think every home will have an office, but 40% think that most dwellings will have at least two home offices.
  • Bigger will be out; leaner will be in. Believe it or not, about 76% of IFDA members think that homes a decade from now will be smaller and have fewer rooms. But the space that is there will be more ergonomically designed for different uses.
  • High-tech trends will continue. This may be the least surprising revelation from the study. In fact, 97% of those surveyed believe that touch-activated controls will be replaced by automatic sensors (for things like lighting) or voice controls (for TVs, air conditioners, and drapes).

That may seem like a lot of changes in less than a decade. But as people's needs and desires evolve, homebuilders and interior designers will adjust to give their customers what they want. After all, that's how home design has functioned for hundreds of years - and 2020 should be no different.



10 Ways to Relieve the Pain of Carpal Tunnel Without Surgery

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Millions of people around the world suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and frequently deal with soreness, stiffness, and pain -- often on a daily basis. Not only does this discomfort reduce their productivity at work, but it also affects almost every aspect of their lives. Even a house full of ergonomic products may not solve the problem completely.

A small portion of carpal tunnel sufferers elects to correct the problem surgically. But that method has its own implications: missed work, recuperation time, medical costs, and post-surgical physical therapy. So it's not surprising that lots of people would rather treat their carpal tunnel syndrome without going under the knife.

Luckily, there are numerous ways to relieve the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome … none of which involve an operating room. Here are ten of them.

  1. Limber up your fingers by holding out your hand with the palm facing away and bending back the fingers with your other hand.
  2. Keep your wrists flexible by rotating them clockwise several times, then repeating the motion in a counterclockwise direction.
  3. Strengthen your wrist by letting it go limp and then pressing the backs of your fingers against the palm of your other hand (and then repeating the exercise with the other wrist).
  4. After every half hour of typing, stretch out your fingers and wrists by balling each hand up into a fist and then completely spreading out the fingers. Repeat several times.
  5. Keep your wrists still. Concentrate on keeping them in one position while typing and moving only your fingers.
  6. Take frequent breaks from typing or other activities which require repetitive motion.
  7. Switch to a headset to avoid exacerbating your carpal tunnel syndrome by holding a phone to your ear for long periods of time.
  8. Apply topical ointments like CT cream or pain relief gels on a regular basis.
  9. Seek out non-medical treatments like acupuncture, acupressure, or massage to keep your wrists, hands, and arms loose and healthy.
  10. Invest in a high-quality wrist brace (or two) that will provide additional support for your wrists, while minimizing the strain on your affected joints. Wear the wrist braces not only at work, but also during activities like slicing vegetables, exercising, or knitting. You can even wear it at night to prevent the additional stress that can be placed on your wrists if you sleep with them in a bent position.

Everyone would like to avoid surgery. Adopting these dozen strategies can reduce or even eliminate the pain and discomfort that carpal tunnel syndrome can cause -- without having a doctor cut into your body!



Top 3 Ergonomic Tools for the Ambidextrous

Some people are naturally ambidextrous. Others like to switch hands from time to time just to give each one some rest. Either way, it's likely that the mouse or keyboard you’re using is ergonomic for the right-handed or left-handed -- not necessarily both. There are some ergonomic tools, however, that are perfect for ambidextrous folks. Here are a few of our favorites.


1.  Logitech Gaming Mouse G300

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If you know any gamers at all, you know this mouse was probably not inspired by the desire to allow ambidextrous people to express their versatility. Nor was it the brainchild of a person with a bunch of roommates, half of whom were left-handed and half right-handed. No, any mouse with "gaming" in the name is designed for people who want to blow up zombies and kick ninja butt for hours and hours (and hours) every day. And if you can use two hands, you can play video games for twice as long.


2.  Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse

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For people who aren't big gamers, but long to work 24 hours a day, we present the Logitech Trackman Marble Mouse. It's cheap (under $30) on most online retailers, easier to use than smaller trackball mice, and accommodates both right- and left-handed users. Also, this mouse has 184 five-star reviews on Amazon.com, which we honestly haven't seen with any other project. This mouse probably has a fan club, a Facebook page, and a book deal.

 

3. Gyration Wireless Air Mouse GO Plus 

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Not only is this mouse suitable for use by the ambidextrous, it doesn't even require a desktop surface! The only downside to this sleek little mouse? As one Amazon.com user reports, it comes with a learning curve: "A new user would not be able to just pick this up and start talking ... I am told that some do not find this motion as intuitive as I found it." On the other hand, mousing without a desk must make it feel like you're in the future. So it's a tradeoff.



The 3 Most Ergonomic Cars of 2011

For many of us, commuting takes up a significant portion of our day. No wonder, then, that car companies employ engineers who specifically concentrate on making those hours more comfortable.

Ergonomics engineers -- or, as Ford would hilariously have it, specialists in "human factors engineering" -- ensure that the cars we drive have adjustable, roomy seats and vehicle controls that are well-placed and easy to use. Additional features, such as door handles with better grips and automatically closing trunks make our cars easier on older or disabled drivers. (And hopefully, safer for everyone else.)

Here are a few of our favorite ergonomic cars for 2011.

 

1. 2011 Toyota Camry

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The driver's seat is adjustable for height and lumbar support -- something we didn't see in every car we researched. The Camry gets high marks, too, for its tilt and telescopic steering controls, remote trunk release, and audio and cruise controls on the steering wheel. Pick the Camry LE model, and you also get an eight-way power driver seat and keyless ignition.

View the full review at: http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/camry/2011/features-specs.html?style=&sub=

 

2. 2011 Hyundai Sonata

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Americans are big, and getting bigger; both in terms of, er, width, and the decidedly-more-pleasant-to-think-about height. So it's no wonder that we have a love affair with big cars. The Hyundai Sonata, originally conceived as a sort of Camry knock-off, has come into its own in recent years, thanks to its roomy cabin and ample trunk space. (And also possibly because it's a pretty good deal for a large, family sedan.) Standard equipment includes Bluetooth with phonebook download, full power accessories, and keyless entry. If you go for broke, you can get a navigation system, a sunroof, and speakers that will demonstrate your superior taste in music to the entire block.

View the full review at: http://www.edmunds.com/hyundai/sonata/2011/#fullreview

 

3. 2011 Honda CR-V

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The CR-V was one of the first popular SUV crossovers, and it's still a solid choice for families, or anyone who likes to pretend they're off-roading in the city. All models boast loads of room for people and their stuff, plus adjustable driver and passenger seats, keyless entry, and a host of safety features like antilock brakes and airbags. Feel like getting fancy? You can opt for heated seats, a navigation system with voice controls, a rearview camera and Bluetooth.

View the full review at: http://www.edmunds.com/honda/cr-v/2011/#fullreview



5 Ergonomic Backpacks for Back to School

Toting a heavy backpack to school every day can cause neck and back injuries in children that will make them walk more like an 80-year-old than an 8-year-old. But is there anything a parent can do to reduce the stress and strain on their child's little body?

The Facts

In 2009, Consumer Reports conducted a study on kid’s backpacks. They found that children in grades 2-4 carried, on average, 5 pounds of homework and books every day. By 6th grade, kids in the study were carrying an average of 18.4 pounds – some were carrying up to 30 pounds.

Considering how much extra weight kids are toting around, it’s important to not only lighten the load they carry every day, but also seek out backpacks that offer the proper support.

The Right Way To Wear A Backpack

Not all backpacks are created equal. Nor is it okay to just throw a backpack on your child's shoulder and let them walk out the door. Here's how to make sure that your child is wearing a backpack properly and taking advantage of all the ergonomic features that some backpacks have to offer.

  • The lower part of the backpack should align with the curve of the lower back and fall no more than 4 inches below the waistline.
  • The straps should be wide, patterned and contoured, and should rest 1 to 2 inches below the top of the shoulders.
  • The back should also be padded and there should be several compartments to help balance out the weight.
  • The backpack should have waist and/or chest straps, which can help distribute the weight more evenly between the back, waist and hips.
  • Make sure your child is loading her backpack properly as well. The heaviest items should go at the bottom of the backpack, closet to her spine.


Some websites, like Lands’ End and Garnet Hill, allow you to shop for backpacks by your child’s height, which can help you find one that better fits their size.

The Best Backpacks

Given all of these factors, we rounded up some of the best ergonomic backpacks for back to school.

  1. Lands’ End FeatherLight BackPack

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    This was the highest-rated backpack from Consumer Reports. It’s 15 percent lighter than any other backpack Lands’ End sells and it rated high in construction quality, rain resistance and safety features. ($40, LandsEnd.com).
  2. Airpack Kid’s Backpack

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    Developed by orthopedic professionals, the Airpack has several useful features, including shoulder straps that adjust at the top and bottom and that automatically adjust to side-to-side to help maintain the best ergonomic position. It also has an inflatable lumbar cushion. ($42.95, AirPacks.com
  3. Garnet Hill Backpack

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    Not only does this super-cute backpack have padded shoulder straps and an adjustable sternum strap, it comes in a variety of styles -- from ponies to robots -- and Garnet Hill provides instructions for making sure the bag is a healthy fit. ($39.95, GarnetHill.com)
  4. Kids School Backpacks

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    Neck Solutions claims that their backpacks can reduce back stress by up to 80 percent and lighten the effective load up to 50 percent using air technology. An inflatable lumbar cushion combined with foam-cushioned straps with top and bottom adjustable buckles reduce the strain on the upper back, neck and shoulders. ($60, NeckSolutions.com)
  5. Ivar Aero

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    The smallest and most lightweight of the Ivar line would be suitable for a child who isn’t carting a ton of books around, but still needs extra support. Ivar’s patented internal shelf design helps evenly distribute weight while keeping all those textbooks, notebooks and school supplies organized. ($48, Ivarpack.com)



Interpreting Pain: When to Stop, When to Push Through

Some people love the pain that accompanies working out. They like to think of it as fear leaving their bodies. For others, though, pain is a sign that their bodies don't want to move and should be left alone. Preferably on the couch, while eating chips, and watching terrible TV.

The truth, of course, is probably somewhere in between. Sometimes, pain is a signal to take it easy, and sometimes you can push through it to get to the fitness results that (sadly) only arrive after exertion. But how do we know which is which? And are there any ergonomic products that can help us safely work out through pain? (Hint: There are. Of course there are.)

 

When to Stop

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  • If pain is distracting, sharp, or sudden, you should stop exercising immediately. Sudden pain is a sign of injury, and shouldn't be taken lightly. It's possible to exacerbate your injury by toughing it out.
  • If you experience severe pain that worsens as your workout continues, or if you begin to limp or otherwise compensate for discomfort, stop exercising immediately.
  • Other signs of overtraining include loss of strength, feeling tired or burned out, or getting more colds and flus than usual.

 

When to Push Through

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  • You're experiencing mild muscle soreness. This is the bad news: A certain amount of soreness is to be expected from exercise. In fact, you should probably even be hoping for it, since minor muscle aches are a sign that you're breaking down the muscle. Without that muscle breakdown, you can't build new, stronger muscle.
  • Pain is dull, not distracting, and doesn't affect your form.
  • Pain develops gradually about 12 to 48 hours after activity, and goes away on its own without intervention. Well, beyond the runner's favorite, RICE therapy. In this case, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, and it can help minimize pain or shorten its duration.
 

How to Avoid Pain Altogether

In addition to our old friend RICE, you can minimize pain by buying the right equipment. Properly fitted shoes are a must. Choosing exercise that is geared toward your weak spots are also a good idea. (In other words, if you're someone who has lots of knee issues, maybe swimming is a better bet than running.)

If you continue to experience problems, you can ask your doctor about braces and wraps, but don't prescribe for yourself: A poorly-fitted bandage is worse for your joints than none at all.



The Coolest New Ergonomic Tools for Computer Users on the Go

Sure, laptops, tablets and other portable devices are great for doing work at Starbucks, but they’re not so hot when it comes to protecting your aching hands from repetitive stress injuries.

The small keyboard size cramps your hands, small monitors cause eyestrain, and the fixed position of the keyboard and monitor make for poor posture.

Luckily, there are several portable and ergonomic accessories you can travel with to make sure your laptop doesn’t end up being a pain in the neck.

 

1. Gold Touch Go! Travel Keyboard

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This portable keyboard’s tenting and splitting action decrease the pressure on your wrists while typing. Plus, its extra-soft key touch means you’re not putting as much pressure on your fingers. It’s lightweight and portable, comes with a key cover to protect it from potential damage during travel, and can fit over your existing laptop keyboard. What more do you need? Oh yeah, it’s compatible with both Macs and PCs. ($99, TheHumanSolution.com)

 

2. Cricket Laptop Stand

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Sitting in front of a laptop means you’re probably hunched over in some neck-straining position that makes work more of a pain than it needs to be. Cue the Cricket Laptop Stand (works great with iPads, too), which can be adjusted to keep your laptop screen at a comfortable viewing position. It’s strong enough to hold laptops of all widths and that weigh up to 12 pounds. When folded, it's small enough to fit in your pocket. ($38.94, TheHumanSolution.com

 

3. Aviator Laptop Stand

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This stand is another great option for properly positioning your laptop while on the go. It was designed specifically for airplane tray tables. It complies with OSHA standards for an ergonomic workstation by allowing users to recline more and move easily, and allows air to flow under your laptop, which helps cool it off. All that, and it comes in a variety of colors (including pink), weighs only 8 ounces, and can be disassembled easily for storage. ($19.99, Keynamics.com

 

4. CODi CT3 Tri-Pak Backpack

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If you’re using a laptop for work, chances are you carry it around a lot. Ditch the one-shoulder laptop case that strains your neck and shoulder and opt for this backpack, designed to safely tote your laptop. It also makes getting through airport security a snap: no more removing the laptop from the case to go through the X-ray machine. The Tri-Pak lies completely flat, making it easy to grab and go, and its breathable, padded shoulder straps make it comfortable to carry. Extra pockets mean you can store everything from water bottles to Business cards. ($160, askergoworks.com

 

5. Whirl Mini Laser Mouse

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The Whirl offers an “ErgoMotion pivot system” which makes your mouse feel like it’s floating on air. The award-winning portable mouse will save both left and right handers a lot of aches and pains by adapting to their hand motions, rather than the other way around. It also offers wireless connectivity, a long battery life, an extra-sensitive laser, and a variety of colors. ($49.95, GetSmartfish.com).



The 5 Most Ergonomic Earphones

With digital devices becoming smaller and more powerful, people are starting to really enjoy listening to higher-quality sound on the go. But even the best mp3 player, tablet computer, or smartphone won't sound good if the headphones aren’t good. Plus, the audio experience loses something when those earphones cause you pain or keep falling out of your ears.

Thankfully, companies are starting to manufacture headphones with a focus on ergonomics as well as sound quality. Here are the five most ergonomic earpieces on the market today.


1. Klipsch Custom 2 Headphones

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 Klipsch is a name that has been familiar to high-end speaker aficionados since the 1940s. The customer reviews certainly sing the praises of the comfortable fit of this product. But other users give the Custom 2 low marks for sound quality and note a kinking problem with the wires.


2. Bose IE2 Audio Headphones

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Bose is attempting to incorporate its astonishing sound quality into a pair of in-ear headphones. The IE2 boasts its "StayHear" tips, which are designed to keep the earbuds in place for hours of comfort. However, a few users report some soreness in the ears after a relatively short period of time.

 

3. Anskit "Stay True" Skull Earphones

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Anskit tries to maximize comfort for the headphone wearer with its unusual curved design and a selection of five different silicon earbud tips. Users are impressed by the way these headphones feel and by their superb performance right out of the box. Plus, the hip "skull design" adds a bit of fashion to a person's overall look.

 

4. Westone 1 Earphones

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These in-ear headphones are touted as being lightweight and ergonomically-designed to stay inside your ears. Users tend to agree, but most reviews generally focus on the supreme comfort this product provides when compared to other brands. The Westone 1 also features professional grade cable to cut down on noise.


5. Bowers & Wilkins C5 In-Ear Headphones

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Engineers at this British loudspeaker company weren't impressed with the earbuds currently on the market, so they started from scratch and built a new product from the ground up. B&W began by adding a cushioned "Secure Loop" which fits inside the inner ear to hold the earphones in place, and then weighted the earbud casing with a bit of tungsten to improve stability. The result is a revolution in mobile audio performance that can keep up with runners, mountain bikers, and even break dancers.



Does Orthokine Therapy Really Work for Back Pain?

The United States has developed a global reputation for medical breakthroughs. Even as many of Americas' core competencies have been equaled and surpassed by other nations, the U.S. still tops the list in the creation of new drugs, treatments, and procedures which cure ailments and improve patients' quality of life.

So where will Americans begin turning for relief from their chronic back pain? Surprisingly, the answer may be Europe. At least it was for one American golfer.

Fred Couples has 15 PGA Tour wins on his resume, including The Masters tournament in 1992. In recent years, he has been competing on the senior circuit known as The Champions Tour, where he captured four titles in 2010. But his golf game cratered this year as he battled through chronic back pain. His best tournament finish in 2011 was a tie for seventh place.

 

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Couples says the pain made him constantly tired and grumpy. No treatment or ergonomic product he tried was able to provide him relief. Most back specialists in the U.S. told him to rest for three months and/or undergo surgery.

But then Couples heard about a new medical procedure being practiced in Germany which has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. So he traveled to Dusseldorf and received a handful of injections at a medical clinic. Then he flew home and took 2 1/2 months off before returning to golf at this month's Senior Players' Championship in New York - which he eventually won for his first career major title on the Champions Tour.

So what's this "miracle treatment" that Couples received? It's known as Orthokine therapy.

Basically, the treatment uses proteins found in the blood as "medication" to heal back pain. Couples gave a sample of his blood to the medical staff who then took out the proteins and injected them into Couples' back. The receptors in the proteins neutralized the "messenger substances" that caused inflammation and pain sensations in his back.

A 2007 study concluded that Orthokine therapy was more effective in relieving back pain than cortisone shots (which are commonly prescribed to patients in America). Two years later, another study lauded the success of Orthokine therapy in patients with osteoarthritis in the knees. However, some believe that it won't be getting approved by the FDA in the near future because of opposition by orthopedic surgeons and the pharmaceutical industry - both of whom stand to lose major revenue if the procedure is available in America.

Orthokine therapy has been helping patients in Germany for over a decade. The treatment isn't cheap: an initial consultation costs about US$400, and each injection will set you back almost US$750 (about three to six injections are recommended over a period of a few weeks). But for some people who are in agony due to back pain, parting with a few thousand dollars would be worth it if they could experience relief and regain control of their lives.

It certainly worked for Fred Couples.



4 Things You’re Wearing That May Be Causing You Pain

Here's a riddle for the ladies… What do accessories have in common with men? They tend to cause pain in women's lives.

With everything that a woman does to make herself beautiful, it's easy to forget that some of these measures can actually have a negative effect on a woman's health. Here are four such items:

 

  1. Shoes. You knew this would top the list, didn't you? Shoe manufacturers have mastered the art of making footwear narrow enough to choke the energy out of any woman's foot. Raising the heel a few inches might flatter the claves, but it can do a number on the female back, heels, and upper legs. (And let's not get started on stiletto heels!) But the most disheartening thing about women's shoes is that you'd think a simple sandal or flat would alleviate those problems - but many such shoes still put pressure on a woman's feet and back. That's why so many women spend countless hours on their quest for a pair of comfortable shoes with even a modicum of style. Do you hear that, entrepreneurs? There’s an ergonomic shoe market waiting for you!


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  2. Purses or handbags. Have you seen the monstrosities that adorn a woman's shoulder these days? Some are bigger than what you'd see on the back of a camper who is heading out for a week-long stay in the wilderness. These handbags may be able to hold more of a woman’s necessities, but they can also throw her shoulder, neck, and back out of whack with repeated use. Even regular-sized purses can put steady pressure on these areas and cause pain.


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  3. Earrings. Some women's earrings are so enormous that you instinctively jump back when they turn their head so you won't get hit. These accessories can certainly help a woman to create a style all her own - but they also act as (not so) small weights on her ears. When worn continuously for many days in a row, large earrings can add strain to the neck and upper back area. Of course, stud earrings aren't completely guiltless - though lightweight, they can irritate the earlobe and the pierced holes to cause discomfort (and even infection in rare cases).


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  4. Hair Clips Sure, they're good at keeping hair from jumping all over the place, but if alligator hair clips, barrettes, and similar items clamp too tightly on a woman's hair, they can cause scalp pain and soreness. Sometimes, the pain can develop into headaches that are strong enough to distract her from her daily routine.


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While eliminating these accessories altogether is not always practical, being aware of their potential consequences can at least help a woman take proactive steps to alleviate the pain and/or monitor how long they are worn. After all, beauty may be skin deep; but pain can spread all the way to the core of the body.



Why Facebook May Be Making Your Teen Tired, Depressed and in Pain

Your teen's Facebook habit might be making you sick, but is it affecting his or her health, too? According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, it very well might be.

Dr. Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, cites several adverse effects from over-use of Facebook, including:

  1. Psychological disorders, including narcissism, mania, aggressive tendencies, and antisocial behaviors.
  2. Insomnia, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism.
  3. Lower test scores and decreased concentration on studies.
  4. Lower attendance.
  5. Carpal tunnel syndrome.

All of these side effects directly correlate with the amount of time a teen spends on social networking sites. Carpal tunnel in particular seems skyrocket with increased use -- a fact that will surprise no one who has had to type for ten hours a day at a job.

The trouble is, many teens use Facebook (and Twitter, and whatever social networks you and I are not cool enough to know about) as if it were their jobs. The average teen, according to Dr. Rosen, sends 2000 texts a month. This amount of texting would probably induce repetitive stress injuries in robots.

To help your teen avoid carpal tunnel, encourage them to use desktop computers whenever possible. Laptops, iPads, and, especially, smartphones are tougher on the joints and make proper ergonomic setups more difficult, if not impossible.

Of course, the best cure is prevention: Minimizing the number of hours on the computer. And using Facebook less will reduce other negative effects, such as increased feelings of isolation, emotional problems, and social issues.

For concerned parents, Dr. Rosen advises against putting all your faith in computer monitoring programs:

"If you feel that you have to use some sort of computer program to surreptitiously monitor your child's social networking, you are wasting your time. Your child will find a workaround in a matter of minutes," he says.

His suggestion? More listening, less lecturing. After all, if you want to convince your kids to spend less time in cyberspace, it makes sense to provide a real environment where actual communication takes place.



The iPad Can Be a Pain in the Neck

After the novelty of personal computers and laptop computers wore off, people began complaining about some of their limitations, like superfluous features and components or those annoying touch pads. But most importantly, they just weren't all that convenient for people on the go.

Then the iPad came along. And while it addressed all of these issues and revolutionized the way people thought about computers, for many people it has become a pain in the neck - literally.

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"Hey! Sit up straight!"

With the surge in popularity of the iPad and other "tablet" computer devices, some experts are seeing a concurrent rise in instances of neck and back pain. Massage therapists are noticing more patients who come in with neck discomfort and soreness after using their iPads for long stretches. And an ergonomic expert is concerned that the prevalence of iPad usage may increase the number of people with chronic neck pain. Dr. Jodi Okman at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, is worried that this trend might start to show up in young children, some of whom begin using the iPad for formal learning as early as age three.

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"Jason! Turn off your iPad and go to bed! You've got preschool in the morning!"

The reason why iPads are the source of so much pain has to do with the most common body postures seen in people who use them. In most cases, iPad users slouch forward and bend their necks down while operating the device – an ergonomic disaster. When this position is maintained for a lengthy period of time, the muscles in the neck start to become stressed and inflamed. Over time, the pain can become stronger and more troublesome - and take longer to go away.

So how can iPad users avoid being stricken with debilitating neck pain? Here are some suggestions:

  • Using an iPad as an e-reader is usually okay; but for most other tasks, make yourself take periodic breaks to stretch out your neck and shoulder muscles. This may require you to pause your game from time to time.

  • Whenever possible, vary your body positions. Hold the iPad up with one hand and use your other to navigate the touch screen. Lounge in a chair and prop the iPad on your bent knees for support. Even lay down on a bed or sofa while using it.

  • If you are going to use your iPad for tasks which require lots of typing, invest in an external keyboard. If possible, lean the iPad up against a wall or desk accessory so that it faces you (or buy an iPad stand which is designed for this purpose). This will eliminate the need to hunch over an iPad that is sitting on a flat surface facing upward.

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Or get a good-sized spider. That'll work too.

Because the iPad is still quite new, there is no empirical research to assess how much of a health threat the iPad poses for frequent users. But given the types of injuries seen with other computing devices and electronic gadgets, it's pretty clear that the iPad has the potential to become a major pain in the neck for users who aren't careful.



Is the Desktop Computer on Its Deathbed?

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It seems like every year, when the latest and greatest portable computing device comes out, techie types begin writing the obituary for the traditional desktop computer. So why do you still see numerous desktop computing options at your local electronics store? It's simple: people still prefer their PCs (or Macs) over laptop or tablet computers.

Here are six reasons why the personal computer is here to stay.

  1. It has a better keyboard. Have you ever tried typing more than a dozen words at a time using a touchscreen keypad on a tablet? It gets really uncomfortable really quickly. And typing a document on a laptop becomes cumbersome if you're using that teeny little touchpad to move the cursor. So until voice-activated typing becomes commonplace, there will still be applications which require efficient, speedy typing - and the desktop PC has a distinct advantage in that department.

  2. It has a bigger screen. Tablets and laptops are made to be nice and compact so they can fit in a bag or briefcase. The trouble is, the screen has to be made small in order for the computer to remain compact. That means a screen size of no bigger than 17 inches. But most desktop computers have monitors which range from 21 to 30 inches in size. And people like big, clear screens that they never have to squint to read.

  3. It probably won't get mishandled. You might move your desktop PC once or twice a year to clean around it or mess with the cables. But you're likely to carry around a tablet or laptop computer daily (or at least a few times a week). So which type of computer is less likely to be damaged by dropping, bumping, or mangling - and will therefore last longer? Yep - the desktop.

  4. It has oodles of storage. You won't see a tablet with more than 64GB of storage space, and you probably won't find a laptop with a spinning drive of over 1TB. With a desktop, you can get a computer with space for two hard drives of 1TB to 4TB each without spending a boatload of money. And let's face it - if you're using your computer to download music, movies, and/or photos, your 64GB of space will get used up before you know it. (Cyberspace "cloud" storage can run up a subscription fee tab very quickly, and it'll take longer to access that data as well).

  5. It's faster than a speeding bullet tablet or laptop. Ever try watching a lengthy or intricate Flash video on a laptop or tablet with a single processor? The experience ranges from annoying to cringeworthy. If you don't want jumps, delays, or skips, you're better off viewing it on a desktop with its quad-core processor. And if your livelihood depends on working with colossal spreadsheets, complex videos, and memory-intensive graphic images, it's a no-brainer: you'll go with the desktop.

  6. It's ergonomically superior. Try an experiment: work for three hours nonstop on a desktop PC, then do the same thing with a laptop or tablet. Which is more painful? Chances are, the slouching, bending over, and constricting of your shoulders and arms while working on the tablet or laptop will have you wincing and smarting. Yes, folks, laptops and tablets are far from ergonomic. (Reclining and using your knee to prop it up just displaces the pain to other parts of the body.) People want to be comfortable while they compute, and the desktop is still much easier on the body than its trendier counterparts.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports about the death of the personal computer have been greatly exaggerated. And they won't be following their mainframe brethren into extinction anytime soon.



Could Your Typing Technique Be Causing You Pain?

More and more Americans are spending their working lives in front of computer keyboards. On the plus side, they don't have to worry about freak accidents that are possible in manual labor jobs. However, carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries caused by hour upon hour of keyboarding can be just as debilitating.

It’s easy to blame your workplace for such discomforts, but it’s possible that the cause of this pain is actually your typing technique. Here are six common typing (or keyboarding) errors and how they may be causing you pain.

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  1. Stretching your fingers. Do you pull your fingers apart to reach different keys? That’s a big N-O. In other words, don’t stretch your fingers to reach from the letter N to the letter O. This stretching also commonly occurs by curling or pushing out your thumb on the space bar, and excessively stretching your pinky to reach the CTRL or SHIFT keys. Typists may feel pain or tension in the fingers, forearm, and hand; thumb pain that may extend to the wrist; or pinky pain which could stretch all the way to the elbow.


  2. Curling your fingers. Remember how we were taught to always keep our fingers on the "home" keys of the keyboard? Well, this position tends to cause our ring, middle, and index fingers to curl up in order to maintain that position. This could lead to difficulty in moving the fingers or tension or pain in the forearms, hands, or fingers.


  3. Isolating our fingers. Again, typists are often instructed to move only one finger at a time to strike a key without dislodging the other fingers from the "home" keys. This may cause undue stress to be placed on a certain finger, especially one which tends to strike more common letter keys. Finger isolation can result in pain, tendinitis, and a condition known as "trigger finger" where a finger suddenly pops out while a person tries to unbend it.


  4. Twisting your wrists. This occurs when you rotate or swivel one or both of your wrists without moving your forearm along with them. You can see how this would put extra stress on the wrists over time. Wrist pain that extends to the elbow is not uncommon, and some people develop a wrist cyst known as a ganglion that usually has to be removed surgically.


  5. Bad positioning of the wrist. A typist's wrist should be in perfect alignment with his or her hands. If the wrists drop below the hands, they start to take on the added weight of the forearms. This can result in wrist pain, back pain, or carpal tunnel syndrome if the position is not remedied. (Holding your wrists too high inhibits finger movement and may lead to wrist tension.) Wrist rests may not help - in fact, they often make the problem worse!


  6. Setting your seat height incorrectly. If you sit too low at the computer, the weight of your forearm shifts to your elbow, making it less able to support your fingers. This can leave typists with wrist pain, finger tension, or pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, and back. Sitting too high also causes problems; it elevates your hands and forearms to the point where they cannot adequately support your hands. The overcompensation in body position can lead to pain in the neck, shoulders, or wrists.

 

Ergonomic chairs, wrist rests, and adjustable desks won't help you avoid pain if your typing technique is improper. So make the effort to improve your body position while typing. It can reduce or eliminate the many types of pain and discomfort which are often seen in typing-heavy occupations.



3 Ways to Manage Chronic Back Pain

Americans are more ten times more likely to complain of back pain than people in traditional societies, according to a recent study. In fact, 85 percent of us will complain of an aching back at one time or another. Left untreated, back pain can lead to increased sick time and a whopping cost to employers -- at least $3 billion in lost wages, by some estimates.

Of course, the best way to treat back pain is to prevent it. A good computer set-up -- ergonomic chair, keyboard tray, adequately sized monitor -- can help. But once back pain sets in, what can we do to treat it? Can anything turn the tide and bring us back to our old, pain-free selves?

The good news is that sufferers have several options to treat and reduce chronic pain. Which option you choose depends largely on your personal preferences, athletic aptitude (and interest) and schedule.

 

1) Exercise

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This is maybe our least favorite option, due to our inherent laziness. Still, it remains a great way to combat back pain. Folks who choose to alleviate their discomfort with exercise have a lot of options. Some swear by yoga. Others advocate pilates. We're a big fan of this slideshow, which promises to ease back pain in only 15 minutes a day. (Which is about how long we'd like to spend on any kind of workout.)

 

2) Therapy

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First of all, don’t take this the wrong way. We're not saying that pain is all in your head. Your perception of pain, on the other hand, definitely is. And cognitive behavioral therapy can change all that.

“CBT can change the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to pain, improve coping strategies, and put the discomfort in a better context,” says Joseph Hullett, MD, senior medical director for OptumHealth Behavioral Solutions.

Used properly, cognitive behavioral therapy can help patients develop coping skills, develop a problem-solving attitude, and feel more in control of their situation. According to Hullett, it has results at least as good as other methods.

 

3) Massage

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This is by far our favorite solution. Give us the cure that involves lying on a table and getting pampered any day. Fortunately, massage therapy has growing support in the medical community as a treatment for low back pain. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that massage works better than chiropractic treatments or acupuncture. The best part is that it doesn't seem to matter which type of massage you get, so you gentle souls need not sign up for a bruising deep tissue treatment.

Also, relaxing a little probably doesn’t hurt anyone, either physically or mentally. And since tense muscles make back pain worse, the more relaxation, the better.



Slouching? Your Webcam May Soon Tell You to Sit Up Straight

There are a lot of products on the market today which aim to improve a person's posture. Ergonomic chairs, lumbar pillows, and special seat cushions are designed to keep you from slouching. But soon, there may be another common workplace item which can help you maintain an ideal posture: your webcam!

slouching-image002.jpgSo you won’t end up looking like this.

That's because a new study published in the journal, Applied Ergonomics, showcased the efficacy of webcams for this purpose. A research team from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel divided 60 participants into three groups. One was a control group, and another was given training in achieving proper posture while working in an office setting. The final group not only received office training, but was also shown certain webcam photographs. These photos revealed a side-by-side comparison of a worker's current posture next to the same person demonstrating an ideal posture (which had been taken earlier in the training process).

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Obviously, these photos were taken from a webcam near the person's computer, as opposed to the one on his own computer.

The results of the study showed short-term improvement in posture among participants in both non-control groups. However, these positive outcomes persisted in the long term only in the group that was shown the webcam photos. Furthermore, the webcam photo training provided additional benefits for older employees and those already suffering from musculoskeletal disorders.

Even though there are no immediate plans to incorporate this technique into an ergonomic product, we can imagine what the end result might look like. It could be packaged as a software program for individual computers which would include a "driver" for a computer's webcam (or a webcam that is to be strategically placed to provide a side view of the computer user). The software might periodically take snapshots of a worker at his or her computer and compare it to a pre-photographed "correct posture" photo in its memory; then show the two photos side by side in a pop-up window on the user's screen. It also may include tips on how to correct any errors in posture that it may detect (if the software is that sophisticated).

The main target market for this product would probably be companies who employ lots of workers who sit at desks all day. These businesses could use the software to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders in their employees -- and the lost productivity that comes with them. Individuals who already suffer from back or neck pain may also benefit from this type of ergonomic product.

But doesn’t it seem a little far-fetched to believe that a webcam-photo posture product would catch on among mainstream computer users? After all, who wants to be told constantly to sit up straight?

slouching-image005.jpgLike you don't hear your mother's voice enough in your head.



Does Your College-Bound Kid Really Need Ergonomic Furniture?

The joy and satisfaction of your child graduating from high school has now given way to the stress and commotion of preparing him or her for a trip to college. That means shopping for everything from ironing boards and shower caddies to backpacks and computers. You may also need to purchase a few furniture items for your student-to-be's dorm room or apartment.

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Hey - they'll need to keep up with current events, right?

 

Here's a question: do you need to buy ergonomic furniture for your college-bound kid?

Well, it depends on how you define the word "ergonomic."

If you view ergonomic as another term for "maximizing efficiency," then it is a good idea to think ergonomically when buying furniture. Chances are, your collegian will be short on space in his or her new living quarters. So picking out space-saving items like multi-shelf bathroom organizers, end tables with extra drawer space, or even smartly-designed dorm furniture can provide extra storage room for your kid without eating up valuable square footage.

However, if you believe the meaning of ergonomic is closer to "minimizing discomfort or pain," then you probably don't need to buy furniture which emphasizes this trait. The vast majority of young adults are both healthy and adaptable, which makes them less likely to succumb to repetitive stress injuries than older people. Also, unlike office workers who spend eight hours a day at a desk, college students tend to work and study in various locations outside their dorm room or apartment (such as a study lounge, library, cafeteria, or computer lab). Even when collegians do stay home and study, they commonly do so in unorthodox ways -- like reading on the sofa, typing on a laptop in bed, taking notes at a table, or even spreading out on the floor with books and study guides. Therefore, investing in an ergonomic chair, for instance, that will largely remain unused is not a wise application of funds.


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Because college students do their studying almost anywhere.

That said, if your child likes a piece of furniture that just happens to be ergonomic, there is no harm in buying it. After all, fashion and décor considerations make up a large part of all furniture-buying decisions. But if your choice comes down to two identical items and one costs more because it is touted as "ergonomic," you can feel free to purchase the lower-priced one with a clear conscience.

 

college-bound-ergonomicsimage005.jpgMost college kids often utilize nontraditional body positions while completing their assigned tasks.

Parents of college-bound kids worry about many things after they leave their babies alone at enormous learning institutions … as well they should. But furniture ergonomics doesn't need to be one of them.



Do They Make Ergonomic Chairs for Short People?

Everyone knows how you're supposed to sit in an ergonomic chair: back against the backrest, knees at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on the floor. But what if you're too short to sit like this? Do you have to choose between sitting correctly, and having your feet properly positioned? Do they even make ergonomic chairs for short people?

Turns out, they do -- if you know what to look for.

Short-legged folks might find that a chair with a large degree of height adjustment will suit their needs. The Izzy & Bailey Task Chair, for example, adjusts down to 15 inches or up to 21 inches. It also has an adjustable back and offers a broad range of adjustment to allow for a variety of user postures.

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The Task Chair is under $300 at most retailers, which is pretty good, all things considered: As this article points out, it's hard to find budget ergonomic chairs that are suitable for shorter people. This is partly because it's cheaper for manufacturers to concentrate on one demographic, and catering to a larger customer is easier.

Of course, if money is no object, you can always opt for the classic Herman Miller Aeron Chair.

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An Aeron chair can run you $800, but if you have the cash, it might be worth it. In addition to having all the adjustable elements you'd expect from an icon of ergonomic comfort, the Aeron comes in three sizes. There are even size selection charts available on the internet to help you figure out which size is right for you. This means that the process of finding a chair that fits is now considerably easier than buying a bra. (And no less important.)

Finally, if you can't find a chair that works for you, or if your desk is too high to make a smaller chair ergonomically practical, you can always use a foot rest. We have, in our time, cobbled together foot elevation tools from everything from packing boxes to children's footstools, but you can opt to get fancy and buy a foot rest created for the purpose. Amazon has a list of 52 of them, from prices ranging from $12.64 to $149.94. The pictured foot rest is the twelve-dollar one, because we are not just short: we are also frugal.

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Back Chairs vs. Ergonomic Chairs: Is There a Difference?

In the American workplace, it is common to use certain terms interchangeably, even though they may not mean exactly the same thing. Like laptop and notebook computers (notebooks are smaller). Or cubes and workstations (cubes have walls). Or cost-cutting and layoffs (that one is pretty obvious).

Another example of this "misplaced interchangeability" involves what employees sit on while working in at their desks. A "back chair" and an "ergonomic chair" do not technically have the same meaning -- even though a back chair can sometimes be ergonomic and an ergonomic chair might help a person's back.

Clear as mud, right?

Maybe some of these examples will help.

Here is an ergonomic chair that would not be considered a "back chair."

 

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The idea behind this chair is to promote good posture by resting most of the body's weight on the knee support pad and leaning the torso slightly forward. Of course, maintaining proper body posture can have positive benefits for a person's back (as well as for his or her neck, shoulders, and arms). But this is not generally known as a "back chair" because it does not provide specific support for the user's back.

Now, let's check out a "back chair" that isn't fully ergonomic.

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It's quite obvious by this chair's design that it is intended to support and pamper the back. However, it's equally apparent that it is not the optimal chair for the workplace -- which makes it non-ergonomic in an office setting.

Here's a back chair that could be suitable for the office.

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As you can see, this one would fit at a desk or table. Plus, it has an adjustor arm which can raise or lower the height of the chair, and it also comes with a flexible back to provide some support for a person's torso. However, this back chair is lacking many other features which would make it more user-friendly -- such as arm support, a headrest, and a fully adjustable seat. Those are some of the qualities that aren't always seen in back chairs but are found in many ergonomic chairs -- like this one, for instance.

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So which type of chair should you use?

The answer depends on what physical issues you are trying to address. If you are experiencing pain, soreness, or tightness in your back, then a back chair might be adequate to solve your problems. But if you are concerned about neck discomfort, repetitive stress injuries (like carpal tunnel syndrome), or numbness in your legs, then your needs may be better served by an ergonomic chair.

Usually, there's no real harm in interchanging "back chair" with "ergonomic chair" in general conversation. But if you are looking to spend your money on (or ask your employer to buy) a chair that is intended to provide you with more comfort and support, you should really do your homework to determine which type of chair is right for you.



5 Everyday Items That Still Aren't Ergonomic

First came ergonomic chairs, and the working world was finally able to type its life away in perfect comfort. Then came a host of other, much more bizarre ergonomic items like yoga mats and meditation chairs. But what about the things that should be ergonomic, but aren't? Think of how our lives would be improved if the following things were actually comfortable.

 

1. Airplane seats.

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Airplane seats are so notoriously uncomfortable that even talking about them is a cliche worthy of the worst 1980s comedian. Bringing them up seriously makes us feel like we should be doing standup in front of a fake brick wall. Possibly while wearing shoulder pads. But still ... they are the worst, amirite? And seriously, folks, who do we have to *bleep* around here to get a comfy seat on an airplane? Folks?

 

2. Bar stools.

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This is a harder sell. Obviously, you don't need to sit on a bar stool in order to fly across the country, and you don't probably don't need to sit on a bar stool in order to do your job. (Unless you are a beer tester, in which case, please tell us how you got this gig.) Still, many of us like to spend the occasional hour perched on a stool in our local tavern. Is it too much to ask that it be a bit more comfortable?

 

3. Subway poles.

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Subway poles are gross. They're germy, they're grimy, and they're often being held onto by people with whom you'd prefer not to share personal space. Also, they're not very ergonomic. At best, your wrist is cocked at a weird angle. At worst -- during rush hour, for example -- you're groping for space way above your head or way below your waist.

 

4. Cell phones.

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We keep hearing about new phone designs that will be easier on our poor little wrists and thumbs. But if they've made it to market, they must've been crushed by the iPhone. Because we sure haven't had the pleasure of using them.

 

5. S'mores skewers.

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Just kidding: These are totally unnecessary. But they would be a hilarious and delicious way to make our fortune.



What You Need to Know About Choosing a Massage Therapist

Everyone knows that getting a massage is a great way to reduce pain. But if you're going to a massage therapist for a specific purpose -- let's say, for example, to help reduce the agony in your tiny, contracted, T-Rex-like front paws -- how do you know what to look for? After all, any type of massage will relax you and reduce stress. But if you have a more ergonomic purpose in mind, here's how to find a great therapist.

 

1. Start with the internet.

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Friends can give great recommendations, it's true, but only the internet can give you a complete 360-degree view of the services offered. Thanks to sites like Yelp and Citysearch, you can now research everything from florists to fetish clubs, with reader reviews helpfully included right in the listing. And because it's the internet, if you manage to find a therapist without a lot of negative reviews, you know you're doing well. For some reason, something about the online environment fills most people with a sense of entitled rage that they would never exhibit in real life. So any spa that doesn't list a review saying, "I got a massage here and they did not put me in an actual time machine and return me to my youth. Such a waste of fifty bucks!" is probably a great bet.

 

2. Know what you're looking for.

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And speaking of fetish clubs, reviews are helpful in this regard as well. If you want to go to a massage place but not, you know a massage place, online reviews are pretty helpful. Just steer clear of any place that has reviews that say, "Ask for Handy Annie. She could kill a chicken with her bare hands." (And if you are looking for a, uh, massage place, you know, good luck and all. This just isn't going to be the most helpful post for you.)

 

3. Look for specials.

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A lot of spas and massage therapists offer special packages for the walking -- or typing -- wounded. We have seen TMJ packages, carpal tunnel specialties, and a variety of spas offering help with general tendonitis, as well as the usual Swedish and deep tissue massages. Again, if you can find online reviews, it's worth reading through a few. Even areas that require massage therapists to be licensed don't seem to have much in the way of fraud prevention when it comes to specific claims like these, so buyer beware.

 

4. Talk to your massage therapist.

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Most places will ask you to fill out paperwork before your massage, detailing any medical issues as well as your preferences in terms of pressure and areas to work on. Be sure to be specific about what's bothering you, and don't be afraid to speak up during the massage to tell your therapist what's working and what isn't.

 

5. Assessing the effects.

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For the best results, take care of yourself after your massage. Drink lots of water and get some rest. It's not unusual to feel tired or a little sore after a massage, especially if you've had a lot of deep tissue work done. Immediately after, you'll probably feel more relaxed, which is always enjoyable. In terms of reducing repetitive stress injuries, the real results might not be apparent for a day or two.



The Hottest New Ergonomic Chair … Straight from Down Under

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What does it take to make an award-winning ergonomic chair? A design that does everything that time-tested principles of ergonomics say it should do … and then adds a twist.

That's what the SAYL chair offers. Winner of the Australian International Design Awards 2011, the SAYL was designed by Fuseproject for Herman Miller.

Generally, most ergonomics experts agree that desk chairs should do at least three things. For example, OSHA specifies that ergonomic chairs should:

 

1. Be adjustable. This is possibly the most important factor in choosing a good chair for work. Desk chairs should allow workers to adjust for height, for sitting angle, and for arm-rest position. OSHA recommends that users try a chair in a few different postures, to make sure that it will adapt to their changing sitting position over the course of the day.

2. Reduce exposure to awkward postures. Chairs should not encourage your bad habits. A well-chosen, well-adjusted chair will make it easier for you to sit up straight, with your computer screen at eye level, with both feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. It won't encourage you to slump or type at an odd angle.

3. Provide adequate lumbar support. The chair should help maintain the S-shaped curve of the spine. Backrest should be the correct size, positioning, and material for the individual using the chair. Lumbar supports that are too big or too small encourage poor posture and fatigue.

The SAYL chair provides support and flexibility, just like all the best ergonomic chairs. It's adjustable for height, and provides lumbar support through the chair back's central spine (or "Y-Tower," as designer Yves Béhar refers to it.)

And here’s the “extra” that makes this chair unique. The back is constructed of a mesh material that offers range of motion and support at the same time. Inspired by suspension bridges, the "3D Intelligent Suspension Technology" allows users a larger range of movement, while still providing a stable base. Hinge points in the seat encourage "healthy forward rotation of the pelvis." The mesh backing is said to be cooler, allowing air flow between the seat and the back of the person sitting in it.

Plus, the chair looks cool. We'd give it a design award just for the neat Y-shaped back alone.

And yes, the chair from down under is available in the U.S. It can be purchased directly from Herman Miller; the basic model sells for $399. It comes in a variety of colors, including black, red, green, blue, and white.



Pain on the Brain: How Doctors Will Soon Be Able to Measure Your Pain Through Brain Scans

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For people who have been dealing with chronic pain for a long time (and non-medical treatments, like ergonomic chairs, haven’t helped), there is one question that has been burned into their brains: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how severe is the pain?" If that’s you, then listen up.

These days, that question is the closest thing to an objective scale that health care professionals can use to gauge how much patients are hurting (and how much their treatment methods are helping). Of course, that technique doesn't work well on a macro scale; one person's "8 pain" may be another's "3."

What if there were a way to objectively measure pain levels across all patients?

That may be possible one day, thanks in large part to researchers at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. They have identified a promising new method of measuring pain using brain scans. When chronic pain patients underwent an MRI, and a technique called arterial spin labeling was performed, doctors were able to view blood flow patterns in various areas of the brain.

The study involved 32 patients made up of a control group and a collection of patients who had been suffering from chronic lower back pain or a similar ailment for at least five years. While an MRI recorded data, the test subjects performed stretches that were designed to induce pain. Researchers noted that stimuli were processed differently in the brains of chronic pain sufferers than they were in healthy patients - and these differences were observed as variances in cranial blood flow patterns on the images.

The hope is that one day, these changes in blood flow could be accurately quantified to the point where they can determine the efficacy (or lack thereof) of various medications, physical therapy plans, or other pain management regimens. Ideally, physicians could develop objectively-measured treatment schedules that can be applied across some or all patients (for instance, a 500mg dose of Vicodin over a seven-day period reduces lower back pain by 50% in patients over 50 years of age).

But such objectivity in pain management outcomes is at least several years away. Researchers admit that they have a lot of work to do before doctors can just put people into scanning machines, measure their pain, and prescribe the corresponding treatment. However, the study has shown that on a neurological level, chronic pain affects an individual differently than acute pain does. That in itself may help health care practitioners to respond better to the needs and challenges facing their patients who deal with pain on a daily basis.



Is the iPad Ergonomic?

Many people think the iPad tablet computer is awesome. It's cute. It's convenient. It's powerful. It's versatile. And it's sooooo 21st century. But is the iPad ergonomic, or will our future be filled with aching joints and sore muscles?

is-ipad-ergonomic-image002.jpg …both for us AND our cats?

The iPad's interface allows the user to move between screens by sliding a finger sideways across its surface. If this motion is repeated dozens (or hundreds) of times, pain or discomfort in the wrist or hand may develop. Plus, some experts point out that the iPad is mainly designed for right-handed people, so left-handed individuals may not find the product quite as user-friendly.

Anyone who has tried to type on an iPad knows that its digital keyboard is less than half of the size of a traditional computer keyboard. As a result, a user must draw his or hands in closer together to type, which in turn puts additional strain on the shoulders and forearms. This constricted body posture is a recipe for carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder pain, and other similar conditions.

And then there's the display of the iPad itself. Although the screen elements are colorful and clear, the brightness of an iPad is considerably lower than that of a standard computer monitor. It's easy to envision a person developing eyestrain after working (or playing) on an iPad for long periods of time.

So what's an iPad user to do?

Thankfully, there are certain complementary products and accessories for the iPad that are helping to make the user experience more ergonomic. For instance, external keyboards which plug into the iPad are now available for people who like to use the tablet to type messages, e-mails, and other digital documents. Also, iPad users can purchase a stand which tilts the screen up and forward (like a photo frame) to lessen the strain on the wrists and hands. There's even an iPad swing-arm stand which attaches to a desk and allows someone to position the device for maximum comfort and ergonomic benefits.

 

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Coming soon: the iPad Jacket.

The iPad represents a revolution in the way people use computers. But like many trailblazing products, there are still a few kinks to be worked out regarding the design and functionality. Thankfully, the marketplace has quickly responded with products and methods which address these issues - just like it always does. So iPad aficionados can rest easy knowing that whatever ergonomic issues may arise, there will probably be an invention or innovation that takes care of them.



Airplane Seats: An Ergonomic Disaster

The laptop computer is one of the most valuable inventions in the past quarter century. With laptops, people can do all of their personal computing at a remote workplace, in a hotel room, or even in a coffee shop. Yes, you can use your laptop pretty much anywhere. And then you get on an airplane, and your laptop computer becomes an ergonomic disaster.

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Most of the blame can be heaped on the economy class seats on commercial aircraft. After all, these aren’t exactly ergonomic chairs. They’re only about 17 inches wide, and each row is separated by less than three feet. So it's difficult enough for many people to squeeze into the seats, let alone work comfortably on their laptops.

Not only is seat size an issue, but the space that you do have is not very conducive to laptop computers. If you put your laptop on the tray table in front of you, it is often difficult to see what you are typing. That's because the tilt-up screen is impeded by the downward-sloping seat back in front of you. And a laptop that is placed on your lap is usually too low to work with in an airplane seat. In addition, the armrests are too narrow to allow your arms to rest comfortably while typing, and there's no room to use an external mouse.

As a result, laptop computing on aircrafts is about as non-ergonomic as an airplane lavatory. Passengers working on laptops often constrict their shoulder muscles, slouch, bend their neck forward, and hold their arms and hands in uncomfortable positions in order to type on the keyboard. All of this can lead to pain and discomfort which may persist long after the flight is over.

So how can you improve the ergonomics of laptop computing in an airline seat? There's no easy answer to this question. But here are some suggestions:

 

  1. Minimize typing. Try to choose tasks that involve pointing and clicking rather than substantial keyboard use. That may relax some of the finger and hand muscles that would be flexed by extensive typing.
  2. Take breaks. Stop every ten minutes or so and stretch out your hands, wiggle your fingers, roll your neck, and shrug your shoulders. That will keep your body more limber and retard the effects of muscle strain.
  3. Use the empty seat. If you're fortunate enough to have an empty seat next to you, use the tray table in front of it for your laptop. You'll have to turn your body somewhat to face the screen, but at least your arms and shoulders will have a bit more room to move around.
  4. Buy a special laptop pad. Products like the e-pad portable laptop desk can help your airline laptop experience become more ergonomic. The e-pad is a cushion that sits on your lap and tilts toward you - so you don't have to lean over to type on your laptop.
  5. Go first-class. Yes, it's more expensive. But if you know that you'll have to get some work done on a flight, go ahead and shell out the extra cash for a first-class seat. You'll have more room to work with, and you'll be more productive while you're in the air.


How Ergonomic Chairs Won 'The Apprentice'

Is there anything ergonomic chairs can't do? For the vast majority of us who use them, ergonomic chairs prevent back pain, reduce strain on our wrists, and make us look really cool in meetings. (OK, maybe that last part is a stretch, but many chairs do have a pleasantly science-fiction vibe.) And this July, ergonomic chairs even won the UK version of “The Apprentice.”

Tom Pellereau, an inventor almost universally described as affable and shy, beat out a skincare guru, a salesman, and a corporate type to win the reality show. His product? An ergonomic chair.

Lord Sugar, the UK version's more awesomely named alternative to Donald Trump, was keen on the product, which was specifically geared to prevent back pain. Less exciting to Tom Pellereau's new boss? The inventor's plan to provide free posture checks to employees alongside the chair:

"I've got to tell you, as an employer, I would give up and emigrate if someone said to me, 'now what you've got to do is to allow all your employees to have a desk chair check'," Sugar said. Yikes! Remind us not to work for this guy.

Also, everyone on the program found it hilarious that Pellereau's business proposal, which presumably revolved entirely around a chair, never mentioned the word "chair.”

No matter. In the end, the good product won. Pellereau's chair, which offered key components of an ergonomic chair, was a shoe-in. These factors include an adjustable seat height, so that thighs are always parallel to the floor, a back rest made to adjust to your spine and provide lumbar support, and arm rests that move up and down as needed.

Want to perform your own Pellereau-style Posture Check at home? Observe these five tips:

1. Avoid slouching. Sit back into your chair, and make sure you have good back and foot support.

2. If necessary, use wrist supports to avoid putting too much stress on the joints.

3. Sit an arm's length away from your screen, and make sure your monitor is at eye level.

4. Keep accessories and peripherals within easy reach.

5. Take regular breaks.




Ergonomic Products … for a Baby?

Parents (and grandparents) will buy just about anything (that's marketed) for babies. And more and more products on the market are touting themselves as being "ergonomic." So you knew it was just a matter of time before you started seeing dozens of "ergonomic baby products" on store shelves.

However -- and brace yourself, because this may shock you -- many of these products are no more "ergonomically sound" than their standard counterparts.

 

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Which baby toy is ergonomic and which one isn't? Exactly.

Here is a list (in descending order of added value due to design improvements) of 10 baby products which are marketed as "ergonomic."

1. Evenflo TRUVENT Angled Bottle. This product can demonstrate tangible benefits to a baby: less colic, reflux, and gas pain. The vented bottle helps liquid flow more smoothly, and the angled shape lets mothers feed infants in a semi-upright position to facilitate digestion.

2. Baby Nipple Thermometer. This thermometer wins the "innovation" award. With this tool, parents can take a baby's temperature by sticking this pacifier-like thermometer in his or her mouth. After all, babies don't like being poked in sensitive places any more than adults do.

3. Memory foam baby pillow. Babies like to be at ease, and having a pillow that supports their head, neck, and shoulders comfortably can accomplish that. But the product description also refers to this pillow as "anti-snore" and "massage;" which addresses issues that adults tend to deal with more than infants.

4. Teeth EZ. This teething toy claims to have an "ergonomic shape [that&91; ensures all parts of the jaw area are reached." It's unclear how problematic inconsistently-strong jaw muscles are for babies. But the toy is certainly useful if it's more ergonomic than, say, a corkscrew or a parent's finger.

5. Baby Human Ergonomic Baby Spoons. The fact that its two-headed shape helps prevent choking is a positive feature. But the claim that this product teaches "self feeding skills" is probably bogus, since most babies are quite adept at putting things in their mouths. (Unless you want your infant fully etiquette-trained by age two.)

6. Baby Scale. Sure, it's great to be able to weigh your baby whenever the mood strikes you. But claiming that this product has an "ergonomic design" because the weighing surface has curved sides to keep babies from falling off of the scale is probably a bit of a stretch.

7. Wooden Baby High Chair. This chair also boasts an "ergonomic design" because it is tilted slightly backward (much like a music stand for sheet music). But one also wonders if that will just encourage the baby to slide forward and fall out of the chair. Is that what is known as an "ergonomic benefit?"

8. Baby stroller. This product promotes an "ergonomically safe and comfortable ride." People… it's a stroller. If it has a cushion and is being pushed by someone else, the average infant will like be pretty comfortable. After all, it probably won't be used on a rocky mountainside.

9. Plastic baby toilet seat. Again, the item purportedly has an "ergonomic design." Please. The whole point of toilet training is to teach children the social niceties of using a commode as opposed to the simpler and more instinctive method of soiling their pants. Toddlers won't appreciate any ergonomic "perks" of a toilet training seat. All they care about is that the seat A) won't let them fall in, or B) doesn't have spikes on it.

10. Optical baby mouse. Yes, really. Even though it's also designed for "small hand-type ladies and children" (?), this mouse is being marketed as a baby product. Well, if your infant is developing carpal tunnel syndrome from surfing the Web too much at night, then you have much bigger problems than a non-ergonomic mouse.

 

To recap: just because it says the word "ergonomic" on the packaging of a baby product does not necessarily mean that it's any better for a baby than the similar item on the shelf above it which does not mention the word. But it will almost always cost you more money.



Are Pain Management Doctors Really Just Drug Dealers?

You’ve probably heard the term “pain management doctor.” That sounds great, right? After all, who wouldn’t want to eliminate the aches and pains that an ergonomic chair and keyboard can’t fix. But wait: before you go racing to schedule an appointment, the question needs to be raised: Exactly how do these doctors treat chronic pain? And how is what they do any different from your general practitioner?

While many other medical specialties focus on determining a patient's illness or condition, pain management physicians direct their efforts toward quelling symptoms of an already-diagnosed affliction and improving the patient's quality of life. Many times, achieving this goal involves the prescription and/or administration of medications.

So are these pain management doctors nothing more than glorified drug dealers? Earlier this month, a Florida pain management doctor was arrested on charges of insurance fraud and fraudulently obtaining controlled substances. And a lawsuit has been filed in Texas against a pain management clinic which alleges that its staff instructed a woman to take 11 prescription pills, which in turn caused her to suffer a fatal overdose.

However, it is important to note that these stories -- like murders, tsunamis, and bomb attacks -- are newsworthy because they are so rare. The vast majority of pain management physicians operate fully within the law and observe longstanding codes of medical ethics. Moreover, most of these physicians believe that helping their patients overcome their pain and discomfort is priority number one -- something that cannot always be said about other health care professionals.

The reason pain management doctors have become so popular is because they take a multi-disciplined approach to alleviating pain. Certainly, prescription medications are one weapon in their fight to improving the health of their patients. But pain management physicians work with many other methods of pain relief, including:

  • physical therapy
  • chiropractic care
  • massage
  • acupuncture
  • cortisone injections
  • skin heating or cooling
  • electrotherapy
  • relaxation techniques
  • dietary changes
  • exercise regimens

 

Because pain management physicians tend to be more well-versed in all of these pain relief options, they have a better understanding of how they work in conjunction with one another. For example, these doctors study how different medications act when they are prescribed concurrently, which means they are able to reduce instances of adverse drug reactions. But more importantly, these practitioners can call on their expertise to assemble a pain management program tailored to each individual patient. So while one patient may respond well to painkillers and acupuncture, another may benefit more from chiropractic care and periodic cortisone injections -- even if the two are afflicted by the same disease.

Painting pain management doctors as drug dealers is the same as saying that the American criminal justice system focuses only on imprisonment. While prison is one sentence that can be imposed on a criminal, municipalities usually rely as much (or more) on fines, jail sentences, restitution payments, house arrest, and community service to administer justice in the eyes of the law. For pain management physicians, medications are just one of the tools in their tool belts -- but certainly not the only one they utilize.

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5 Items That Just Shouldn’t Be Ergonomic

The field of ergonomics has exploded in recent years. Today, you can find the influence of ergonomics in all kinds of product categories: ergonomic chairs, ergonomic desks, ergonomic keyboards, even ergonomic baby products! Certainly, ergonomics has had a positive impact on our society. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing?

/5_things_that_shouldnt_be_ergo_image001.gif Although babies themselves aren't all that ergonomic. 

 

 

Apparently so. There are some products on the market which purport to be ergonomic - even though the benefits gained by being ergonomic are of questionable value (or even downright undesirable). Here are five such items:

 

1. Ergonomic gun. This article describes the Kahr P9 and CW9 double action pistols as "ergonomic, … aesthetically pleasing, concealable, and eminently shootable." True, some people are very protective of their Second Amendment rights to bear arms. But consider this: if a person is worried about developing carpal tunnel syndrome from numerous episodes of pulling out a concealed handgun and firing it, should that person really own a firearm in the first place?

 

2. Ergonomic beer bottle. Believe it or not, the so-called "best-selling beer in Peru" touts its ergonomic bottle design. SAB Miller's Cristal (no, not the overpriced champagne) beer bottle is "designed to make consumption a better experience for its consumers." Okay, we’ll go with the assumption that people really do develop repetitive stress injuries from drinking beer (and that they can somehow still feel pain after all that beer drinking). But if the manufacturer needs a special bottle design to improve the consumer consumption experience, shouldn't they instead focus on the quality of the beer inside the bottle?

 

3. Ergonomic bong. You will immediately grasp the level of scientific research conducted on this product simply by reading this site's description of the Flash bong: "Just a perfect bong, ergonomic curved! [sic&91; Put in your hand [sic&91; and you want [sic&91; let it go anymore. [sic&91;" But despite all of this articulate praise, we have to ask the question: Is an ergonomic bong really necessary? After all, if you get sore joints and muscles from handling a bong, you're probably eligible for a doctor's prescription for medical marijuana anyway.

 

4. Ergonomic protest sign. This enterprising individual actually discusses the virtues of using a metal retractable pole to support a protest sign at a rally. Although this isn't an actual product that you can purchase (at least not yet), this begs the question: if you're worried about staying comfortable at upcoming protest marches, are you perhaps less concerned about the causes you are promoting and more focused on your personal experiences during the protests themselves?

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That's the way to stand up for your beliefs! How inspiring.

 

5. Ergonomic torture devices. Okay, full disclosure: these aren't actual products - they only existed as part of a classroom exercise. In 2008, a professor's assignment at Britain’s Kent University School of Architecture encouraged students to explore the underlying principles of ergonomics - by designing ergonomic torture devices. Because, after all, conducting lengthy sessions of excruciating pain infliction can really be torture on your bones and joints.

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Medieval torturers like these were commonly stricken with carpal tunnel syndrome.

So for those who think the possibilities of ergonomics are limitless, let us respectfully disagree. There are some things in this world that should remain somewhat uncomfortable or cumbersome -- because everyone will be better off as a result.



4 Exercises That Won't Leave You Hurting

If you have neck pain or a repetitive stress injury, you've probably heard it all. “Use special equipment like keyboard trays and ergonomic chairs.” … “Stretch and rest.” And, oh yes, “Make sure you don't use your aches and pains as an excuse to skip the gym, since strengthening your muscles will help prevent further injury.” Unfortunately, all of these words of advice are true.

In fact, some studies have shown that doing the proper exercises can reduce neck pain by up to 80 percent. Great advice, but when you're already sore, which exercises should you do?

 

1. Upper Trapezius Exercises

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If you're a regular computer user, a musician or even a weekend warrior, you've probably experienced upper trapezius pain. Most of us think of it as knots in the shoulders. There are two ways to combat this problem. One is to stretch at your desk. Do 15-20 reps of the following exercises: shoulder rolls, shrugs, neck tilts, and neck rotations.

The other way to treat upper trapezius pain is Prone Horizontal Abduction. And, no, that’s not as torturous as it sounds. At the gym, lie on your stomach on a bench, with your palms facing down. Then lift your arms toward the ceiling until they're parallel to the bench. Add free weights, up to five pounds, as you grow used to the exercise.

More details on both methods can be found here.

 

2. Deltoid Raises

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To do a deltoid raise, sit on a bench, holding a free weight in each hand. (Start out with a light weight, 2 -5 pounds, and build up as you get stronger.) Let your hands hang down to the ground. Raise your arms until they're parallel to the floor, and hold for one count. Repeat.

 

3. Rows

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This exercise is best performed with a cable weight machine. If you don't know which one we mean, look around the gym until you find the giant guy standing under an inverted U-shaped frame, pulling two cables at once and doing his Incredible Hulk impression. That's the machine we mean.

You'll only use one cable, though. Bring your trusty flat bench over, and place it in front of one of the cables. Then sit facing it, and grasp the handle with both hands. Set the weight to a comfortable level, and then pull the cable in toward your waist, pulling your shoulders back and lifting your chest. Hold it, then release to starting position, with straight arms.

 

4. Shrugs With Weights

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Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet together and your back straight. Lift your shoulders as high as you can, and then drop them. (Your shoulders. Not the weights.) Be sure you're not leaning forward or jutting your chin.



Need Two Monitors? Here’s How to Set Them Up Ergonomically

Dual-monitor setups are beloved by developers, designers, and everyone who wants to pretend that they are working on the bridge of a spaceship. The argument is that having two (or more!) screens allows workers to be more productive, more flexible, and to feel just as important as the other people in the office who already work with two monitors. But what does it do for ergonomics? The answer, as always, depends on how you set up your work area.

Common Complaints With Dual-Monitor Work Stations

Folks who move from a single monitor to a dual-monitor system often complain of aches and pains, especially while adjusting to the new setup. The worst offenders are:

1) Neck pain, from swiveling from one monitor to another, or from staring at the monitor at an angle.

2) Shoulder, wrist and elbow pain, from holding the mouse at a different angle than that with which they’re comfortable.

3) Eye strain, from constantly staring at one screen or another. The two-monitor setup seems to discourage breaks, which isn't great for workers' eyes.

 

How to Set up Two Monitors Ergonomically

Much of the standard ergonomic setup advice applies. (Keyboard trays and ergonomic chairs, for example, will help you out no matter how many monitors you use.) But there are also several specialized tips that can help you reduce strain in a dual-monitor situation.

1. Use eye movements to look from screen to screen, rather than swiveling the whole head.

2. Place both monitors at the same height.

3. Keep screens as close together as possible. Flat-panel monitors often make this easier.

4. If you don't use both monitors evenly, consider making one the primary monitor and setting the other off to the side, at a 30 degree angle.

5. If both monitors are used equally, place them side by side and center the keyboard between them.

 

And, as always, no matter what your setup, be sure to take lots of breaks. Your eyes -- and sanity -- will thank you for it.



5 Surprising Careers That Can Cause Carpal Tunnel

When you hear about carpal tunnel syndrome, you probably think of office workers: people who type all day long, in cubicles, while sitting in ergonomic chairs, palming special mice, crouched over their keyboard trays and hoping for the best. But apparently, cubicle jockeys aren't the only folks who need to worry about carpal tunnel and other repetitive stress injuries (RSI). Here are five of the most surprising careers that can lead to carpal tunnel.

1. Musician.

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What do musicians have in common with athletes? According to Toronto-based audiologist Dr. Marshall Chasin, they're macho:

"In many ways musicians are as macho — and I mean that in the most negative sense — as baseball players and football players," said Chasin. "They may not be six-foot-eight, but they certainly have that same attitude, that I'm immortal and I can play through an injury."

In practical terms, this means a lot of untreated carpal tunnel and RSI. How do musicians get carpal tunnel? Think of a violinist holding her instrument, and try not to get a twinge in your wrist and neck.

 

2. Gymnast.

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Gymnasts, particularly ones who do handstands, get carpal tunnel like there’s no tomorrow. Weak wrists are often the culprit. Strengthening exercises can help, although in some cases, corticosteroid injections are required. As a last resort, surgery offers relief, but it involves cutting the ligament that compresses the nerve. Ouch!

 

3. Newspaper Delivery Boy/Girl.

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Maybe it's a good thing print is dying, at least if you're in charge of delivering papers. The repetitive motion of flinging all those papers under the porch or onto the roof comes at a price. And unwrapping bundles of papers and loading up delivery vans aren't so great on the wrists, either.

 

4. Hairdresser.

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Doing your hair isn't just wearing out your stylist's patience. It might also be wearing out his wrists. Awkward grips on scissors and styling tools, plus the repetitive act of cutting tiny little snippets of hair over and over again, can add up to wrist pain.

 

5. Housewife/husband.

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Stay-at-home spouses of the world: The next time someone acts like you don't work for a living, point them to this article. It turns out that your occupation is right up there with assembly line workers and computer operators in the list of professions most likely to cause carpal tunnel.



The 4 Coolest-Looking Ergonomic Chairs for the Senior Circuit

This may come as a shock to some people, but it's true: it is possible to be a senior citizen and be "cool" at the same time.

Elder statesmen and stateswomen can dress in the latest fashions and drive a sporty car rather than the stereotypical extra-large sedan. And hey -- if you're a senior citizen and you're reading this, you're cool enough to surf the Internet, right?

That's why senior citizens don't have to settle for ergonomic chairs that look like they belong in a hospital. Or a thrift store furniture department. Or a funeral home.

With the U.S. population aging, ergonomic chair manufacturers have begun marketing to members of the AARP crowd who aren't ready to fade away into the sunset just yet. That means there is an impressive collection of ergonomic chairs that actually mix in some fashion along with their function. Here are some examples:

 

 1. Bella High Seat High Back Chair

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This item is attractive enough to be placed in almost any room in a home. Its seat height of up to 19 inches helps to reduce strain on the body when the sitter gets out of it. Also, the comfortable split back provides extra support for a person's head and lumbar regions, while the extra-wide upholstered arms and the polished wood knuckles provide both comfort while sitting and additional gripping assistance while standing up.

 

2. Hitch Mylius Edith Chair

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This chair features an ultramodern look created by Kenneth Grange, an accomplished product designer (who also happens to be 82 years old). Its integral frame is outfitted with a one-piece molding to give the chair its flowing lines and contemporary curves. Plus, the back is higher and the seat is tilted slightly to make getting out of it a breeze.

 

 3. Royal Lancaster Luxury Rocking Chair

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This isn't your grandmother's old rocking chair. Whereas traditional wood and wicker rockers are low-seated and unsteady, this chair comes with a high seat and comfy seat cushion, in addition to an attractive fabric back with "wings." Plus, getting in and out of this rocking chair takes hardly any effort at all!

 

 4. Pride Elegance Lift Chair

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This product looks exactly like any other lounger or recliner that you would find in a home. It is made of blown fiber and comes with arm covers and full chaise padding. But in addition to three reclining positions, it also raises up and tilts forward to assist the person in standing up.

So if you're a "well-seasoned individual," you don't have to settle for drab, depressing ergonomic chairs for your home. After all, there's only one place for mismatching, unstylish furniture: a college dorm room.



Mouse vs. Mouse Pad: Do Yours Go Together?

In many cases, combining two or more ergonomic products will further reduce the risk of injury, harm, or discomfort. For instance, a seat belt and an airbag together greatly reduce the likelihood of serious injuries in car accidents -- more so than either one of those safety features would on its own. Same thing with an ergonomic chair and keyboard.

However, the "more is better" axiom doesn't always hold true. For example, wearing both a safety "cage" guard and a plastic visor on a hockey mask would not protect your eyes and face any more than one or the other would individually -- and the combination would needlessly hinder your vision.

Now, let's talk about computer mice and mouse pads. Is it wise to buy both an ergonomic mouse and an ergonomic mouse pad in order to decrease the chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive stress injuries? Or do these products work better on their own? We should also ask a third question: does combining an ergonomic mouse pad with an ergonomic mouse pad actually put additional stress on your wrist and hand?


Let's take a look at five types of ergonomic mice.

 

Goldtouch mouse

OrthoMouse

HandShoe mouse

Joystick-style mouse

Rollermouse bar

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And now, we'll examine five kinds of ergonomic mouse pads.

 

Gel Mouse Pad

Memory Foam Mouse Pad

Ergo-Mat

Graphic Flow Combo Pad

Gel Wrist Pad

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The products above could amount to 25 different combinations of mice and mouse pads. Now, we can’t outline all of the 25 combinations and give you a yea or nay on each, but hopefully we can give you some guidelines on how to make sure you choose a combination that helps -- not hinders -- you.

As you can see, each of the five mouse pads provides a raised area for the wrist to rest upon while using a mouse. With a standard (non-ergonomic) mouse, it is easy to see how any one of these mouse pads can relieve the tension placed on the wrist when the hand moves the mouse around.

But if we take a closer look at the ergonomic mice, we get the impression that using them along with an ergonomic mouse pad might do more harm than good in some cases. For instance, both the joystick-style mouse and the handshoe mouse already have indentations where the person can place his or her wrist while operating the mouse; so the presence of a raised area offered by an ergonomic mouse pad may actually cause more discomfort than if it was not being used. Similarly, the rollermouse bar, which is designed to sit directly in front of a keyboard, already comes with wrist rests -- making those functions provided by ergonomic mouse pads obsolete.

However, ergonomic mouse pads might benefit users who work with either an Orthomouse or a Goldtouch mouse. These two devices force the user to rotate his or her hand position slightly to decrease stress on certain sensitive joints or muscles. If an ergonomic mouse pad did not restrict that rotation, it may give the user additional comfort during computer operation.

Hopefully, this guide will assist you in your ergonomic accessory decision-making process. If you're still not sure about a particular combination, go to a store and ask a salesperson to let you try these products in tandem with one another. Experiencing the feel of an ergonomic product pairing first-hand (no pun intended!) is the best way to determine if you need both the mouse pad and the mouse -- or just one of them by themselves.



Glasses for Computer Users: Do They Work?

These days, people are wearing all kinds of eyeglasses for many different reasons. They compensate for nearsightedness or farsightedness. They help people read. They block out the sun. They protect the eyes during physical activity. And some of them are specifically designed for computer users. Wait… computer glasses?

We hope computer glasses work better than these do.

That's right. Many products that target frequent computer users are popping up all over the world. These glasses have lenses which magnify the field of vision between 20 and 26 inches from the eyes -- which is the average distance between a person and his or her computer screen. Some of these glasses come with coatings or tints which aim to reduce the amount of light entering the eyes. The idea is for these glasses to reduce eye fatigue, headaches, and blurred vision; as well as help strained muscles that develop when we unconsciously compensate for poor computer vision (such as leaning forward to read the computer monitor).

gfcw-image001.jpgBut do these computer glasses actually work?

Product reviews are decidedly mixed. Some customers who bought a product called "PC Peekers" (sold at Wal-Mart) praised the item, calling it "the perfect solution" and "everything they are advertised to be." But others weren't all that impressed with the PC seekers. Complaints included poor design, a lack of ear pieces, and blurry vision when used with laptops.

There's another entry into the computer eyeglasses marketplace that purports to prevent dry eyes. The J!NS Moisture glasses not only claim a 55% reduction in the so-called "blue light" emitted by computers, but also tout a small container on the eyepiece that supposedly provides moisture to your eyes for up to two hours. Right now, these glasses are only available in Japan, and no product reviews have been written (at least in English) as of yet.

gfcw-image002.jpg Here's another way to moisturize your eyes.

In fact, no computer glasses have been on the market long enough for any definitive determination to be made about their efficacy. There's really no way of knowing if these products actually help reduce eyestrain or retard vision loss over time.

That said, if you have had problems with eye fatigue or headaches as a result of working long hours at your computer, you may want to give them a try (as well as an ergonomic monitor!). After all, if these products provide you with any relief from your discomfort, then they're probably worth the money.



The Latest Pain-Relieving Trend: Job Rotation

Repetitive stress injuries are a substantial cause of absenteeism and medical expenses. To address this problem, some companies have invested in specialized equipment like ergonomic chairs, weight belts, and hand braces. But other firms may not have the money to purchase ergonomic products for all of their employees. So how are these cash-poor companies combating the problem of repetitive stress injuries?

Job rotation.

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The idea is simple: try to prevent repetitive stress injuries by decreasing the amount of task repetition. This is accomplished by having employees perform several different jobs throughout the work day, rather than a single repetitive job all day long. Obviously, job rotation isn't usually suited for office environments or highly-specialized occupations. But it does appeal to manufacturing plants and other companies which utilize assembly lines and similar groups of workstations.

So how effective is job rotation in cutting down on the prevalence of repetitive stress injuries?

It's really too early to tell. While the concept of job rotation has been around in some form or another for decades, there has been very little research on what impact (if any) it has on the physical health of those who practice it. One study on lower back pain didn't see any correlation between job rotation and reduced instances of those injuries.

But some business owners or plant managers feel that job rotation can provide a host of advantages to their workers. In addition to the possible health benefits, job rotation can make a workforce more flexible and improve the morale of employees. If you think that job rotation might be right for your company, here are a few suggestions on implementing this type of program.

  • Provide information to your workers. Explain to your employees why you are adopting a job rotation regimen in your company. Be sure to stress the potential benefits of the system, and work very hard to get your workers to "buy-in."
  • Train, train, train. Devote a considerable amount of time and resources to training all of the employees on every new task that they will be performing. Otherwise, it'll be like putting untrained workers into several jobs - and your company's productivity will suffer.
  • Make sure that the tasks are different. Moving an employee between workstations where the same task is performed won't eliminate repetitive stress injuries. Keep this in mind when assigning job rotation tasks.
  • Think small. In many cases, job rotation works better within a certain department or plant area, instead of throughout the whole facility or company. This approach also serves to cross-train workers to help them fill in when colleagues are sick or on vacation - and it can also reinforce the concept of teamwork in the workplace.
  • Prepare for resistance. Some workers won't like the "increased workload" or "doing someone else's job." Others are simply resistant to change. Whatever the reason, know that you may have to work harder to convince certain employees of the merits of job rotation.

When implemented correctly, job rotation can be a valuable tool in improving many different facets of a business. But if executed poorly, it can actually do more harm than good. So be sure to take the time to do it right!



The Freaky New Office Chairs That Watch You

Why are ergonomic chairs so comfortable? Because just about any part of it -- the head rest, the height, the incline -- can be adjusted with a simple lever or button. But pretty soon, even the “inconvenience” of adjusting your own chair might soon be a thing of the past. That's because the newest ergonomic chairs adjust themselves to your exact needs, without you ever having to lift a finger.

How is this possible? Let's look at a few examples of intuitive ergonomic chairs and see.

 

Freedom Task Chair by Humanscale

http://eamesoffice.org/product_Freedom-Task-Chair-by-Humanscale.html

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The Freedom Task Chair needs to be fitted once, but after that, it adapts to the user's needs using weight sensors. So the good news is that if you over-indulge on Free Bagel Thursday, your chair will adjust itself accordingly. The bad news is that it's not the completely automated, artificially intelligent chair of the future. You will probably need to avail yourself of the "synchronously adjustable armrests" to get a perfect fit, and it won't read your mind or give you the latest sports scores. (Yet. We're holding out hope for the next version.)

 

Knoll Generation Chair

http://www.allmodern.com/Knoll-Generation-Chair-11-1-KLL1510.html?refid=FR81-KLL1510

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Side sitters rejoice: the Knoll Generation Chair adapts itself as you shift your weight, offering a range of up to 3 inches in seat depth, 5.5 inches in seat height, and 4.5 inches of arm adjustment. The design was created specifically to allow flexibility while still supporting the lower back. The chair is constructed of a "high performance elastomer" that automatically adjusts itself to the user's posture. So again, it's not quite a Transformer, but it's probably much more adaptable than the average office chair. Also, it comes in eight different colors, so it's aesthetically flexible as well.

 

Allsteel Acuity Chair

http://www.gentlemansgadgets.com/allsteel-acuity-chair/

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The Allsteel Acuity relies more on manual controls than the other two chairs on our list, but gets points for having "perfectly contoured cushioning" as well as "intuitively adjustable support." After all, we don't sit on intuition. Also, it looks pretty cool. We could see someone sitting in this chair on the space station. Definitely a delight to look at as well as to sit in.



Could Your Job Be Damaging Your Vision?

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Most of us spend at least half our waking hours in our office or cubicle -- right in front of a computer screen. When we're not at work, it's just as bad: we're either zoning out in front of the TV, looking at our personal computers, or checking in at work via our smartphones. In short, it's pretty easy to spend almost all of the day staring at one glowing rectangle or another. The result? The bane of all computer users: eye strain.

Symptoms of Eye Strain

It's pretty easy to tell if you have computer-induced eye strain. Twitchy muscles around the eyes are one clue, as are headaches, redness and irritation, and blurred vision. Some users will even report feeling lightheaded or dizzy. For us, eye strain generally manifests as a feeling of overuse: Our peepers feel dry, itchy, and just plain worn out.

How to Deal With It

A few ergonomic and lifestyle adjustments can make a big difference. They include:

Tweaking lighting and glare. Adjust your monitor settings to reduce glare and enlarge fonts. Make sure you have adequate lighting in your office. Sometimes overhead fluorescents are harder on the eyes than regular light bulbs.

Using the 20-20-20 rule. After every 20 minutes of computer use, take a 20-second break and look at something at least 20 feet away.

Adjusting your monitor. Some experts think that moving your computer to just below eye level can reduce the risk of dry eye and eye strain.

There's an App for That

Can't tear yourself away from your screen? There are plenty of programs to help. Lifehacker recommends a few good ones, including Awareness, WorkRave and Protect Your Vision. All will remind you to get up and get away from your monitor on a regular basis.

 

When All Else Fails…

…Just walk away. Sometimes looking down the hallway for 20 seconds isn't enough. Taking regular breaks -- to get a cup of coffee, run a quick errand, or even walk around the block -- will save your sanity, as well as your vision.

 

Bottom Line: Will Computer Use Permanently Damage My Vision?

The short answer is “no.” Staring at a computer monitor (or TV screen, for that matter) won't permanently damage your eyes. However, developing good habits, getting your eyes checked by a professional, and optimizing your work space will minimize the chances that you'll develop eye strain. And that will make your work day (not to mention your personal life) a whole lot easier and more comfortable.



Build Your Dream Ergonomic Kitchen

The field of ergonomics is rapidly expanding into every room in the house. You can get an ergonomic chair for your home office, space-saving organizers for your bathroom, and numerous electronic gadgets to improve the viewing experience in your TV room. So why not the kitchen?

 

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Designers and builders are embracing products and strategies to improve the ergonomics of the most complex room in any house. After all, countless injuries (both acute and repetitive) often originate in the kitchen. So why not make an effort to improve the health of the room's most frequent occupants?

Here are some of the kitchen injuries that can be reduced simply by making a kitchen more ergonomic.

Burns. This is perhaps the most common type of kitchen injury. Many burns result from spillage out of hot pans or pots. Lowering the height of the stove tops so that it's easier for the cook to peer into a pot can help prevent some of these painful mishaps.

Falls. These types of accidents can cause serious harm to elderly homeowners. The most efficient way to reduce falls is to shrink a kitchen's primary workspace. This means shortening the distance between the refrigerator, sink, oven, stove, and microwave oven.

Lower back injuries. Many ovens were built so that their doors are just a few inches off of the floor when opened. As a result, many people have had to bend down considerably to pull food out of the oven. Raising the ovens so that the door opens at eye level makes it much easier for chefs to remove a heavy turkey without hurting their backs.

Middle back injuries. These can result from stooping over to dig in a cabinet underneath a counter. Installing pull-out drawers in these cabinets can reduce back strain during the search for the ideal pot or pan.

Shoulder injuries. Repetitive reaching or stretching can throw the shoulders out of whack. This can be a problem if a person has to reach into the back of a cabinet or pantry regularly to fish out ingredients or dry goods. Space-saving shelf units, easy-access wire racks, slide-out drawers, and rotating shelves can help keep almost everything at the cook's fingertips.

Bruises and cuts. You'd be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) at how often people sustain bumps, bruises, and cuts from knocking into open cabinet doors. An easy way to eliminate that danger is to install cabinet doors that swing upward (much like the car doors on a DeLorean car).

Eyestrain. Research shows that people in their 50s need twice as much light to read as do young adults -- even if their eyesight is perfect. This can lead to eyestrain in the kitchen when trying to read cookbooks, recipes, or baking instructions. Recessed lighting underneath cabinets can illuminate the darker areas of any kitchen and reduce eyestrain.

 The next time you're thinking about remodeling your kitchen or building a new home, be sure to factor in ergonomics as well as functionality and aesthetics. Your body will thank you.



5 Must-Have Ergonomic Laptop Accessories

Rarely is the perfect invention created all at once. Usually, the original product undergoes a series of tweaks before it becomes a household item. Early toilets were prone to leaks before Thomas Crapper (yep, that was his name) incorporated a water siphon system into the design. The first personal computers, which were DOS-based, were cumbersome and slow compared to today's Windows-based PCs. And do you remember the original cellular phones?

 /pages/5_must_have_ergonomic_laptop_accessories_image002.gif "It's a cell phone! It's a doorstop! It's a weapon!"

That's also what happened with laptop computers. People thought they would replace the desktop computers because of their greater mobility and smaller size. But those who frequently used laptops began to notice a few problems: namely, poor posture, repetitive stress injuries, and carpal tunnel syndrome. That's because modern laptops, which have made great strides in processing speeds and memory capacity, are still not very ergonomically designed for humans. They’re generally not used by someone sitting at an ergonomic desk, in an ergonomic chair.

 /pages/5_must_have_ergonomic_laptop_accessories_image004.jpg"If I wanted a pain in the neck, I'd get a husband!"

 But, as with other inventions, companies are coming up with solutions to the innate problems which are present in the original laptop devices. Now, there are a host of offerings which can improve the ergonomics for individuals who spend a lot of time on their laptops. Here are five such products.

 

1. Mobile Mouse

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That flat touch pad on most laptops was a nice idea, but it turned out to be inefficient and awkward to use. Most frequent laptop users now utilize some type of mobile wireless mouse, which offers all of the advantages found in any desktop computer mouse.

 

2. Riser

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Bending over to use a laptop can get really uncomfortable, really fast. Adjustable risers can sit on a flat surface and raise a laptop up to the optimal level for maximum productivity without subjecting the user to stiffness or soreness. It also flattens and stores easily in any laptop bag.

 

3. Wireless headphones

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Earbuds with wires may be fine for digital music players, but they don't cut the mustard for laptop computing. A pair of first-rate wireless headphones solves that problem by enabling the user to listen to high-quality audio without the intrusion of background noise or the hassle of not-long-enough wires.

 

4. Laptop speaker bar

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A pair of clunky desktop speakers may not be convenient for laptop users who need better sound quality. A speaker bar clips to the top of a laptop screen and lets the user enjoy enhanced audio performance.

 

5. Speaker cushion

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How about a laptop cushion and audio system all in one package? The speaker itself sits on the front side of the heat-resistant laptop pad, and a USB cable extends from the cushion's rear to connect to the laptop computer.

 

So if you use your laptop a lot, you should make the experience as simple, productive, and pain-free as you possibly can. These and other ergonomic laptop products may just allow you to toss out your desktop altogether!



The End of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Remember the "dark ages" of personal computers? Everything was DOS-based, which meant that you had to use the cursor and ENTER keys on the keyboard in order to select an option and navigate from place to place. How cumbersome! (And if you do remember this, then we know how old you really are.)

/pages/the_end_of_carpal_tunnel_image002.jpgThis is what the dinosaurs used.

 

Then came Windows-based operating systems, and the ingenious navigational aid known as the mouse. Suddenly, all you had to do was put your hand on a mouse, pivot your wrist and navigate an onscreen pointer to a chosen spot on the screen, and click a button under your finger to select it. Computing quickly became fast, convenient, and easy.

But it also produced pain and discomfort in some people. That's because the mouse wasn’t exactly ergonomic. The repetitive movements of the wrist that operated the mouse began wearing down the muscles and joints of computer users. This led to carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition characterized by soreness, tenderness, numbness, and pain in the wrist, fingers, and hands.

Wouldn't it be great if technology advanced to the point where we no longer needed the mouse to work on a computer?

It might happen sooner than you think.

Last month, Microsoft announced its plans to adapt its Kinect camera system to the personal computer. Kinect is actually a motion capture device that translates human movements into onscreen responses. This allows people to enhance their gaming experience by using lifelike body motions to play video games.

 /pages/the_end_of_carpal_tunnel_image004.jpgAnd look really silly while doing it.

Microsoft says that it has released a software development kit (SDK) so that developers can create Windows-based applications that utilize the Kinect concept in a variety of programming languages. The hope is that programmers will take the SDK and come up with a host of Kinect apps, which consumers can incorporate into their daily computing activities.

If all goes as planned for Microsoft, we may start seeing software programs and platforms that allow computer users to

  • move their finger in front of their screen to guide the pointer to the desired destination, then either press a keyboard button or make a "poking" gesture at the screen to select an option
  • use their fingers to quickly move, cut, copy, and/or paste text and images within a document, or between one program and another
  • use their fingers to easily create shapes, lines, and other drawings in artistic software programs
  • manipulate three-dimensional images on a screen with their hands as part of CAD software applications

So Kinect-style personal computing would mark the end of carpal tunnel syndrome and other similar conditions. Right?

Not necessarily. Depending on how these apps are created, the repetitive motions might just be shifted from one area of the body to another - like the shoulders, finger joints, or non-dominant hand. After all, in the rush to get these new applications to market, it's hard to expect developers to "carpal tunnel-proof" their products before releasing them to consumers.

/the_end_of_carpal_tunnel_image006.jpgTom Cruise suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome. Really.

So don't expect carpal tunnel syndrome to follow the path of rubella, polio, and other ailments which have become virtually nonexistent in this country. That's bad news for computer users - but good news for makers of ergonomic products.



The 4 Craziest-Looking Ergonomic Keyboards

Ergonomics research has produced some pretty unusual looking devices. Consider the recumbent bicycle, the kneeling ergonomic chair, or the abdominal exercise machine. Though these products have demonstrated varying levels of commercial success, they have definitely illustrated the powers of imagination and creativity in the marketplace.

So it should come as no surprise that a new niche market has sprung up around ergonomic keyboards. These aren't the simply-designed, slightly-curved, ten-key separated keyboards that you commonly see in offices and workstation. No, some of these ergonomic keyboards are a lot like art: some people perceive them as beautiful, while others view them as a confusing mishmash of shapes.

Why don't you decide for yourself? Check out the four craziest-looking ergonomic keyboards for sale today.


 

Advantage USB contoured keyboard

/craziest_looking_ergonomic_keyboards_image002.jpg

This product looks like someone took a regular keyboard, sliced it in half, crumpled up the letter and function keys, and shoved them into two holes on a plastic tray. Then they sprinkled on a couple of cursor keygroups for good measure. The idea is to keep the users' hands further apart so the arms don't bend inward at the elbows as much (or at all).

 

Maltron 90 series keyboard

/craziest_looking_ergonomic_keyboards_image004.jpg

At first glance, it appears that an engineer simply grabbed a standard keyboard and ran over it with his car. But upon further inspection, we notice that the ten-key number pad and its accompanying buttons have been moved to the center instead of being placed on the right side. Though it may be the most expensive keyboard on the market (at about $720), it claims to reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive stress injury or carpal tunnel syndrome.

 

Maltron ergonomic single right-handed keyboard.

/craziest_looking_ergonomic_keyboards_image006.jpg

If you planted a small explosive device under a regular keyboard and detonated it, this could possibly be the result. All of the letter keys are crammed into an indentation on the right side, while a ten-key number pad and other buttons are situated at the left (although the U key must have been naughty, because it has been banished to the middle). The keyboard is designed for individuals who only use their right hand to type (there is also a left-handed model available) - so it may appeal to disabled workers who only have one limb.

 

Comfort keyboard

/image007.jpg

This keyboard resembles something you might see in a Transformers movie. The three sections of the keyboard actually split apart and can each rotate horizontally and vertically to suit your specific hand positions. The idea is to adjust the keyboard to your preferences instead of the other way around.

 

We make no promises as to whether any of these products will work as advertised. But if you're looking for a little pizzazz in your home or office computing lifestyle, any one of them should fit the bill nicely.



Soft Cushion or Hard Mattress? Which Beds are Truly Ergonomic?

When it comes to mattresses, everyone has an opinion. Some prefer a softer bed. Others insist on a firm sleep surface. Still others, like Goldilocks, opine that only "just right" will do. But which firmness is most ergonomic? We look at each school of thought and investigate the evidence.

 

Theory No. 1: Hard Mattresses Are Better.

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Folks who love hard mattresses insist that a bed that’s too soft can cause sleep-related backaches. Believers in the firm mattress theory will even go so far as to put sheets of plywood between their mattress and box spring, to provide a more solid sleeping surface. Others find that putting the mattress on the floor makes a soft mattress feel firmer.

 

Theory No. 2: Soft Mattresses Are Better.

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Soft mattress lovers point to the theory that side sleepers are better off on squishier mattresses. And then, of course, there are the doctors who don't think that mattress density matters at all. Which, as this writer points out, frees you up to enjoy all that fluffy foam without guilt.

 

Theory No. 3: Goldilocks Was Right.

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As with all academic questions, the real answer to the question of "Which mattress is better?" is: It depends. A recent study by Denmark's Funen Back Center had trouble getting definitive results, perhaps for the very reason that people have such personal preferences when it comes to sleep surfaces.

Patients were asked to sleep on a variety of mattress types, including a hard futon, a foam mattress, and a water bed. The trouble is, so many people dropped out of the study that it was hard to draw definite conclusions from the results. It turns out, people who don't like water beds won't even try sleeping on water beds. And people who don't like futons won't sleep on them for long.

In the end, it might turn out that Goldilocks was correct: The best bed is the one that is "just right." What "just right" means, on the other hand, will probably always be a matter of personal preference.



Have Pain-Free Sex With These Ergonomic Toys

When we say the word "ergonomic," what springs to mind? Chances are, your brain is brimming with images of keyboard trays, ergonomic chairs, and specially-designed computer mice. We're willing to bet, in fact, that whatever you're thinking of, it's probably related to your work life.

You are not, for example, thinking about sex toys.

But perhaps you should be. Because, as it turns out, the internet has much to offer us in the way of ergonomically-designed adult novelties. Here are a few of our favorites.

 

1. Calla Waterproof Silicone Vibrator

http://www.goodvibes.com/display_product.jhtml?id=1-1-AH-1108

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The Calla G4 Vibrator by (no lie) Fun Factory features five speeds and three pulsation patterns, as well an eco-friendly and ergonomic design. Also, while we were writing this post, a colleague looked over our shoulder, saw this listing, and asked, "Is that … part of Grimace?" So that's another recommendation, right there.

 

2. Natural Contours Liberte Vibrator

http://www.bettersex.com/vibrators/natural-contours-vibrator/sp-natural-contours-liberte-vibrator-2016.aspx

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Bettersex.com describes this vibrator best: "Aesthetically, ergonomically and erogenously pleasing, this sleek, hip adult sex toy and massager will turn any day into a great day." We also think it looks a little like a celery stalk designed by Dr. Seuss, which oddly does not seem wrong at all.

 

3. The Vibratex Joystick

http://www.sassyvibes.com.au/store/details/145/49/vibrators/dual-vibes/joystick---ergonomic-sex-toy-from-vibratex.html

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The interesting thing about this listing is that it specifically states that this toy "fits ergonomically with a woman's body." So, uh, we guess the designers weren't worried about the usual repetitive stress injuries.

 

4. We-Vibe

http://www.sexinfo101.com/we_vibe.shtml?s=dca34c10b3dff5bdab7e5c16957234ea

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The description for this one actually says that the We-Vibe is "creating quite a buzz in the media." As an aside, do you think writing descriptions for sex toy websites is the one of the most fun jobs in the world, or the absolute most fun job in the world? It just seems like there would be a lot more potential for silliness at that job than there is in the average copywriting gig.

 

5. Curve Ergonomic Silicone Dildo

http://www.69adulttoys.com/SexToys/Toy.asp?ProdID=4034

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On the other hand, maybe it's like working in an ice cream store. Maybe people who write copy for sex toy websites are thinking, "Ho hum, another ergonomic dildo." Speaking of which: Here is another ergonomic dildo for you.



Ergonomic Offices, Desks, and …. Pet Products?

Though the discipline known as ergonomics is relatively new, it has already brought numerous improvements to people who work in an office, assemble products on an assembly line, or even drive a car. Ergonomic chairs can prevent back pain, wrist braces can reduce carpal tunnel syndrome, and easy-to-use dashboard controls can help decrease distracted driving. Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs are always trying to figure out other areas where ergonomics can have an impact.

But sometimes, these new ideas can be pretty baffling. Exhibit A: ergonomic products for pets.

Really?

Believe it or not, there are numerous companies who are touting so-called ergonomic pet products to help improve the well-being of your dog or cat. (As if that were possible.) Here is a partial list of the "ergonomic products for pets" available for purchase.

Secure Snuggler® Pet Bed. What (ostensibly) sets this pet bed apart from its competition is the "ergonomic memory foam pillow" with matching memory foam mattress. Strangely enough, the product description does not provide any scientific studies indicating the comforts that ergonomic memory foam provides which cannot be obtained from much less expensive dog beds. But you will have the honor of paying $129 for it.

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Manchester Pet Feeder. This product does actually perform an ergonomic function. The small table raises a dog's food about six inches off of the ground, which aids digestion for bigger dogs because it prevents them from having to stretch their necks down to the ground to eat. On the other hand, there's no recorded research promoting the additional gastrointestinal benefits of granite tops, antique brass hardware, solid mahogany cabinetry, and a monogrammed engraved plaque. However, if you don't have a crate, footrest, or box - but do have at least $179 burning a hole in your pocket - then this product is for you.

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simplehuman® 25-Liter Pet Food Storage Can. Why store a bag of dog or cat food in a cabinet or pantry, inside a plastic container, or on a shelf? Instead, you can purchase this innovative accessory for just $100. No, seriously. This pet food storage can hypes its "ergonomic lock-tite handle" that forms an airtight seal to keep pet food from spoiling. (Never mind that dry dog and cat food will retain their freshness for at least four months in the bag.) The container also sits on wheels and features a fingerprint-proof finish. And perhaps your dog or cat will appreciate the chic style that it adds to the pet dining area.

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Pet owners love to pamper their pooches and kitties, and some spend a lot of money to do just that. But even the most "extreme" dog or cat lover shouldn't shell out their hard-earned cash for a product simply because it contains a five-dollar word like "ergonomic" in the title. Unless there is solid research which proves their effectiveness, these ergonomic pet products are heavy on marketing and light on science.



5 Technology-Related Aches, Pains and Other Problems

It's hard to picture a world without BlackBerries, iPhones, and tablets. We use our gadgets for everything from working remotely to making dinner reservations to wasting time while waiting for the bus. But the downside of all this technology is aches, pains and other conditions that our cave-dwelling ancestors wouldn't even recognize (they didn’t need ergonomic chairs, either!). Behold, the worst of the worst problems caused by the holding the internets in the palm of our hands.

 

1. Texting Thumb.

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You show us a person without texting thumb and we'll show you a person who wonders why he hasn't gotten a phone call since 2007. Texting is ubiquitous, convenient and pervasive. It's also hard on our poor little thumbs. You'll recognize this condition by your sore thumb joints. Fortunately, there are exercises that can help.

 

2. iPad Wrist.

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Brave reporters at The ErgoLab have dared to suggest that the iPad is not the most ergonomic of devices. They point out that the iPad forces users into "extreme static wrist extension" and also "static neck flexion." A docking device will help with the wrist issue, but the neck issues still persist.

 

3. BlackBerry Neck.

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Here is a condition we have literally never spent one second thinking about before, but will now obsess over: BlackBerry Neck, a condition caused by bending over one's BlackBerry and characterized by excessive neck wrinkles. Neck wrinkles! It's not bad enough that technology is wearing out our thumbs and wrists. Now our vanity must suffer as well.

 

4. Acute Wii-itis

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OK, you probably don't need to play Wii to get your work done. (Unless you design games for the Wii, in which case, we hate you.) But thanks to Wii Fit and other adaptions, the gaming console does far more than just encourage couch potatoes to vegetate. Which is great, except for the rising number of Wii injuries. Our favorite quote? Physiotherapist Darren Rivett: "You wouldn't play tennis for three hours straight so you shouldn't play Wii tennis for that long either."

 

5. iPod Finger

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This almost feels like a classic now, since iPod finger has been with us since at least 2005. The condition isn't limited to your scrolling finger, either: Doctors say that problems can sometimes move all the way up to elbows and necks. It makes you sort of miss records, doesn’t it?



Think You’re in Too Much Pain to Garden This Summer? Think Again

Gardening is often touted as a relaxing activity, but all that digging and kneeling can wreak havoc on your wrist, knees, neck and back. Unfortunately, these repetitive stress injuries can't be cured with an ergonomic chair. (Although that is a hilarious mental picture: A woman in a big straw hat, gardening clothes, and gloves, dead-heading roses from her Herman Miller.)

Want to garden without pain? Try one of these ergonomic garden tools.

Must-Haves

Radius Garden Trowel

http://photos.cleveland.com/plain-dealer/2011/06/gardening_tools.html

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Radius makes a variety of ergonomic tools. This trowel boasts a "patented 'O' ergonomic grip" that should make digging easier on even the most tender wrists.

 

Bahco Ergonomic Pruner

http://www.amazon.com/Bahco-Ergonomic-Pruner-Rotating-PXR-S2/dp/B000288W9Q/ref=sr_1_8?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1309664009&sr=1-8

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One of the five-star Amazon.com reviews of these pruners is from the owner of a 45-acre blueberry farm. If they're good enough for actual farm work, you can probably feel safe using them around the yard. It comes with extra springs, in case the pruners wear out before your wrists do.

 

OK

Ergonomic Gardening Stool

http://www.cleanairgardening.com/gardening-stool.html

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This stool looks like a good alternative to kneeling on sore knees, but reviews are mixed. One user called it a "terrific product ... a real knee saver!" Another told a horror story about the stool exploding after three years of use and cutting her leg. Our best advice: Store indoors, away from the plastic-weakening elements.

 

Duds

Hounddog Cultivator Green

http://www.amazon.com/Hounddog-Cultivator-Green-Part-HDP15-6/dp/B000FJQK4G/ref=sr_1_82?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1309664472&sr=1-82

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We give this garden tool full marks for having an awesome name, but since two of the three Amazon reviewers mentioned a blade snapping off on the first day of use, we'd recommend looking into some other cultivator. Also curious: the product description claims that it "specializes in killing mosquitoes which may transmit the West Nile virus." We're assuming that's a misprint, but if it isn't, we'd love to see how a soil aerator could possibly kill mosquitoes.

 

Ergonomic Bench

http://www.amazon.com/2x4basics-AnySize-Chair-Bench-Ends/dp/B000BDH8RE/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1309663788&sr=8-10

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Don't get us wrong: This is an adorable bench, and we think it would be just smashing in your garden. However, we're uncertain that a garden bench can really be ergonomic. What exactly would you be doing on that bench that would involve repetitive motion? Never mind…



Oy, My Aching Back … And I’m Only 12!

As parents, you do all you can to help protect your children from pain. You keep harmful objects and substances out of their reach, buy them bike helmets and skateboard knee pads, and teach them how to stay safe. But were you aware that one of the most passive activities in your home can actually be hurting your child?

aching-at-12-no-ergnomic-chairimage002.jpgSome parents do go a little overboard.

Believe it or not, doctors are seeing an increased incidence of injuries in kids caused by… using a computer!

aching-at-12-no-ergnomic-chairimage004.jpgThis young man is in desperate need of an ergonomic chair.

Incredibly, kids are starting to suffer from the same aches and pains that adults experience from excessive computer usage at work. These conditions include lower back pain, repetitive stress injuries, and even carpal tunnel syndrome. And when you combine an increase in computer prevalence, the implementation of computers in elementary schools, and a decrease in physical activity, you have a recipe for a rising trend regarding these types of injuries.

So what can you do about it?

aching-at-12-no-ergnomic-chairimage006.jpgWell, that's one solution….

First, you can apply some of the same ergonomic principles you follow in the workplace to your kids' computer workstations. This means lowering the top of the monitor to below eye level, ensuring that there is sufficient lighting in the room, and moving the mouse pad closer to the keyboard. Since the ideal sitting position involves placing both feet on a flat surface, put a footrest under the desk for shorter kids. Also, consider placing a lumbar pillow (or even a rolled-up towel) on the back of the chair so there is adequate support for your child's lower back. If the household's computer workstation is shared by all family members, make sure that it is modifiable to fit the needs of whomever is using it. (Or purchase an ergonomic chair for your child.)

In addition, parents should try to monitor and limit the amount of uninterrupted time that kids spend on the computer. It is important for children to take breaks from the repetitive movements associated with computer usage. Tell them to play outside, complete chores, or even watch TV before resuming their computer activities. You might even encourage them to practice hand, wrist, shoulder, or back stretches or exercises in order to keep those muscles strong and limber.

Making these adjustments will help your kids not only maintain their current health, but also develop smart computer work habits that will assist them as they grow into adulthood. While you teach your kids the basics about how to operate computers, be sure to also educate them about the proper ways to modify computer workstations for their comfort and convenience. The last thing any child needs is having to deal with an aching back, tingling fingers, or a sore wrist from too much time on the computer.



Medical Ergonomics Can Help Doctors, Save Lives

The discovery and implementation of ergonomics in office environments has relieved discomfort and increased productivity in the American workforce. By eliminating processes and configurations that cause fatigue and confusion, ergonomics has emerged as a crucial building block for a successful business.

So can this success be duplicated in other occupational arenas -- such as medicine?

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These days, the medical profession is constantly pressured to "do more with less." And with the recent reform efforts launched by the federal government, medicine will come under increasing scrutiny in the years to come.

But one of the biggest problems in health care today is the prevalence of medical errors. Thousands of mistakes are made in hospitals and other health care facilities every year, and a large number of these result in harm (or even death) to the patients seeking care there. These incidents lead to numerous lawsuits and unnecessary costs -- most of which could be prevented.

That's why there is growing interest in the field of medical ergonomics. If health care institutions can determine where medical errors are likely to occur, then their personnel can design systems and change procedures to stop these mistakes from happening in the first place.

To this end, there are a handful of innovative yet simple solutions that have emerged from these efforts:

  • Operating room checklists. These documents list a host of specific details which must be double-checked before, during, or after surgery - such as which limb to amputate, the correct dosage of anesthesia, and how many sponges or pads were used and accounted for (and not left inside a patient).

  • Test tube carriers. These cardboard, disposable test tube boxes help health care workers carry specimens easily. This should reduce the temptation of shoving them in a pocket and contaminating them or forgetting about them.

  • Transparent refrigerator doors. These enable nurses to see the labeled medications and other ingredients inside the refrigerator and reduce the risk of grabbing the wrong substance.

  • Unique product packaging. The greater number of different containers or packages that a pharmacy can provide, the lesser the chances of a health care worker confusing medications or dosages.

  • Counter heights. Even something as basic as raising the heights of the counters at nurses' workstations can reduce discomfort when nurses prepare medicines.

Though the discipline is in its infancy, medical ergonomics has the potential to avert many types of errors in the health care workplace. In turn, the increase in accuracy should help boost the level of patient care -- and save lives as well.



Hands-Free Computing Goes to a Whole New Level

Way back in the Pleistocene era, we soothed our carpal tunnel syndrome by using a headset and voice recognition software, while sitting in our cushy ergonomic chair. These are still viable options for folks who need to give their digits a rest, but now there's an entirely new way to type without using your hands. Please meet KMI SoftStep KeyWorx controller: hands-free computing ... for your feet.

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The KeyWorx controller comes in two parts. One part, resembling a keyboard, sits under the desk and is controlled by your feet. The other part contains ten large buttons -- numbered zero to nine -- and a four-way directional arrow. According to KMI, "these keys are pressure- and location-sensitive and can be programmed to remember up to 100 sets of commands. The cursor/click control key enables users to keep their hands on the keyboard without having to touch the mouse."

 

Pros:

- No mouse = reduced chance of carpal tunnel syndrome.

- Varying movement between the floor keyboard and the desk keyboard also reduces the odds of wearing out your joints.

- Compatible with Windows or Mac.

- Looks like something out of a sci-fi movie (Make all your nerd friends jealous between conventions!)

- Makes you look twice as busy and important, going back and forth between your two input devices. (Sort of the way an organist looks busier than a piano player.)

 

Cons:

- Typing with our feet is kind of gross. Would we need to be barefoot? That seems like it would squick out our neighbors (at the very least). At best, it could be an excellent chance to pass Athlete's Foot around the office, unless you instituted a no-sharing policy.

- No more carpal tunnel-related excuses for missing work. And since we know people who have stretched out a carpal tunnel leave to two whole months, this could be a big deal.

- Doesn't look as much like Dance Dance Revolution as we'd hoped. Now that would be fun!



Apple Patents the Ergonomic Input Device of the Future

Remember the keyboard-free, space-glove input system from Minority Report? If Apple has its way, we might all soon be thumbing our way down the digital highway. A series of patents filed just before the iPhone debut three years ago seems to imply that the ultimate touch-screen input system could be just around the corner. Now that's ergonomic!

/pages/apple_patents_the_ergonomic_input_device_of_the_future_image002.jpgWe have seen the future, and it is Tom Cruise. Or something.

The patents include improvements in sensor layout, mobile sensors, and compliant conductors. As Apple Insider points out, "the collective technology uses improved touch input nodes that are accurate enough to create a sensor image of different parts of the hand while not being bound to any particular size, shape, or resolution."

What does this mean for us? Well, Tom Cruise's cool gloves might still be a ways off. But we might be able to look forward to a combination keyboard/touchscreen/mouse device, more sensitive to smaller finger motions and less sensitive to background pressure. This would mean, for example, that a typist could rest his hands on the same surface he was typing on, without the input device picking up the pressure of his palms. It would also mean that the cursor would stop when your finger stopped instead of skittering down the line of type.

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As far as looks go, this device could be anything from the flat glass screen of sci-fi movies to something that more closely resembles the keyboards of today. But the smart money is on a curved, ergonomic surface that makes it easier to "type" for long periods of time.

Some of these innovations are gradually showing up in the products we use today. Touch screens, for example, are such a part of our daily life that it's not uncommon to see people flailing desperately at a non-touch screen and ignoring button inputs entirely. But for now, the perfect integration of all these patents is still to come.



5 Items That Really Didn’t Need to Go Ergonomic

Some things should be ergonomic. Keyboards spring to mind, as do ergonomic chairs. Other things are less certain: do we need an ergonomic cell phone, for example, or will earbuds suffice? Is there even such a thing as ergonomic clothing?

And then there are the items that make you think that the ergonomic fad has reached every corner of the globe (and not in a good way). You may be surprised to learn that even yoga and meditation accessories are now getting in on the act. Here are some of our favorite funny examples:

1. The Ren Zen Ishi Yoga Seat

http://www.mid-day.com/lifestyle/2011/jun/210611-Ren-Zen-Ishi-cross-legged-seat-fitness-aid.htm

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Apparently you can do yoga until you're blue in the face and it won't do you any good if you don't maintain the right posture. (Also, if you're blue in the face, we worry about your breathing.) The Ren Zen Ishi looks like a Frisbee and supposedly keeps your sit-bones where they need to be, although we'd want to talk to the osteopath who helped design it before we gave up trying to sit on our own.

 

2. Gaiam Rattan Meditation Chair

http://www.amazon.com/Gaiam-Rattan-Meditation-Chair-Espresso/dp/B001GSD8K4/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1309178690&sr=8-12

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OK, this looks a whole lot like a dog bed. We're sorry. Maybe it's the best possible place to sit while meditating. Maybe this is why we have never been particularly successful at meditating. However, honesty compels us to admit that we fear this might be a joke aimed at getting people to meditate while sitting in Fido's bed.

 

3. Yoga Eggs

http://www.amazon.com/Eggs-perience-Ergonomic-Three-Minute-Egg/dp/B001OW8R9O

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In theory, we are totally down with these eggs, as they are basically just variations on the standard yoga blocks that most practitioners use when their tendons won't quite stretch to the position desired. In practice … they're foam eggs that you use while doing yoga, and they're kind of silly. So we're going to poke fun at them anyway.

 

4. Pearlessence Ergonomic Yoga Ball Point Pens

http://www.overstock.com/Office-Supplies/Pearlessence-Ergonomic-Yoga-Ball-Point-Pens-Pack-of-6/5393882/product.html

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The ergonomic thing isn't the funny part of these pens. It's the yoga. Specifically, it's the yoga + pens that tickles our funny bone. We have to think that the manufacturers just threw in as many comfy terms as they could think of. (They do look like cool pens though. Maybe six colors is enough to induce Zen.)

 

5. The Zafu

http://www.zafu.net/zafu.html

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Billed as a meditation mat or ergonomic addition to a regular chair, the Zafu might very well be excellent for your back and joints. But it looks like a funny little multi-colored Tribble.



What Does Staples Know About Ergonomics?

Staples, a big box office supply chain, positions itself as a convenient, one-stop shop for all of your workplace needs. But if those needs include ergonomic chairs, how does Staples really measure up? We decided to find out.

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We picked one American city in each time zone in the continental U.S. and chose a Staples store at random in that city. We called each store and asked about which ergonomic chairs it had in stock, what types of adjustments each chair had, and how they helped with back pain. Here are the results:


1. Location: Atlanta, GA.

At first, the associate said that he didn't have any ergonomic chairs in stock. But upon further review, he found three to five products that he said "could be considered" ergonomic chairs and specifically mentioned two brand names. He noted that they all were adjustable on three to five axes including lumbar support, but couldn't tell us how they helped with back pain.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 staplers.


2. Location: Bloomington, MN.

The associate declared that he only had one chair in the store that could be classified as "ergonomic." That chair had controls for lumbar support, the headrest, and height, as well as other so-called "standard" adjustments. He had no information about how it could prevent back pain, and kept suggesting that we visit the retailer's web site for additional selections.

Rating: 2 out of 5 staplers.


3. Location: Denver, CO.

This associate definitely earned the "smoothest salesman" award. After saying that he had a couple of ergonomic chairs on site, he suggested coming in and trying them out because that was the best way to pick out a chair. While he noted a few of the products' features (including, as he put it, "lumber support"), he admitted that he didn't have a "resource" that offered detailed descriptions of the chairs. He called buying an ergonomic chair "an investment in your health," though he couldn't pinpoint exactly why such a product could help with back pain.

Rating: 3 out of 5 staplers.


4. Location: Portland, OR.

After a lengthy on-hold period, the associate from this Staples store came up with one ergonomic chair that her store sold. It was obvious that she was reading the product description on the box or display as she listed all of the adjustable features it possessed. Although she revealed the brand name of the ergonomic chair, she responded, "I have no idea" when asked about its benefits regarding back pain prevention.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 staplers.


In conclusion, although the Staples associates were friendly and professional enough, they couldn't provide us much in-depth information about the advantages of ergonomic chairs beyond the basic product descriptions. So if you're unsure about which ergonomic chair is right for you, then you might be better off consulting a specialty retailer.

staples-img2.jpg

So much for "easy," right?



Most Hazardous Office in America

Maybe your office has a dedicated ergonomicist and the latest gadgets, keyboard trays and ergonomic chairs. But if you're like most of us, you probably work in less-than-ideal conditions, ergonomically speaking, and make do with what you have. Sometimes this works just fine. Other times, well, take a look at our list of the most hazardous offices in America, and tell us your wrists don't twinge in sympathy.

"Not so fast!" we hear you say. "My office is way worse than these! Why, I type on a keyboard located on the other side of the room, generally with my toes and a pointed stick!" If your office is worse, we want to see it. Send us a photo of your office, and a brief description of the ergonomic hell it embodies at mosthazardousoffice@gmail.com.

 

1. The Best Possible Use for the Microsoft Manual of Style
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We love the annotations on this picture. How else would we know that this guy uses his style manual to prop up his monitor? And while that probably is a pretty effective DIY solution for monitor adjustments, we still have to ding him for not having a keyboard tray. Although the Han Solo action figure might make up for it.

 

2. The Coffee Shop as Office
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Many of the full-time freelancers we know work from coffee shops at least part of the time. Sure, the solid access to caffeine is a huge perk. The ergonomic situation, though, is less swell. Working on a laptop with no separate keyboard and mouse can be hard on the wrists.

 

3. The Messy Desk
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We have seen some messy desks in our day, but this guy wins the prize. In addition to making it difficult to put your hands on a specific document when you need it, desks like this one are ergonomic nightmares. It's hard to hold your hands, wrists, and elbows at the correct position when you're leaning across a person-sized pile of papers.

 

4. The One With the Bean Bag Chair
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Bean bags chairs are great additions to offices, provided they're for guests or occasional relaxing, and not a replacement for an ergonomic chair. This guy will look way less cool when his hands curl up into claws.

 

5. Unergonomic Keyboard
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This picture is obviously a joke -- otherwise, this item would be about how Hulks are generally ergonomic disasters, and we'd have to do a whole other article about which superheroes make the best employees. (And don't tempt us.) However, it does give us an excuse to mention that older keyboards are often tougher on your joints. If you feel tempted to ram your keyboard through your desk, it might be time for a new one.



High-End Desk Chairs: Are They Really Worth the Money?

For some products, there is a direct relationship between their price and their quality, such as houses, diamonds, and tickets to a concert (Can you say “nosebleed seats”?). On the other hand, there are also numerous types of items where price doesn't seem to correlate with quality at all (like rice, beer, and coffee at a chain restaurant).

So which category do ergonomic chairs fall under? Can you just purchase any old ergonomic chair and get the same benefits as the higher-priced models? Or do you get exactly what you pay for?

Let's find out.

We compared two different ergonomic chairs. The first one can be purchased at Wal-Mart for the very reasonable price of $55. It has a relatively straightforward name: the Black Leather Ergonomic Task Chair with Arms & Adjustable Seat. The second one is over 1100% more expensive (a whopping $679), and that's when buying it online at Amazon. Its product name is a bit more flashy: the Herman Miller Aeron Desk Chair Basic Classic Carbon Ergonomic Task Chair with a Size B Graphite Frame.

We'll check out the Wal-Mart offering first. It is constructed with black leather upholstery, and the arms are described as "textured nylon loop." The plastic base has five "legs," each of which sits on dual wheel casters. It features exactly two controls: a pneumatic seat height adjustment and a back tension control mechanism.

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 The reviews for the product are generally positive. Users describe the Wal-Mart chair as comfortable, easy to assemble, and a good value. But one buyer called the chair "cheap" and another lamented that the back was uncomfortably "stiff and upright."

Now, let's look at the expensive chair. It is constructed with a high-quality carbon material, and its armrests are sloped, wide, and soft. The base is very much like that seen on the Wal-Mart chair except that it is constructed of graphite. The seat features a "waterfall edge" on the front which claims to relieve pressure on your thighs. The chair back is high and wide, and its contouring is designed to take weight off of your lower back. The description says that the expensive chair will fit people of all postures and sizes; and all parts of the chair are warrantied for 12 years.

 /high_end_desk_chairs_image004.jpg Unfortunately, we were only able to find one online review for this chair, which was positive. It said that the buyer (who had back problems) felt relief almost immediately after sitting in it.

After comparing these two chairs, here's our conclusion: the expensive chair is certainly better than the Wal-Mart chair. But 12 times better? Probably not, even though it’s 12 times more expensive.

So it probably boils down to why you need an ergonomic chair. If you're looking for a basic, adjustable ergonomic chair for your office, then the Wal-Mart chair may very well suit your needs. But if you battle back pain issues, you may want to consider getting the more expensive chair (or another model whose price falls in between the two) with more features that can give you increased levels of comfort while sitting at your desk all day.



Avoid Pain Now, Avoid Jail Later

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Today we have perhaps the saddest news story of the year in the ergonomic space: A man who claimed he robbed a bank ... so that he could get treatment for his carpal tunnel syndrome.

It wasn't the cash James Richard Verone was after. In fact, the 59-year-old Coca-Cola delivery man only took $1 from the RBC Bank in Shelby, NC. What Verone wanted was jail time and the free health care that goes with it. Now incarcerated in the Gaston County Jail, he has had the first in a series of medical appointments, and might even have surgery on his back and feet. He expects to serve a few years, and then retire to the beach on Social Security.

But perhaps you are more of a law and order type, and want to avoid going into the slammer in order to sort out your wrist issues. Here are a few options that can help, when your financial outlook looks grim.

 

1. Medicaid

Not everyone is eligible, and your odds are better if you're over 65 (or blind, or pregnant, or terminally ill). Still, the eligibility requirements do list "disability" as a factor.

 

2. Welfare

Our intrepid bank robber was very specific about not wanting to be a burden to anyone, but since inmates wind up living on public resources anyway, why not go on welfare and skip the orange jumpsuit?

3. Your Parents' Plan

This won't help Mr. Verone, but for those of you who are under 26 and without health insurance, you can probably get coverage under your parents' health insurance. You don't have to be a student or even a legal dependent to do so.

4. Free Clinics

Federally funded health centers provide free or reduced-cost care in most cities and rural areas. Follow the link to their homepage and you can find a center close to where you're living.

5. Move

We would not go so far as to suggest that it would be in your best interest to marry a Canadian, but ... you know what, maybe it would be. Think of it: Free health care for life, and when you're back on your feet and working again, you could finally learn to ski.



Different Types of Ergonomic Keyboards

An ergonomic keyboard is a special kind of computer keyboard designed with ergonomic properties. Ergonomics studies how certain equipments and devices should be designed to fit the human body to prevent strain injuries. The ergonomic keyboard is designed to minimize the strain of the muscles in the hands. Unlike the normal keyboards, ergonomic keyboards are made in a V shape to allow the hands to work in a natural angle that will not cause muscular pain. There are many kinds of ergonomic keyboard and we will know the difference of each one.

Kinds of Ergonomic Keyboards

Split Keyboard – this type of ergonomic keyboard can either be a fixed-type keyboard or the adjustable split ergonomic keyboard. Although both are split ergonomic keyboards, they vary in little ways. The fixed-type keyboard is a typical keyboard but with the keys separated intro two or three groups. These groups are different angles to allow the user a different angle other than the normal keyboard. The adjustable split keyboard is composed of two or more pieces so that when the user wants to change the angle, he can adjust the angle of the keyword with ease. Contoured Keyboard – are ergonomic keyboards which are variations of the split keyboard. However, in this ergonomic keyboard, the keyboard keys are grouped and separated at shoulder width, with function keys placed between the keyboard groups that can be accessed using the thumb. This design was made to minimize the movement of the arms and the wrist.

Angled Split Keyboard – is another ergonomic keyboard. This is sometimes called the Klockenburg keyboard and is similar to the split keyboard. What differs in angled split keyboard is that the middle part of the keyboard is not flat and dented upwards. This is done so that the index fingers will be higher than the pinkies. This means that you will not get tired easily even though you are using the keyboard for such a long time.

Foam Assisted Keyboard – can either be one of the ergonomic keyboards listed above. The distinction for these kinds of keyboard is that this is laden with supports made out of foam. These foam supports are to minimize movement of the user’s arms and most importantly the user’s wrist.

Other kinds of Ergonomic Keyboards – these are the keyboards that don’t belong to any of the types listed above. There are ergonomic keyboards whose keys are fixed and arranged in a vertical so that when the user types his/her hands stay perpendicular to the ground. Others make extremely colorful and even movable and adjustable according to the needs of the keyboard’s users. There are keyboards even that don’t need any keys but other ergonomic keyboards can also have two values in one key.

Depending on the preference as well as the functions of the keyboard, users can choose what is best for them based on the list above. No matter what ergonomic keyboard they are going to use, they can be assured that they’ll not experience muscle strain when using the keyboard for a long time.



Didn't Get That Job or That Date? Maybe It's Your Posture

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Most people who work at a desk all day know that bad posture can cause back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and even fatigue. But what about the effects of bad posture on your self esteem, and how other people perceive you?

Pretend, for a moment, you're a hiring manager evaluating two candidates. Both are equally qualified for the position. One sits up straight, looks you in the eye, and exudes confidence from every pore. The other slumps in his chair, his body locked in a perpetual shrug. Which one would you hire?

It's no surprise that posture affects how other people perceive us. After all, some researchers think that as much as 55 percent of all communication between humans is non-verbal. Your slouch can communicate to others that you don't have confidence in yourself. It's also possible that your bad posture has its roots in low self-esteem.

Want to improve how others see you, and feel better in body and spirit? Posture training can fix a lifetime of bad habits, ease back pain, boost confidence and even make you thinner. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Visualize. Ideally, your shoulders, hip, and knees should be in alignment at all times. Keep your ears over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and your hips over your ankles. Deviating from this alignment by, say, putting your ears too far forward or your hips too far back can cause neck or back problems. For some great visualization tips, check out this article on posture training.

  2. Stretch. The best ergonomic chair in the universe won't help you if you spend your days curled over a keyboard. For office workers, tightness in the neck and back is practically expected these days. But you're not doomed to hunch. Good stretches for cubicle slaves include head rolls, shoulder stretches, and wrist stretches.

  3. Strengthen. Someday, someone will write a whole post about ergonomics and posture and not bring up core strength, but today is not that day. (Sorry.) If you want to keep yourself in alignment, you need to strengthen the muscles that support your spine. Which means working on the dreaded core. The good news is that you don't need a gym membership or a trainer to get a stronger middle. Crunches and planks are annoying, but totally free and can be done at home where no one is watching.

Just think of how great you'll look (and feel!) during your next job interview.



Do You Want the Government to Pick Your Office Desk For You?

In the media, the private sector and the government are often portrayed as being mutually exclusive. But in reality, the government does oversee many aspects of what goes on inside the workplaces of private employers.

 do-you-want-the-government-to-pick-your-desk-for-you-image001.jpg  Okay, it's not that bad.

 

For instance, the government regulates employer practices which relate to treating employees fairly and equally. That's the reasoning behind all of the anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws which are on the books. Also, the government strives to ensure that every workplace is safe for the people who work there. So all private sector employers must follow laws and rules which cover everything from fire escape routes to chemical pollutants in the air.

You may be wondering, "Where do they draw the line?" At what point does government regulation stop being about protecting workers and start becoming intrusive and overreaching? Wouldn't it be considered micromanaging if the government tried to legislate too much - like, say, tell companies what office furniture they must have?

That may not be as far-fetched as you might think.

In the Netherlands, workplace regulation calls for every office employee to have an adjustable height desk at his or her workstation. The Dutch government wants to maximize the ergonomics of every workplace and minimize the chances of certain office-related maladies such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back pain. Therefore, every employer must provide desks which can be adjusted to a height that is suited to each employee.

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Your new desk has to look like this.

Can you imagine if the government tried to mandate what kinds of desks should be in every U.S. office? Certainly, there would be cries of inappropriate government intrusion into the workplace and encroachment on the freedom of the private sector. But putting aside the rhetoric for a moment (as well as the notion that much of the same benefits can be achieved with ergonomic chairs), let's examine the practical consequences that such regulation would have on American businesses.

 1. Increased business costs. New businesses would have to purchase adjustable office desks that have higher price tags than standard desks. Existing companies would have to swap out traditional desks for height adjustable ones - at a cost of between $500 and $4,000 per employee depending on the desk model.

 

2. Worker inconvenience. Sure, height adjustable desks give employees the ability to raise and lower them as needed. But here's what they don't provide: drawers! So instead of having convenient places for files, books, or office supplies, the "ergonomic" desks force employees to keep these items elsewhere. This may require the company to spend additional funds to purchase more filing cabinets and other storage furniture to address this problem.

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This man has no desk drawers. Can you tell?

 

3. Worker incompatibility. Many employers have common work areas where several employees use one or two desks. Other offices have job-sharing positions where two part-time workers perform the duties of a single full-time employee. So would every individual change the desk setting each time he or she worked at a height adjustable desk? With the lower-priced adjustable desks, that may require clearing off the entire desk surface every time the level of the desk was raised or lowered.



The 5 Strangest Injuries That Can Earn You Workers' Compensation

If you're injured at work, you're probably entitled to worker's compensation, a delightful type of insurance that replaces lost wages and pays medical expenses for injuries received on the job. Just about everyone knows someone who's received worker's comp at one time or another. Most are clear-cut cases: the nurse who throw out his back lifting a patient, or the painter who falls off a ladder painting a shutter.

Occasionally, however, there are some weirder claims workers comp claims than the usual falls and repetitive stress cases. Here are a few of our favorites.

 

1. Prison Guards Get Carpal Tunnel

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/fff2cd92e45e4334b675d2a4db6ae00e/IL--Workers-Compensation-Investigation/

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For instance, those of the prison guards at Menard Correctional Center in Southern Illinois. Some have filed claims based on injuries you'd expect from correctional officers, such as those sustained during a prison riot. But at least 260 claims since 2008 are tied to repetitive stress injuries, for example, those caused by repeatedly locking and unlocking prison doors.

 

2. Lung Disease From Area 51

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/8579490/Area-51-the-plane-truth.html

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We will freely admit to being suspicious when we first read about this case. Fred Dunham, a former government employee who worked at Area 51 has a mysterious lung disease, and is described by the reporter as being "convinced someone wants him to shut up, permanently." But since his disorder was (allegedly) caused by burning chemicals, and not by aliens, we're more inclined to give him a pass.

 

3. Lightning Strikes Gym Teacher

http://www.huntsvillepersonalinjurylaw.com/2011/04/weird-workplace-accident-gym-teacher-struck-by-lightning-at-desk.shtml

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It looks like even God hates gym class. An elementary school P.E. teacher in Alabama was struck by lightning while working in his school's activity center. He was taken to a local medical center with what were described as "non-life threatening injuries," and is expected to make a full recovery. (And also to collect workers' comp.)

 

4. Pole Dancing Is a Pain in the Neck

http://www.dvorak.org/blog/2007/10/10/court-says-stripper-should-get-workers-comp-benefits-for-pole-dancing-injury/

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 An exotic dancer in Fort Wayne, Indiana received workers' comp for injuries sustained while pole dancing at the Shangri-La West club. She suffered a herniated disc … and scored $10,000 in compensation.

 

5. Fake Sport, Real Injuries

http://www.411mania.com/wrestling/news/178202

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Pretending to get injured is a dangerous business. TNA wrestling star Daffney (who also used to dress up as Sarah Palin and wrestle under the name "the Governor") submitted a workers' comp claim for injuries sustained when her head went through a barbed wire board. Honestly, if our heads went through a barbed wire board, we would file a claim and retrain for a different job.