Professional Practice: Applying ergonomic principles for perfect posture

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According to the Ergonomics Society of South Africa ergonomics relate to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people. Performing a massage is a bit like pitching a tent. Just like the ropes that are anchored in the ground pull the tent into position, the human body is held upright and floating in space by the contraction and extension the muscles, tendons and ligaments attached to the skeletal system. Whereas a camper re-adjusts the ropes and position of the pens to erect the canvas shelter, the massage therapist ‘pulls’ and ‘pushes’ on the soft tissue to effect efficient and balanced distribution of weight to achieve good posture and ease of movement. A thorough physical assessment helps the therapist determine which muscles to shorten and which ones to lengthen. But as patients spend as little as one hour a month with the massage therapist, the therapist’s influence on the body may not be enough to significantly improve postural patterns. Daily reinforcement through home-care can make the difference to posture and in the long-term improve people’s quality of life. The patient’s personal and medical history plays an important role in developing a home-care plan. The therapist has to collect as much information about the patient’s lifestyle as possible. How does the patient spend his or her day? Are they active or more of a couch potato? What kind of work do they do? Do they sit at a computer or do they stand all day? What are their hobbies? What sports do they participate in? What are the emotional and psychological factors that may influence the way the body develops and adapts? The personal interview prior to a treatment is the ideal opportunity to elicit this kind of information. The next step is to develop an appropriate home-care plan for each particular patient. What does home-care constitute? It can involve: assisting the patient in developing a general awareness of good posture purposeful exercises and stretches. Obviously the therapist has to know and understand anatomy and physiology but also he or she must have a sound grasp of what constitutes good posture under a wide variety of circumstances. This has to translate into practical advice for patients regarding the way they use their bodies in their daily lives. Besides knowledge of stretching exercises, the therapist needs also understand and be aware of ergonomics or the process of organising the work as well as the leisure environment to fit the person in it. According to the  Ergonomics Society of South Africa ergonomics relate to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in...

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Professional Network: Ergonomics or the science of work

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By Bobbie Maree and Mandy Eagar Ergonomics is the science of work.  The word is derived from the greek words ergon (work) and nomos (laws) and the official International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines ergonomics as “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.” 1) According the the IEA ergonomists contribute to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people.” 1) To find out more, In Touch spoke to Dale Kennedy, an ergonomist practising in Cape Town. In Touch (IT):  Why is it important for people to be aware of ergonomics? Dale Kennedy (DK): Ergonomics is an integral part of everyone’s lives. Every piece of “technology” from a knife and fork to a car is ergonomically designed, i.e. it is designed for human usage. If one uses the technology consistently, in the incorrect manner, an injury will result. Thus, if you are cutting with a knife as part of your job and the handle is too small for your hand you can, over time, land up with severe hand injuries. Therefore it is in everyone’s interest to understand ergonomics and attempt to implement the principles in their daily lives as well as working environment. IT: What qualifications are needed to become an ergonomist? DK: Minimum qualification is an M.Sc. (Ergonomics) plus five years work experience before one is eligible to register as an ergonomist. IT: Where can you train? DK: The only post-graduate degree in is offered at Rhodes University , Grahamstown. IT: What does the undergraduate as well as post graduate training entail? DK: The undergraduate degree entails a three year degree at Rhodes University , Department of Human Kinetics and Ergonomics. Post graduate training would be an honours degree and then onto a masters degree. IT: Do you have continued professional development? DK: No not really. IT: Is there a professional body that looks out for the interests of your profession? DK: Yes, the Ergonomics Society of . IT: Do ergonomists need to be registered in order to practice, if so, with whom? DK: Allegedly they are supposed to be registered with Ergonomics Society of South Africa – but they are still in discussions about registration. The following information is currently listed on www.ergonomicssa.com: “ESSA is currently working on the Certification of Ergonomists in . The ESSA Certification Board (ESSACB) recently met in Gauteng to finalise the application process. The Ergonomics Society of South Africa Certification Board (ESSACB) sets the...

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Ergonomics For Massage Therapists

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As with many other jobs, massage involves repetitive motion applied with pressure. Therapists often develop repetitive strain injuries to the hands, wrists, thumbs, shoulders, neck and lower back. Lauriann Greene and Richard W. Goggins in their book Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention & Ergonomics for Manual Therapists say that human beings’ upper extremities are not meant to do the same motion over and over for long periods of time without rest. Manual therapists also tend to lose concentration on their body mechanics and posture as they work, and the unnatural positions that they get into as a result cause additional stress to the hands, arms, shoulders, neck and back. The kinds of situations that can put the therapist at risk for injury include: suddenly increasing the amount of hands-on work done on any given day suddenly decreasing the amount of time in between patients working under pressure working in a cramped space, or with a table that is at a fixed, uncomfortable height working when tired According to the authors, certain beliefs held by therapists about the work they do can also contribute to injury risk. One such notion is that it is normal to be in pain after you do hands-on work. It is NEVER normal to be in pain they state. Other beliefs include that: it is shameful to be injured  and so therapists pretend that they are fine. In turn this will lead to further injuries. there is a “right” way to do hands-on work and a “wrong” way so even if the “right” way hurts your hands, you have to keep doing it that way. Greene and Goggins are of the opinion that by developing awareness of your exposure to risk factors in your work, the therapist can learn to modify and minimize these exposures and lower your risk of injury. “If you do start to develop symptoms, you can learn to recognize the warning signs your body is sending you and take swift and appropriate measures to keep those symptoms from progressing to a full-blown injury.” Learning how to use ergonomic principles such as leverage, healthy work scheduling and proper body mechanics can help therapists stay healthy throughout their careers. Their book is published by Gilded Age Press and can be ordered through Amazon.com, ISBN: 978-0-9679549-1-2....

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