Sunday, August 11, 2013

Stiff Neck (no more)

I have to admit I'm a bit of a nerd about ergonomics.

I think it stems from a combination of RSIs (repetitive stress injury) at an early age and a Human Centered Design class I took a few years back.

I had symptoms of carpal tunnel by the time I was 22. I had carpal tunnel release surgeries on both wrists by the time I was 25. I used to think that was pretty young, but people are showing more and more signs of RSIs at earlier and earlier ages. Like the 16 year old who developed carpal tunnel from her 100 text a day habit.

In addition to carpal tunnel, I've had DeQuervain syndrome (inflammation of the tendons in the thumb - also known as gamer's thumb or texting thumb. Or if you want to get really old timey, you can call it Washerwoman's sprain). My left thumb has never been the same, while my right thumb seemed to recover completely.

I've had tennis elbow (and I've never really played). I've had trochanteric bursitis (also known as dancer's hip).

While part of these issues stem from chronic inflammation and autoimmune issues, another contributing factor has been poor ergonomics.

The one size fits all approach to furniture (both home and office) doesn't work. We spend a tremendous amount of time being stationary in workstations or furniture that is not designed to fit our bodies.

I have to say that even after suffering from workplace related RSIs, there wasn't a lot of thought put into preventing these issues for others (or preventing flare ups for those who have already been affected). I worked in workers' compensation law for a while and the solution always seemed to be to find new employment for people who had been injured instead of really evaluating the workplace to see how it could be modified to prevent injury.

As the final project for my Human Centered Design Class, I built a workshop that was customized to be the right fit for me in a standing position. Here are some slides from my final presentation where I discussed how to determine the standing height of a workstation.

Factors in Determining Standing Workstation Height
Observations taken from my initial workstation
Analysis and Zone of Convenient Reach calculations based upon original workstation
Analysis and Zone of Convenient Reach for redesigned workstation

I have been working at a standing workstation since 2010 now and I love it. I no longer have my workshop, but my desk set up at home is standing. I have my monitor placed upon a shelf well so it is at eye level.  I do not have to look downward at my monitor, thus reducing strain on my neck. 

Okay, so you've made it this far and are probably wondering what the heck this has to do with art, design, school or 3D printing. It has everything to do with all four of those things. 

I started a new job recently and lets just say our furnishings are spartan. We are sitting at folding tables. We do have office chairs (though I've traded mine in for an exercise ball). A lot of people are working on laptops. Small laptops. Myself included. 

The first week was misery. A 13 inch MacBook on a folding table is a recipe for ergonomic disaster. I managed to procure a mouse and full size keyboard at the start of the 2nd week. I placed the laptop on a couple of boxes to raise the screen, even if just a little. I ended up getting a monitor shortly after that. 

It's better than it was, but by no means ideal. My monitor is still about 3-4 inches too low and I am looking downward, putting extreme stress on my neck. 

So this week, I will be designing a monitor riser that fits the foot print of my monitor exactly (as space is a premium and I don't have room for the standard monitor risers). I'm going to incorporate a bit of fun into it (at least fun for people who love office supplies) and include space for my post its and my pens!  

I'll post pictures this week of the design and the final product. 

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