Pain is bad.
Everyone has experienced some level of pain. It could be a stubbed toe, a paper cut, or chronic pain that never goes away. It could be a broken leg, a bumped head, or childbirth. There are many causes of pain and many ways to experience it. We all try to avoid it and lessen it. Why, then, don’t we help others avoid it too?
I got a call last night from a friend who has “tendinitis.” I put that in quotation marks because I was told that I had tendinitis for several years as a teenager, and of course what I had turned out to be something entirely different, so I’m skeptical of catch-all diagnoses now. Still, this is what he was told. He graduated from college last spring, and the pain started within a month of starting his first full-time office job. He had worked during the summers before, but never at jobs that required so much time at a computer. Now, he’s spending 10 hours a day at work (or sometimes more) and almost all of that time is spent looking at and typing on a computer. He called me because he knows about my history of pain in my wrists (among many other joints) and he figured I’d know all about ergonomic positioning. I told him all about that and more, of course (such as warning signs of other problems.)
What angers me is that no one had told him this before. I only know so much because I have made it a point to study it. I look things up online. I ask questions of my doctors, my physical therapists, etc. I have had two ergonomic assessments done. If you don’t know about ergonomic setups, here are some great tips that I found online. I read it through and it’s fairly accurate and and thorough. I would emphasize the need to take more breaks, though. But anyway, as I was saying, I found this information on my own. Why wasn’t it shoved in my face? Why didn’t someone offer it to me on a silver platter?
Some people are ignorant about these things. Others assume it’s obvious and everyone knows. Many people try to help but their knowledge is lacking or plain wrong, and they do more damage than good. Of course, there’s an easy way to fix this: every employer should be required to provide ergonomic assessments, and then make the necessary changes for their employees, such as providing footrests and height-adjustable chairs. I had one employer who was willing to pay to have a professional come to our office to assess the workers. This was fantastic! Of course, it only happened because I found the professional and then was insistent with the boss. But it happened. Another employer was quite large and had their own assessor on staff. It was her job to work with any employee who made the request. I found out about this after I asked for certain accommodations, such as a different kind of mouse. Even though I’d had an assessment done before, they wanted one by their person before they would provide anything. And if I hadn’t asked for accommodations? Well then I’d never have known that this service was available. My coworkers had no idea.
This should be standard in all offices. Every one is at risk for repetitive motion injuries, postural problems, etc., from using a computer for many hours a day. The human body was not made for this. Why not reduce the risk? So much money is spent on bottled water (most tap water is just fine,) plastic forks (is it so hard to wash real ones?), holiday office parties (that most people really hate,) and other wasteful things. Wouldn’t it be better to spend that money on the health of employees? In fact, I bet health insurance companies would back this idea. Think of the many tendinitis, carpal tunnel, and other cases they could avoid through these preventative measures.
Some pain can’t be avoided. Tomorrow I could slip and fall on the ice. Today I got scratched by a cat (I definitely get along better with dogs.) Why not avoid the pain that can be avoided? We should all insist on better accommodations at work and be sure to make the necessary changes at home. Our bodies deserve nothing less.