Gilson Timire Correspondent
Some time ago, I wrote about ergonomics chairs. Ergonomics chairs are made with features that provide the user with good comfort and safety while sitting at work. In this article I am going to look at a mesh back support which can be applied on a chair or a vehicle seat. The mesh back support is meant to improve the sitting posture of the user while sitting on a chair or a vehicle seat.
Remember that poor sitting posture for long periods can affect the muscles, ligaments and discs of the back and neck resulting in neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, forearm/wrist/hand pain or headaches. This usually affects office workers, computer users, till operators, technicians, drivers, students, and home-sofa users. Worldwide reports show that back and neck pain cause an enormous economic burden on individuals, families, communities, industry, and governments.
Correct lordosis (curve of the lower back) reduces unfavourable forces on the discs, ligaments, muscles, and other connective tissues. Most people sit in slouched positions and this can contribute to back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and headaches. When a person stands up, the normal lordosis is automatically assumed. In neutral lordosis, body weight will be evenly distributed on the spine structures. The correct lordosis should be maintained in the sitting position, which unfortunately is not the case.
Soft cushions are commonly used to improve the sitting lordosis. The soft cushions are placed on the lower back, just above the waistline. However, research has shown that the soft cushions do not provide adequate support to create adequate lumbar lordosis. Soft cushions fail to counter the force exerted by the bones of the spine.
A mesh back support can be a handy solution. The mesh back support is placed on a chair or a vehicle seat to provide the desired lumbar lordosis. It has a stretchable belt that can fit on most chairs and vehicle seats. It easy to apply and provides excellent aeration to the back. It also comes with beads which gives free massage to your back while you are seating.
The massage improves circulation to your back, and this can help relieve back soreness or fatigue. The back support comes very handy when driving on bad roads because it can reduce the vibrations that can be transmitted to the spine. Research has shown that high and repetitive vibrations are a risk factor for low back pain.
Ergonomics chairs for use by office workers are costly, however, the mesh back support is affordable and can last well over 8-12 months. It usually comes in black. Someone with an episode of back pain due to poor sitting posture may need to see a medical practitioner. In some cases, an X-ray or an MRI may be requested. Medications maybe prescribed to manage pain. The consultations, investigations and medications cost a lot of money for the patient, family, community and the nation. Workers may need to take time off work. This is another cost to the employer. Back and neck pain are major causes of work absenteeism, high medical premiums, low productivity/profits and job errors.
Medical aid insurers also meet high medical claims because their members may get treatments that target their symptoms rather than the risks and hazards. Some of these musculoskeletal problems recur and become chronic, for example back pain. Chronic low back pain is very costly to manage and is associated with a lot of negative psychosocial outcomes like depression.
It is quite clear that the chair users, vehicle drivers/passengers, employers, medical insurers, the community and the nation can save a lot of money by investing in mesh back supports. Most organisations in Zimbabwe have bought chairs that do not meet current ISO standards for working seated because they lack the relevant ergonomics knowledge.
However, a mesh back support can be applied on these chairs so that the users have better comfort and safety. The same situation also applies to seats of motor vehicles. Some vehicles were manufactured before the advances of the ergonomics knowledge; hence they lack adequate comfort and safety to the driver. Again, a mesh back support is a best option for those vehicles users.
Research has shown that office workers should not seat for more than an hour before standing up to take a short break. This gives your back and legs a break. You can also do a few stretches to your neck, shoulders and arms while taking the break. Drivers are also encouraged to take breaks after about 90-120 minutes of driving.
The mesh back supports are available in medical practices and some retail shops. However, people need to be wary of some poor-quality mesh back supports that are sold in the streets. The sub-standard mesh back supports usually have a white stripe around its edges.
Gilson Timire is an ergonomist. He can be contacted on [email protected]