Richard’s reply to Physiotherapy

Question: “I don’t quite understand your point – most ergonomic advice is designed to work for all types of people, since it is not dependent on height etc. If you are saying that people also need to look at other issues and to get medical treatment, I agree completely.” I know I didn’t express myself terribly clearly. I was concerned that the ‘ergonomic’ advice I was given by both my VDU Assessor and my Occupational Health Nurse regarding the need to sit bolt upright was not suitable for someone in my condition, and was concerned that other people might find themselves in a similar position. I felt I was being almost bullied into adopting a sitting position which I found very uncomfortable and the unspoken message I got was that if I ignored the advice given to me by the nurse, it would prejudice any claim I might make against the company in the future.

I have just re-read Richard’s recovery bundle and several other articles on ergonomics which I downloaded from the net some time ago. I notice that nowhere is it said that the seat back should be bolt upright so I don’t know where my VDU Assessor and Nurse got the idea from. Obviously it is not ergonomic advice as such which is at fault and I apologise for casting aspersions on it!

Answer: Well, it’s certainly true that there has in the past been a general tendency to associate “sitting properly” with sitting bolt upright. Andrew Wilson has an interesting bit about this in his book “Are You Sitting Comfortably?” – a book more than worth the 6.99, btw, for the extremely detailed advice it gives on adjusting chair and working surface. Wilson has a chapter on the history of sitting, and how different postures reflect social values at the time, e.g. sitting upright was very important to the Victorians as a symbol of authority, discipline, and so on. Nowadays, of course, we are more relaxed, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, where posture is concerned. But perhaps the main thing is, today an ergonomist would probably emphasise that no one posture is “correct”, and that it’s important to change your position frequently. Whether the word has got through to the average occupational health department is another question altogether.

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