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Ergonomics in a Wheelchair or How to Use a Wheelchair
To put it in simple terms, ergonomics is a system that allows us to do our daily work or chores in such a way that does not place too much strain on our muscles. Examples of situations where ergonomics has been applied are sitting behind a desk for long periods of time, working on the assembly line of a factory or the simple chores like driving and gardening.
Since sitting for long periods of time places a lot of strain on muscles, wheelchair users should be aware of the ergonomic system. These prolonged periods of repetitive muscle use can cause illness due to overuse if it is not corrected immediately. This is the main reason for ergonomics. It provides proper posture, procedure and tools for the most efficient and relaxed method of using our body to perform our chores. Force, repetition, duration and posture are the criteria ergonomics uses to determine the correct usage of body with the tools.
Force in ergonomics is the unnecessary, excessive and repetitive impacts that cause jolts to our joints. These jolts, in turn, cause our muscles to respond by contracting or tensing. With wheelchair users, the continuous, repetitive motion of wheeling the chair creates the jolting impact. The act alone of wrapping the fingers around the wheel rim causes a jolt. The act of contracting the muscles to push the wheel rims backward so as to move the chair forward causes a jolt. These constant jolts and muscle contractions may cause chronic injury.
The repetitive motions or repetition is what produces muscle strain. To do a chore over and over again just wears the muscles out unless given correct rest periods in between.
Duration is the period of time the muscles are engaged in the same activity without rest. These activities, no matter how small, will cause the same amount of strain on muscles compared to lifting a heavy weight for just a moment. While sitting, the muscles of the thighs, lower back, upper back, abdomen, neck and shoulders are constantly active to maintain the position. The task of sitting for 8 hours, which is what most people do in offices, can really be a great strain on the body.
The proper posture while sitting is back straight. The spinal column, with proper posture, is an efficient support mechanism of the body. Also, adjustable chairs are there so you can shape them to your body. Slumping or sitting on your tail bone or what is better known as sitting in a relaxed manner, isn't really the correct posture for your spine. Since the spine is experiencing strain, other muscles come into play to support the spine. This is where your thighs, upper and lower back, abdomen, neck and shoulders come in. With a good adjustable chair, you can make it so that the shape of it conforms to your back and the seating angle adjusted according to your specific need. The height of the seat is also important. If the backs of your thighs are not in contact with the seat, the support you are getting is lessened. This lessened support forces you to exert more effort in maintaining your seat.
The ergonomic concept has the most importance for wheelchair users. Try to get a wheelchair that you can adjust to your hearts content. Proper adjustments will result in a generally more comfortable position for your body. Proper posture and adjustments will ease the strain and provide you with additional support. Having additional support means exerting lesser effort.
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