added Apr. 29th, 2013
As a full-time student in the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at SLCC and a father of two, I am constantly learning something new. While I’m lucky enough to have a loving wife that keeps me focused when life gets chaotic, my favorite stress-reducing activities after a long study session for an upcoming test or getting homework finished is cuddling with my newborn daughter or rough-housing with my 16 month-old son.
Unfortunately, whenever I would go to bed after these activities I would feel sore and certain joints would ache. So much for relaxing! One day it hit me in class why I was having these issues: I was using improper ergonomics in my home as a parent.
You may have heard the term “ergonomics” before. This term is defined in The Free Dictionary as “the science of work, intended to maximize productivity by minimizing operator fatigue and discomfort. A huge part of ergonomics is using correct posture and body mechanics.” Ergonomics plays a vital role in occupational therapy to prevent serious injury down the road. Picking up, holding and bending with my children repeatedly was causing harm to my body. I decided that I needed to apply what I had learned in class at home.
After making this personal change, I have no more pain or fatigue. I found it so beneficial that I am even teaching my wife proper body mechanics and posture. These few simple tips were so helpful, that I’d like to share them with you.
1. When holding your child, keep your spine in alignment maintain the natural “s-curve” and have your shoulders pulled back. Keep your wrists straight to avoid any carpal tunnel or other hand- and wrist-injuries. Avoid collapsing your spine or holding the child to the side of your hip.
2. Car seats can cause havoc on your spine, shoulders, arms and hands. Try to avoid carrying them around as much as possible. When carrying the dreaded, heavy and bulky car seat, keep these principles in mind: make sure you have a neutral spine and don’t bend forward when picking up the seat. Stand in front of the car seat when lifting; bend at the knees when bringing the car seat towards your body. Use your biceps to hold the car seat instead of letting it hang off your shoulder girdle.
3. When changing diapers, use a changing table if possible at a correct height (2.5 inches below your bent elbows). This will help you avoid bad posture with your spine and neck. When setting the child down to be changed, watch your posture: keep your spine aligned.
4. When picking up your child, keep your spine straight, your neck extended and bend at the knees. Avoid bending at your waist as this can cause strains, sprains and herniated discs in the spine.
5. When pushing a stroller don’t lock your elbows or extend your wrists. Try to keep your head up, your shoulders down and back, your elbows bent and your wrists straight. It’s is easy to want to hunch over a stroller, resist doing so and find a stroller that is comfortable for you. There are three recommended sizes: the full-sized, lightweight and umbrella stroller. Full-sized strollers are heavy duty and long-lasting but can be very bulky and hard to assemble. A lightweight stroller is a great option for traveling or running errands since they weigh less than 12 pounds. Lastly, the umbrella strollers are inexpensive, simple design and easy to store.
Please note this is just a sampling of ergonomic tips for parents to keep in mind. Many other great ergonomics tips exist for parents and I recommend researching and learning more. By practicing proper ergonomics you are ensuring a healthier life for you and your children. If you are already experiencing pain or want to learn more about proper ergonomics, please visit your medical practitioner or occupational therapist.