Patient Handout on Ergonomics/ Proper Body Mechanics

Easy Ergonomics for Everyone

Ergonomics refers to using the body as safely and efficiently as possible while not straining the body’s tissues. “Think of yourself as having a lifetime quota of muscle capacity that you want to use carefully- to spend like it was precious currency.”

Computer Workstations

Many Americans spend hours at a computer workstation everyday. Utilizing proper ergonomics may help decrease back, hip, and neck pain. It may also assist with increasing concentration and ability to focus while at work. These are a few suggestions that everyone who uses a computer would benefit from.

  • The top of the monitor should be at or below eye level.
  • The head and neck should be balanced and in-line with the torso.
  • Shoulders should be relaxed and in a neutral position.
  • Elbows should be close to the body and supported by some form of armrests.
  • The chair should support the lower back.
  • Wrists and hands should be in-line with forearms.
  • There should be adequate room for the keyboard and mouse.
  • Feet should remain flat on the floor.
  • As with any seated position, people should follow the “90-90-90” rule, which means that the hips are flexed at 90 degrees, knees are flexed at 90 degrees, and ankles are flexed at 90 degrees.


Millions of people spend a large amount of their time on their feet, whether it be at work, at school, shopping, or at events in leisure time. This can be tough on the back if proper body mechanics are not utilized. Following a few simple guidelines may help minimize the risk of injury to the back.

  • Avoid standing in one position for a prolonged period of time. In other words, change positions when standing as often as you can. This aids in increasing circulation while decreasing muscle fatigue.
  • Check your body posture throughout the day to increase your awareness of how you stand. You may use this information to make corrections to your posture.
  • When you have the choice, stand on surfaces that are firm and level.
  • If possible, lean on a solid support. This may help to decrease fatigue during long bouts of standing.


People spend on average between six and eight hours sleeping everyday. Therefore, this is a big and important part of our life. A few simple changes may make a big difference with regards to sleep. As with any other ergonomic or body mechanic guideline, the goal when sleeping is to maintain a neutral spine.

  • Sleep on a firm mattress.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach or with your head elevated on an oversized pillow. These positions cause arches in the back and neck, which may cause problems later on in life.
  • The side and the back are the best positions for maintaining a neutral position.
  • Place a pillow between your knees when you sleep on your side or behind your knees when you sleep on your back. This will help keep the spine in the proper position to reduce stress on the lower back.
  • Use a pillow that allows you to keep your head aligned with the rest of your body. Oversized pillows are tempting at the store, but they do not necessarily benefit your back while sleeping.


Lifting has the highest risk for back injury. Using proper lifting and body mechanics along with proper posture is imperative in preventing injuries from lifting. It is more important to know how to lift than how much weight you can lift. Here are a few safety tips and suggestions for lifting safely:

  • Keep the load immediately in front of you.
  • Bend the knees to a full squat or lunge position instead of bending over at the hips with the back.
  • Bring the load towards the chest.
  • Assume a neutral position with your back.
  • Tighten the lumbar and buttocks muscles to lock the back.
  • Lift from the legs to the standing position.
  • DO NOT: Lift from a twisted/ sideways position OR lift from a forward stooped/imbalanced position.


If you use a wheelchair then you too must consider ergonomics and proper body mechanics. It may be even more important for you, because you have a greater potential of overusing your muscles. Following these few guidelines may decrease your risk of injury and overuse.

  • Refrain from snapping the arms and shoulders at the end of pushes.
  • If you “wheelie” over a curb let yourself down gently.
  • Travel slowly over significant bumps to reduce impact.
  • Use coasting as much as possible to conserve energy and body use.
  • Travel slower, because it takes more pushes to travel at faster speeds.
  • Ensure that you have a chair and cushion that supports you and promotes good posture, because excessive use of the upper body to position may be as damaging as brief, heavy lifting.
    • Specifically speak with a professional about: seat angle, back angle, back support, body shape, degree of upper body balance, seat depth, and distance between wheels and hands.
  • Limit slumping or leaning in your chair, because this may cause trunk, neck, and shoulder muscles to do more continuous work.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2011). Computer Workstations. United States Department of Labor. Retrieved from

Colorado Comprehensive Spine Institute. (2011). The Importance of Proper Body Mechanics- Keeping Your Spine Healthy. Retrieved from

Gary Karp. (2011). The Ergonomics of Wheelchairs. Experts in Motion. Retrieved from

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