Job a pain in the neck? Maybe you need an ergonomic intervention

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Just buying ergonomic desks and chairs isn’t enough to quell pain caused by poor posture at work reports a new study in this month’s Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Such equipment is useless, say the authors, unless a professional ergonomist sets it up and adjusts it. Researchers came to this conclusion by taking a group of workers and dividing them in two. They gave one group a new set of ergonomic office furniture, with instructions on how to set it up. The second group got the same furniture and instructions, but they also had a professional ergonomist on hand to help them make the most of their new stuff. As the researchers continued to track the workers’ physical complaints and productivity, they found that the physical perks—reduced muscle pain and eyestrain—of the ergo office furniture were experienced only by those workers who’d had the benefit of professional guidance in creating their new work spaces. The group with the ergo coach was also more productive than their slouching, straining coworkers. “Just providing new office furniture and written instructions is not enough,” says Jasminka Laestadius, MD, PhD, one of the study’s authors. “Good office equipment is a poor substitute for good working positions.”