PUBLISHED: 4:11 PM on Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Reduce risk by using the right moves
American Red Cross of Southeast Alaska
Posture, the length of a stretch and repetitive motions are all actions that can result in musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs; however, MSDs can be prevented by the use of good ergonomics - the relationship between your body and an activity.

Adjusting a work station to better fit the stature of a person is an example of ergonomic principle. By improving the fit between the body and the activity, comfort and efficiency are increased making any task less taxing on the body.

MSDs often begin with mild discomfort that can be associated with overused, slightly strained muscles. For example, bending at the waist or twisting while lifting an object leaves the muscles working in an awkward and strained position allowing for injury to occur. Some people may feel a tingling sensation or even numbness in the affected area. Signals can come and go over a period of time and if left untreated muscle weakness and nerve problems may develop limiting ones ability to grip an object and or limiting the range of motion in the affected muscle group.

So how can you apply the ergonomic principle to your daily tasks at work, home and play? Work within your reach. If you find yourself reaching more than 14 to 18 inches across your work space, you're reaching too far. Face your work. If you need to change directions move your whole body instead of twisting. Use task lighting, so that you do not need to lean over to see your work. Tilt the angle of your work, not your head; this will help alleviate strain to the neck area.

Find your neutral position. This is the area that offers the least amount of stress to your body whether standing or sitting. To find this position, line up your ears, shoulders and hips, keep your head upright and relax. If you find you are holding your breath or your shoulders are hunched towards your ears, try again. Once you have found the neutral position you can rest your body by returning to it often.

The American Red Cross will offer a class on ergonomics from noon-1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at the offices located at 3200 Hospital DR # 203. The cost is $10. This training will include:

What is ergonomics?

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

How to identify and reduce the risks of MSDs at work and home.

How to perform exercises to help reduce the risk for MSDs.

The Red Cross wants everyone to learn the major factors that increase your risk for MSDs, as well as what steps you can take to prevent MSDs or to control any signs and symptoms you may already have.

Work and play are a part of everyone's lives and with both of those comes strain and fatigue to our body's muscles, but with education and the application of ergonomic principle, we can all enjoy life with less discomfort in our muscles, joints and tendons.

Governed by volunteers and supported by community donations, the American Red Cross of Alaska is dedicated to saving lives and helping Alaskans prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Led by over 1,500 volunteers and 27 employees, last year the American Red Cross of Alaska mobilized relief to over 1,050 Alaskans affected by disaster, trained over 32,000 people in lifesaving skills, taught over 78,500 Alaskans how to be better prepared for disasters, and exchanged more than 4,100 emergency messages for U.S. military service personnel and their families. For more information about the American Red Cross of Alaska, please visit our website at