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Keeping Ergonomics in Mind during the Big Commute

by Derek B on May 7, 2013

tagged as

Traffic ergonomics

Traffic can be a cold, hard killer...unless you keep ergonomics in mind. (Photo: Tony Gerber/Flickr)

It was unseasonably cool and unreasonably grey for a May afternoon in Texas. They say, “April showers bring May flowers,” but even approaching summer, we were still stuck on that first part.

A couple of drops of rain raced down my windshield, straight down at first, but the wind blew them sideways off course before long. The pit-pat-pit-pat picked up and more racers began streaking across the glass in front of me.

“Just…great.”

I shifted from first gear into neutral, took my foot off the clutch and closed my eyes. That’s all it takes in Austin. Just a hint of rain and all hell breaks loose on the highway — like a state of emergency has been declared. Quick! Evacuate the city! There’s water falling from the skies!

Pit-pat-pit-pat-pit-pat. I opened my eyes to see the carnage of the rain in rush hour unfold, but my windshield was already a blur of colors laid out in front of me through a hundred fishbowl lenses. A squeak of the wipers cleared the scene.

“Looks like dinner is going to be cold again.”

Half an hour passed over what seemed like only half a mile down the highway. I writhed in my seat like a criminal waiting to hear the verdict, restrained by my seat belt, shackled to my stick shift. My back was killing me, my foot falling asleep on the break pad. My nerves, my patience and my back were all on the edge of my seat. I could feel my face becoming as red as the hundreds of brake lights ahead of me.

“Take a breath,” I pleaded with myself. “You’re better than this!”

It shouldn’t be so hard to stay calm and comfortable under pressure. Then again, when a plastic bag on just a whisper of the wind was moving faster than the 500HP of American muscle and steel I had underneath my big toe, how was I supposed to keep it together?

In pain and with a familiar rage boiling, my mind kept drifting to the same thought that I can’t ever seem to escape. Generally, I try to leave my work at the office, but in a situation like this it was the one thing that I found solace in: Ergonomics.

That’s right. Ergonomics. I work for an ergonomic office furniture company, and the principals of ergonomics seep into my daily life outside of work. I can’t just forget about it the moment I walk out of the door. To tell you the truth, I don’t mind.

ergonomic car seat

Modern car seats have similar features and technology to ergonomic office chairs. (Photo: Aaron Gold/cars.about.com)

Spending 10 hours+ in a car per week got me thinking about how ergonomic my car’s seats are. Really they’re very similar to a good ergonomic office chair. Both types of seating offer many of the same features:

  • Adjustable seat height
  • Adjustable back tilt
  • Adjustable head rest
  • Waterfall seat edge
  • Contoured seat back
  • Pronounced lumbar support
  • Thickly padded seat cushion

Those are all fantastic comfort features for a car’s seat, especially if you spend what totals to half a day of your week just driving to and from places. It’s all important in maintaining a comfortable and natural posture over time as to minimize discomfort and health risks if you were to be involved in an accident.

An ergonomic office chair offers all of those things and much more. The only thing your office chair can’t match is the seat belt, though I suppose most people wouldn’t want to be strapped to their office chair.

Office ergonomics is all about fitting and customizing your workspace and environment to the way you work, while minimizing health risks associated with repetitive actions. While a seat in a typical car may fit most people, it won’t fit everyone. A 5 foot person and a 7 foot person are not going to both be shopping for a Mazda Miata. So in the same way, your run of the mill office chair isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

With over 5.25 million traffic accidents occurring per year in the U.S., you can be certain that car manufacturers focus on driver safety. Why shouldn’t the chair you spend the most time sitting in be just as safe? While you probably won’t be involved in any inter-office chair collisions, a bad chair can lead to a number of long-term health issues.

Our ergonomic chair experts at The Human Solution can help find the perfect solution for anyone. You shouldn’t wait until you are experiencing pain to look into an ergonomic office chair. You can’t fasten your seat belt after you get in an accident.

Don’t wait for a rainy day to check us out online either. There’s a chair for everyone. Give us a call or visit us at TheHumanSolution.com

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Written by Derek B

Derek B

Derek has been a content writer and sales associate at THS since way back in 2012. A native Central-Texan, he is a diehard San Antonio Spurs fan. While cheering them on, yelling and jumping up and down, can be quite active, he likes to combat time spent on the couch by also playing basketball and running. A vinyl record aficionado with a love for blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll, he relishes any chance to see live music.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.pulliam Brian Pulliam

    I am fascinated by this topic…a little background. I have experienced a couple of back injuries in the past year, and I have switched to a standing desk at work. While it’s been great, I have less tolerance for sitting now (especially when commuting). Do you have any tips for how to organize your thoracic spine? I don’t see seats (especially in sporty cars) supporting that area very well.

    • Guest

      Hi Brian! Thanks for reaching out. I think it is important to remember
      correct posture, which can be forgotten in stressful driving conditions.
      I always try to make sure my lower back is firm against the contour of
      the seat and I am buckled in tightly first. Positioning your seat at a
      slight backward recline instead of upright helps to conform to your
      spine’s natural curve. From there, bringing the seat and my body closer
      to the pedals helps further prevent strain on the legs and lower back
      from reaching too far, also promoting your natural curve. Making sure
      everything is within close reach is key to maintaining that correct
      posture over a long commute. I know there are some aftermarket products
      out there as well that can help add some additional lumbar support to
      your car’s seat if needed.

    • Derek B

      Hi Brian! Thanks for reaching out. I think it is important to remember correct posture, which can be forgotten in stressful driving conditions. I always try to make sure my lower back is firm against the contour of the seat and I am buckled in tightly first. Positioning your seat at a slight backward recline instead of upright helps to conform to your spine’s natural curve. From there, bringing the seat and my body closer to the pedals helps further prevent strain on the legs and lower back from reaching too far, also promoting your natural curve. Making sure everything is within close reach is key to maintaining that correct posture over a long commute. I know there are some aftermarket products out there as well that can help add some additional lumbar support to your car’s seat if needed.

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