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Ergonomic Seating on the Go: Using Travel Cushions and Footrests to Adapt Anywhere

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
By Anne Kramer

The evolution of the workplace has given workers more flexibility, but it also means that workers often spend more time in transition. Our extended mobility frequently results in more time spent in commute, via car or plane with greater frequency.

Like a traditional office workstation, the mobile office poses risks for repetitive stress injuries like muscle strain. Although many workers outfit themselves with items that increase the convenience of travel, such as folding keyboards or travel mice, they may neglect items that improve personal comfort and reduce injury.

One critical component of decreasing fatigue and stress on the muscles and joints is proper posture. When sitting, it is important to maintain proper alignment of the back, neck, and shoulders. To achieve an ergonomically friendly posture, follow the four following steps :

  1. Straighten the back and shoulders. Slide the buttocks all the way to the back of the chair or seat. This position shifts weight to the larger muscle groups in the back, reducing stress on the neck and shoulders.
  2. Allow the back to curve naturally. It should curve inward in the lower back and at the neck, and outward between the shoulders.
  3. Place feet flat on the floor, pointing forward, to encourage proper bending of the knees and hips.
  4. Distribute body weight evenly between both hips, to prevent unbalanced strain on either side of the body.

It can be difficult to follow these suggestions in cars, airplanes, hotels, and restaurants, where seating accommodations are often less than ideal. With the right forethought and ergonomic tools, however, the traveler can ergonomically tailor any seat or chair.

  • A full seat rest can be added to the driver’s seat of any car. Many adjustable or inflatable models are available. Others even offer massaging heat, to relax muscles.
  • Gel seats and lumbar cushions are also economical ways to adapt the driver’s seat. They can be permanently affixed in the car, to promote proper posture.
  • While traditional back rests can be a bit bulky for air travel, inflatable back rests are both convenient and practical.
  • While foot position is somewhat dictated by pedal position in a car, pedal extenders may be necessary for exceptionally short drivers.
  • A folding footrest, compact enough to place in a purse or pocket, provides relief at restaurants and hotels, where chair height may exceed ideal usability.
  • For airplanes, inflatable footrests stow easily in carry-on luggage. They ease stress on the feet, knees, and hips, especially during long flights.
  • To further increase joint comfort and improve blood flow in the air, travel pillows can be placed under the thighs.

With the proper ergonomic accessories, it is easy to ensure comfort and safety. By maintaining proper posture with back and foot rests, comfort will improve and repetitive stress injuries will be eliminated.




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