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Ergonomics

Hi All,

Does anyone share my problem of sore neck and stiff shoulders after
many hours at the bench? I’ve lowered my chair so that I’m bending
over less than if it were higher, but the focal length of my
Optivisor is only 4" and I cannot work without them so some bending
over is necessary. I can’t afford a weekly massage and am already
on all of the arthritis drugs known to man. What do you mature
jewelers do to address this problem? Thanks.

Related Article
A Pain In The Neck

Peg

Peggy E. Pollak, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Northern Arizona University
Flagstaff, AZ 86011-5640

   Does anyone share my problem of sore neck and stiff shoulders
after many hours at the bench? 

Hi Peggy: Very definitely. The only way I can deal with this is to
set a timer and try very hard to not stay at the bench more than 30
minutes at a time and then I need to get up and walk around for at
least 5 minutes. I gently bend my head from side to side and then
roll it from to back and back to front. It still bothers me but for
sure I’d be in a big snit if I didn’t stop and get up and move a
bit. And when it gets really bad, I go for the ibuprofen. Sometimes
just standing up and stretching a bit will also help. And drinking
lots and lots of water I think helps under any conditions. Good luck.
I think there are just some things that come with “maturity” as you
put it and we have to adjust a bit but we definitely need to keep
working.

Kay

Hi Peg -

I sure do share your problems with neck and shoulders - made extra
problematic due to a history of neck/shoulder injuries. The battle is
daily between what is good for my neck and what my vision will
allow. If you work at a bench, I think it can be difficult to
entirely avoid the problem. But there are a few things you can try in
an attempt to minimize them. One thing is to remember to move your
neck around - side to side, ear towards the shoulder, etc. and to get
up and take breaks. Repetitive motions can cause tendon irritation,
but remaining in a static position or one where your chin is tucked
down towards your chest can also cause problems.

I did also get a nifty traction pillow from my Chiropractor - a big
triangular shaped foam wedge

I lie on my back and lean my head backwards over the wedge to get
the correct curve back in. This was prescribed, but most of his
patients also use this and find it very helpful. Maybe you could
consider something like this. Perhaps you could consult with a
Chiropractor, Physical Therapist or Message Therapist, and ask them
to suggest some exercises that you could do on your own long term. I
did this and found it very helpful.

In the meantime - the getting up and stretching things and walking
around to line things up properly can offer some relief if done
regularly. Depending on the activity, I shoot for once an hour or
so. Having the weight of your arms pulling downwards as they do when
you walk can help a lot to keep things where they should be.

I know what a pain it is! (pun intended…)

Best to you,
Mary Beth

Peggy,

20 years ago I had back surgery ( L5 removed ) in part due to the
long hours I spent working in one position at a workbench.

After surgery I was told not to sit for more than an hour or two
without standing up to move and stretch.

Unfortunately I was never able to follow those directions since I
always seemed to be too busy. Several years went by with pain in my
lower and upper back constantly with me until I finally decided it
was time to start doing what I was instructed to do.

I must admit that to this day I will still push it but as soon as I
start feeling the tightness and pain, I stop working and stand up
and move.

Take care of your back. Once you have back problems, you always have
back problems.

Good Luck
Greg DeMark
email: greg@demarkjewelry.com
Website: www.demarkjewelry.com
Link Exchanges Welcomed

Does anyone share my problem of sore neck and stiff shoulders
after many hours at the bench?

Hi Peggy,

Since I work at a couple different benches I’ve found that my taller
bench is much more comfortable. If possible try placing 4-6" blocks
under your bench to raise it up rather than lowering the chair. It
doesn’t eliminate fatigue completely but it helps to promote better
posture.

Mark

Hello Peg and others;

I didn’t respond to this right away because I figured about a dozen
people would say the same thing I did. That hasn’t happened. The
key element in your situation seems to be the one, so far, everyone
has overlooked. You are using an Optivisor that has a focal lenght
of only 4". That’s pretty strong magnification for every day work.
If you really need to see stuff that big, I think you’re going to
need to spend the money on a good set of binocular loupes. With
these, you can get the magnification you need without having to bend
your head over your work to keep it in focus. They’ll give you the
magnification and allow a much longer focal length. We’ve had lots
of post regarding these instruments, which run from a couple hundred
dollars to $1500 US or more. If you’d like, I can send you a couple
URL’s for sources, and I’d wager there are quite a few mentioned in
the Orchid archives. Dentists are using them a lot now. Maybe
you’ve got a friendly dentist who might let you try on a pair of
thiers to see how you like them. I don’t use that much magnification
for regular work, maybe a 2.5 magnification (focal field I think
16") pair of glasses, and when I need stronger, I put on the visor
whichever magnification I need to add from another 1.5 to 3.5 times.
But when I get the money, I’m going for a pair of binocular loupes.

David L. Huffman

       Does anyone share my problem of sore neck and stiff
shoulders after many hours at the bench? 

I definitely had similar problems until I invested in a superior
quality chair. I bought an Aeron chair made be Herman Miller, Inc.
It is infinitely adjustable in all ways and, since using it, now for
about six years, I have avoided those problems.

Joel Schwalb
@Joel_Schwalb
www.schwalbstudio.com

I go to the gym three times a week. I find that after making very
small, very forceful movements all day I feel all sore and squiched.
Using the machines at the gym allows me to stretch the muscles and
make very large movements. It’s a sort of counterbalance. I do
notice that when I do a lot of bench work, especially a lot of
sawing, I get a bit of tennis elbow, but I’ve found an exercise to
counteract that too.

Janet

I agree with what everyone has said-- move around, stretch, take
care of your back, get a good chair and adjust it carefully. But the
original post blamed the poor posture on the need for an Optivisor
which has a close and invariable focal distance. I’d like to see
this part of the equation addressed.

In past threads, people have recommended Weiss (I think) binocular
loupes. I’ve looked for these, and they seem to cost several hundred
dollars. I, for one, am reluctant to pay that much for something I
have never seen, let alone tried. Plus, it seems there must be
something with good, clear, adjustable optics in the huge range
between $28 for an optivisor and $500- $1000 for surgical loupes. I
have seen ones that come mounted on glasses frames from Edron for
$78. Does anyone know anything about these? EBay offers some that
claim to be “much better than Edron” for about $150, if I remember
right. But I am very reluctant to experiment with an auction
purchase-- they are not returnable.

So, who has found a good solution? I haven’t figured out what focal
distance I really want, or what power of magnification is ideal, so
zooms would seem worthwhile, but they’re awfully expensive, and may
turn out awkward or uncomfortable. I know from my welding helmet how
much a weight on the front of your head can strain the neck.
HELP!!!

–Noel

I have read just a few of the post in the ergonomics thread, so
please forgive if I stray or repeat. Back pain has not been my
problem, fortunately. My bench is high enough that my head stays
elevated and that seems to help. The ensuing problem is more
aggravation to wrists and arms in general. Several years ago I had
carpal tunnel surgery on one wrist and will need more extensive
orthopedic work on the other wrist soon, due simply to pain from
bone build-up in the joint. While the carpal tunnel work put me out
of work for a while, the bone work in the other wrist will likely
require much more time before a good “second hand” is available. So,
I will not be able to do any but the simplest jobs.

I have often thought, “Look at that.they taught the kid to use third
hand tweezers for all the work! He will never learn freehand
control.” Now, I wonder if that third hand but certainly much
slower process is what I should have been doing. Would it have
helped or not?

It seems most injury I have developed comes from the "ring clamp"
and working both hands in stone setting, mostly including bright
cut, pave and channel work. That is my guess. In that case, the
solution was simply not available in an easily usable form. Today,
apparently it is in the form of pneumatic hammers to assist in all
sorts of work requiring great pressure applied with precise control.
That pneumatic assistance just might have saved my wrists and hands.
I really do not know but suspect some of the present physical
problems would not be the pain (literally) today if I had the
machines available today.

I suggest that anyone who wants to continue at the bench research
and invest in the best devices available to prevent bodily damage.
Unfortunately, once the damage has happened you often realize that
damage “creped up on you” and you did not prevent it from happening.

After 30 years in the business, ergonomics is a relatively "new"
term. That is unfortunate. Also unfortunate is for the employed,
that is, those who are not self-employed, the need for speed often
outweighs the need for ergonomics. I have seen few employers who
seriously take the need of the bench worker to heart. This includes
everything from ergonomic tools, set-up and equipment to health safe
dust collectors. A previous employer agreed with me to replace the
old 1940’s buffer/collector with an efficient Handler device only
after I proved to him how much gold he was losing! The decision had
nothing to do with health. Health was my goal and through business
economics the change was made. Too bad it was not so easily (I say
easily with tongue in cheek) done with ergonomic tools and bench
set-ups.

You can purchase a watchmaker’s bench from Rolex if you want…if you
are a Rolex dealer. This wonderfully ergonomic bench was close to
$2500 US when I last checked a few years ago. We can do the same
with less money IF enough attention is paid to the real bodily needs
of the bench worker. Those needs of concern for the bench worker are
real and should be addressed properly. Some jewelry companies do
address those needs and I tip my hat to them. Others.well, nuff said
on that.

Thanks for the good line of thought.
God Bless and Peace.
TomDart.

Janet et al on Orchid !

When I got my office two years ago, I went out of my way and bought
a $400.00 chair, all the “bells and whistles” on it. This chair takes
all of the weight off of my feet, so much that the body-weight is
taken to the seat of this chair so my feet are just lightly
"touching" the floor. back and lumbar supports (adjustable), arm
rests, (adjustable), tush-height, (adjustable), shoulder supports
(adjustable), seat tilting forward (adjustable)…what I spent then,
is now at my home P.C. and just loving it more! spend the higher
dollar and feel relaxed and it’ll come back to you in leaps and
bounds…when I am at the setting-shop, I get up and walk around
every hour for a coffee, stretch, get those feet moving,…the
"dollar" will come back to you soon enuf!

I wear now sandals that allow circulation for the blood and let the
feet ‘breath’…NEVER wear tight shoes, wear loose fitting clothing,
use an " soft pad of towels" for the elbow rest. Never let your elbow
rest on the hard bench pan, you might permanently damage the nerves
in the elbow-joint. Sit at the bench, never up to it or lean into it.
! sit so that your back is perpendicular to the to your
resting/working position. Never let the blood in your legs ‘pool’, how
do you do this? move your legs move around the chair legs and keep
them “active” every few minutes, curl your toes, it might look silly
but its your body and blood clots happen!

My family doctor told of his own story, he took a flight to Miami,
it took only 3.5 hours from Toronto. He had ‘pains’ in his leg. He
had a blood clot and it “WAS TRAVELLING !” he admitted himself into
the “Emergency” at a local hospital. He was ‘stuck’ in his seat and
not being able to move around…we can move around, or things like
this WILL & CAN HAPPEN !..Gerry!

Heck yeah, I have a problem with my neck and back - and arms. I
recently injured myself while learning to raise at school. As I’m
only in my third year of school and have a history of repetitive
stress issues from my prior office career, this concerns me deeply. I
hurt myself this last spring as well (likely by woodturning and the
hammer hand piece too much), so am going through all the known steps
of determining what processes are a problem for me. As part of this,
I’ve been meaning to post to Orchid and ask if anyone else has
problems with raising that might have any solutions, or at the least,
things known in the field that I can inform my doctor of.

I’ve been going to a chiropractor for several years, which helps
incredibly, but this injury has left me unable to work for over a
week now - not good when in the midst of a BFA (or any other time, I
know). I started acupuncture last week, and it has really reduced the
pain and given me movement again. My gym attendance has been sporadic
(I try for twice/week and am lucky if I get there once/week), so am
making that a bigger priority now.

I’m very interested in the binocular loupes mentioned as well as all
ergonomic suggestions. I’ve been reading up on the stresses caused by
hammering, so if anyone has more about that, I’d love to
know about it.

Anyone else out there unable to raise, or am I the only one?

Regards,
Amy Johnston

Noel, and all on Orchid !

The stronger the lens#7, or even a #10 lens for an Opti-Visor will
mean the closer you will be ‘bending’ over towards your work. Hence,
neck-problems! Do not take this route. I use only a #5 lens and in
collaboration with a 10 power hand loupe, anything stronger is
totally over-kill !

For jewellers, they can use a # 3, if they get too close with a
torch…“woops!” so I have been using only a #5 all of my 46 setting
years and counting! Number #7 reduces the focal distance and again
gives you some eye strain. “Eye-Strain” means that your eyes will be
turning inward constantly and severe strain will ensue…headaches, no
relaxing of the eye muscles.Why do this?

Eye distance for a #10 lens is 3 inches, number #7 is 5 inches away
from the bench peg. with a #5 your focusing range is less demanding,
thus leading to a vertical body position…

Gerry!

Hi Gang,

Plus, it seems there must be something with good, clear, adjustable
optics in the huge range between $28 for an optivisor and $500-
$1000 for surgical loupes. I have seen ones that come mounted on
glasses frames from Edron for $78. Does anyone know anything about
these? EBay offers some that claim to be "much better than Edron"
for about $150,

I’d have to agree with Noel, having to pay over $500 for a set of
binocular magnifiers without having a chance to try them is a bit
intimidating. Since I wear glasses any way, I’ve found a great
solution that suits me to a tee! Edroy makes a set of clip on
magnifiers that are available in different powers that result in
different working distances.

The magnifiers clip on to your glasses using a wire spring that
grips the bottom of each lens & the top of the nose piece. There’s
no dark plastic to block part of your field of view. The magnifiers
themselves are mounted on the end of a clear plastic boom that is
adjustable up & down. The magnifiers are light weight & don’t put
any noticeable weight on your glasses. The nice thing about them is
that your vision isn’t restricted to what you can see through the
magnifiers themselves. It’s easy to look around the lenses & see
things on the bench or folks coming into the room. The only negative
about them is they require a set of glasses in which each lens is
about 40 mm or larger in diameter for attachment.

I’m sure they’re available in other places, but I know they’re
listed in the Stuller tool catalog. They’re available in
magnifications from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 power with focal lengths from 20
to 4 inches. They’re priced from $18.95 to $19.95.

Usual disclaimers. Just a happy user & satisfied customer.

Dave

   Anyone else out there unable to raise, or am I the only one? 

Hi Amy: Yeah, I had to give it up or at least not do it very often.
I developed a severe Trigger Finger (in my left thumb) which was very
painful and debilitating. I opted to quit raising in lieu of having
surgery. After a year, my trigger thumb returned to normal. I do
occasionally raise a small bowl, but nothing more than that. I’m
sorry I can’t continue to do it since I really loved it, but I’m not
for having surgery and decided this was one process I could live
without. Perhaps I just didn’t hold my work correctly, whatever, but
the result was my trigger thumb and pain.

Kay

Regarding injuries resulting from our work at the bench…a while
back someone on Orchid recommended seeing a chiropractor that uses
ART (Active Release Technique), I went to a chiropractic who uses
this technique and have since stopped taking prescription
anti-inflammatories for low back pain. I have also had him work on my
thumb joints as I have over-used them, it seems to have helped.

Check out www.activerelease.com

Margaret

    It seems most injury I have developed comes from the "ring
clamp" and working both hands in stone setting, mostly including
bright cut, pave and channel work. That is my guess. In that case,
the solution was simply not available in an easily usable form.
Today, apparently it is in the form of pneumatic hammers to assist
in all sorts of work requiring great pressure applied with precise
control. That pneumatic assistance just might have saved my wrists
and hands. I really do not know but suspect some of the present
physical problems would not be the pain (literally) today if I had
the machines available today. 

Also mentioned in the above post is the use of a “third hand.” Do
yourself a favor and invest in the GRS Benchmate with the
accessories you need. It isn’t what I’d call inexpensive, but it is
one of the most valuable tools I’ve ever owned. You won’t be sorry,
I promise.

James in SoFl

Dear Peggy

As a calligrapher and part time jeweler, I sit a lot. I agree with
my fellow Orchidians who suggest frequent breaks for stretching. This
has helped me. Yoga has also helped. Perhaps there are some gentle
yoga poses that would be good. I’m sure a beginners yoga class would
teach these. Walking is also a great excercise for those of us at the
bench and drawing board. Hope this is of use.

Best
Elizabeth

Anyone else out there unable to raise, or am I the only one? 

Are you hammering at the right height? If you are short, the stake
you are using may be too high resulting in you lifting your shoulder
to compensate. The hammer and your arm should be in alignment and
the swing from the elbow. Are you annealing enough? If not, the
metal requires more force than what it should. Are you using the
right hammer to either push or stretch the metal? It all adds up.
Also as mentioned, breaks and stretching are very important. I have
a chronic shoulder problem and feel lucky that I don’t have to do
any of this full time.

marilyn smith

Hi all,

I have the Edron $78 specs I wear over my glasses and I have to say
they have saved me. I can “see” now. They are not encumbering and are
definitely comfortable. You set them quite like setting binoculars to
focus and then leave them there. I found the clip ons too heavy for
my glasses (the frameless kind).

Jennifer Friedman