Ergonomics is a term that has only been around for a few years but it attempts to address problems that have beset human beings perhaps from the beginnings of humanity.
You may have only heard the term in connection with computers, desk chairs and the proper height for a keyboard but thwarting ergonomics was bringing pain to people long before there were computers, desks or chairs, for that matter.
So what does this fancy sounding word mean?
"Ergonomics" is made up of two words from the Greek, "ergon" which means "work" and "nomoi" which means "natural laws".
You could define ergonomics then as natural laws and how they pertain to a person working. Or it might be defined as About.com described it, as "the science of work and a person's relationship to that work".
The International Ergonomics Association defines it thusly, as "the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance."
In a nutshell, it is the science that has to do with you being able to do your work in a way that is efficient, comfortable and not harmful to your body.
Have you had to live with carpal tunnel syndrome after working for way too long at a computer where the keyboard was not in a suitable height, and your chair was not a good fit?
Do you sit for hours with your legs curled under you or your feet bent at odd angles? Did you ever lift a heavy object, carelessly thinking you were impervious to injury and throw your back out?
Back pain, neck pain, headaches, and pain and numbness that radiates up and down your arms, these are just some of the consequences that will sour your days and lengthen your sleepless nights when you ignore ergonomics at your peril.
Defying the laws of ergonomics can leave you vulnerable to repetitive strain injury, also known as RSI. Repetitive motion can be a factor in an injury. Doing the same movements continuously for hours or every few seconds can be a direct route to hurting yourself.