The Seat of Your Discomfort

"It's kind of like the three bears," said Steve Conway, a doctor of chiropractic medicine based in Wasau, Wis., referring to the childhood tale. "You've got to find just the right spot."

But Conway, who consults with many companies on ergonomics in the workplace, cautions that just because a label says ergonomic does not mean it will solve all pain problems. Rather, it is more important to fit the chair and the work station to the person.

Scott Bautch, of the American Chiropractic Association, recalled a female patient who had terrible pain in her back and wrists. He observed her at work and found her sitting at an L-shaped desk, pulling herself from one work station to the other with her hands because her feet did not touch the floor.

"It was not a typing problem, like I thought," Bautch said. He recommended a stool and a smooth mat under the chair, and the patient's pain disappeared.

Movement is another key to pain relief, and doctors recommend taking "microbreaks" every 20 minutes to stretch and walk around.

But stay away from pain medications. "They only mask the problem," Erickson said. Movement and exercise, say these professionals, are more effective, long-lasting ways to combat the pain.

"The body relishes variety," Bautch said. "You're gonna use the muscles you're resting and rest the muscles you're using."

Benjamin, for one, now takes care to sit properly when she sees patients and move around when she takes breaks.

"Currently I'm quite good," Benjamin said. "But I've never washed stockings the same way since."

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