All posts in Ergonomics

6 Tips for Buying a Mattress (And Sleeping Well)

6 Tips for Buying a Mattress (And Sleeping Well)

Consider the importance and value of a good night’s sleep (beyond the price tag) when you are looking for a new mattress. Your back will thank you.

A 2011 study by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) reports that 41% of women and 36% of men claimed their back pain was caused by a poor night’s sleep. The pain can often be attributed to the firmness, size, or the offered back support of the mattress. If you’ve ever woken up with a sore neck or back, you may want to evaluate the quality of your mattress. Your mattress can play an important role in maintaining your MSK health. Here are a few tips to consider when making a purchase. 

When to replace your mattress

Waking up from slumber with a sore back on repeated occasions can be a sign that it is time to switch to a newer mattress. Typically, it is said that after 10 years, the bed will begin to deteriorate, which is the best time to consider buying a new one.

What size do I need?

Mattress size depends on the number and size of people sleeping on the bed; therefore, consider the following1,2:

  1. Buy a mattress that provides the proper support for your entire body and promotes good posture.
  2. The sleeper’s spine should lay parallel and not sag in any area because the bed is too soft, or bow because the bed is too hard.
  3. The mattress should be six inches longer than the tallest person sleeping in the bed.
  4. The width of the bed should allow enough space for the person’s pillow and even for a person to put their hands behind their head without their elbows touching any other person sleeping.
  5. If the person is a restless sleeper, it is recommended that the bed be wider to accommodate some tossing and turning.
  6. Take time to try out the bed before you buy and see if it’s right for you.

There are many options to consider when it comes to purchasing a mattress. Make sure to take the time to explore and do your research, especially if you are looking for specific features to meet your needs. A good night’s rest is important for your MSK health and ensures you can continue doing your daily activities. Consider these tips for your next mattress—your back depends on it!



1 British Chiropractic Association, Mind Your Posture When Buying a Bed,

2 Utah State University, Selecting a Comfortable Mattress,

Contributing to a Healthy Canadian Workforce: Appropriate Care for Muscle, Bone & Nerve Conditions

Contributing to a Healthy Canadian Workforce: Appropriate Care for Muscle, Bone & Nerve Conditions

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: low back pain (LBP) is at epidemic levels in Canada. Over 80% of Canadians can expect to suffer an episode of LBP in their lifetime, and it is a leading cause of disability and prolonged work absences.1 Chronic and recurrent low back pain is also responsible for the majority of MSK-related healthcare costs – an estimated $12 billion yearly – and that figure does not even include the economic impact to Canadian society resulting from lost productivity, absences and disability payments.2 Considering that by 2027, one in three Canadians will be over 55 years old and facing increased risk of developing MSK issues,3 it is vital to devise a comprehensive MSK strategy and ensure access to appropriate care sooner rather than later.

As we’ve discussed in past blog posts about Workplace Injuries and Healthcare Sustainability, chronic and recurring MSK conditions are by far the most financially taxing on Canada’s healthcare system – and they can have a devastating impact personally, whether it’s from lost income (absenteeism), or continuing to work through the pain (presenteeism). What is being done about it?

Low Back Pain: Medical Intervention

According to Statistics Canada, those in chronic pain are most likely to seek professional care from doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and psychologists.4 Many patients are managed primarily through pharmaceutical options, diagnostic imaging and surgical referrals. But, is this the most appropriate care?

There is evidence that medical treatment of LBP in Canada, the US and England has very high healthcare costs, with limited patient outcomes. In Alberta, a 2009 review of the suitability of ordering MRI scans revealed that one-third of MRI requisitions were ordered to determine whether or not patients suffering from low back pain needed surgery. Researchers found that only 44% of the tests were deemed appropriate and that less than 1% of cases were, in fact, candidates for surgery.5 Within 10 years in Ontario, MRIs increased by 619% and CT scans increased by 199%,5 although data suggests that clinical assessments made by MSK experts decrease the overuse of MRIs. This not only results in significant healthcare savings, but spares patients from the stress and risks of undergoing unnecessary diagnostic imaging.

Similarly, those coping with chronic pain who seek medical intervention are likely to be prescribed opioids. Opioids may be appropriate for some, but certainly not all. Alarmingly, Canadians are the world’s second largest (per capita) consumers of prescription opioids.6 In 2012, approximately 410,000 Canadians self-reported abuse of psychoactive drugs, including opioids, stimulants, tranquilizers and sedatives.7 In the same year, in Ontario alone, over 60% of drug-related deaths were related to prescription opioids.8 It is conceivable that some of these cases could have been managed with appropriate and conservative care.

What is “appropriate” care?

Appropriate care is based on valid evidence, and the benefits of care need to exceed potential harm. Appropriate care is also cost effective and consistent with ethical principles that reflect individual preferences and show clear benefits to a community. Conversely, inappropriate care can complicate care or even have a detrimental impact on Canadians’ health.

For many Canadians, access to appropriate non-pharmaceutical options may help relieve pain but also manage the complexity of comorbidities and decrease the likelihood of opioid addiction. Early chiropractic intervention of MSK injuries and disorders addresses problems before they become chronic (lasting more than three months) and helps patients effectively manage pain and other disorders that increasingly plague the Canadian workforce.

Pain doesn’t have to be a part of work life and shouldn’t result in disability or early retirement. Work pain-free for longer, feel healthier and enjoy a better quality of life.

Sourced from the Canadian Chiropractic Association 

 1. Dionne CE, Dunn KM, Croft PR. Does back pain prevalence really decrease with increasing age? A systematic review. Age Ageing 2006;35(3):229-34. Epub 2006 Mar 17 
 2. Brown A, Angus D, Chen S, Tang Z, Milne S, Pfaff J, Li H, Mensinkai S. Costs and outcomes of chiropractic treatment for low back pain [Technology report no 56]. Ottawa: Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment; 2005. 
 3. McGee R, Bevan S, Quadrello T. Fit For Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Canadian Labour Market, 2009 The Work Foundation 
 4. Ramage-Morin P, Gilmour H. 2007/2008 Canadian Community Health Survey, Health Reports 2010:21(4), Statistics Canada 
 5. Emery D, Forster A, Shojania K, Magnan S, Tubman M, Feasby T. Management of MRI Wait Lists in Canada, Health Policy. Feb 2009; 4(3): 76–86 
 6. International Narcotics Control Board. (2013). Narcotics Drugs: Estimated World Requirements for 2013; Statistics for 2011. New York: United Nations. 
 7. HESA, Evidence, 2nd Session, 41st Parliament, 6 November 2013, 1530 (Robert Ianiro, Director General, Controlled Substances and Tobacco Directorate, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch, Health Canada). 
 8. HESA, Evidence, 2nd Session, 41st Parliament, 20 November 2013, 1530 (Michel Perron, Chief Executive Officer and Paula Robeson, Knowledge Broker, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse).

What is Perfect Posture?

What is Perfect Posture?

The Importance of Good Posture

Good posture not only makes you look better, it also delivers increased energy, better breathing, improved circulation, and less wear-and-tear on your joints. It’s an investment in both your appearance and your health.


What is Perfect Posture?

The secret to good posture is maintaining the spine’s natural curves. If your spine is not properly aligned, your muscles and ligaments have to work harder to keep you upright and this can result in strain and pain.

When you slouch, you also put pressure on your lungs and stomach. This can affect breathing and digestion, as well as blood flow.

Does your posture pass the test?

Use a three-way mirror or have a friend help you check out these markers:

  • When standing: your head, shoulders, hips and ankles should line up, one comfortably above the other. Your knees should be slightly bent and your feet should be shoulder-width apart or more.
  • When looking at your back: are your shoulders and hips level or is one side higher than the other? Does your head tilt to one side or the other? Does one shoulder blade seem to be more prominent than the other? Do the muscles of the back seem more developed on one side, compared to the other? A healthy back should be symmetrical.
  • When looking from the side, your neck and low back should curve to the front of your body, and your mid-back and pelvis should curve to the back. Postural distortions in the curves of your spine mean stress and strain on your back.

Tips for Standing Tall

  • If you use a bag or briefcase with a single shoulder strap, choose a strap that is long enough to place over your head and rest on the opposite side from the bag. This helps distribute the weight of the bag evenly and prevents distorting your posture.
  • High heels throw your spine out of alignment, making good posture difficult and often leading to low back pain. A low-heeled, supportive shoe is best, but if you are devoted to your fashion footwear, try to restrict the height to no more than two inches.
  • Try not to sit in any one position for a long period of time. Take a quick stretch break or change positions every 30-45 minutes. For a quick and easy spinal stretch, stand up and raise your arms above your head.
  • Strengthening your core back and abdominal muscles will help promote good posture by keeping your spine well supported.
  • Check out the posture medic. It is a great tool to assist with proper form for the upper back.

Canada’s chiropractors are specialists in back health. If you are concerned about your posture, consider an evaluation.

-Provided by Ontario Chiropractic Association

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The following information is my personal notes about this subject matter. It is intended for informational purposes only. Consult a health practitioner to help you diagnose and treat injuries of any kind.


Tips for Selecting an Ergonomic Office Chair


When shopping for the best ergonomic office chair, getting a chair that fits your unique needs should be the top priority. Not every chair labeled “ergonomic” has all the adjustment features necessary to truly be ergonomic. Here are the top 5 things you need to consider to help you make a better selection.

1. Seat pan comfort and shape

When you sit in the chair the seat pan should be at least one inch wider than your hips and thighs on either side. The seat pan should not be too long for your legs otherwise it will either catch you behind the knees or it will prevent you from leaning fully back against the lumbar support. Most ergonomic chairs have a seat pan with a waterfall front that prevents the seat from catching you behind the knees. The seat pan should also be contoured to allow even weight distribution and it should be comfortable to sit on.

2. Think adjustable

Always ensure that your chair is pneumatically adjustable so that you can adjust seat pan height while you are sitting on the chair.

You should be able to adjust the height of the seat pan so that the front of your knees is level or slightly below level and your feet are firmly on the ground. In most cases there should be no need for you to use a footrest. The mechanism to adjust seat height should be easy to reach and operate when you are seated.

3. Lumbar support is key

Many chairs have cushioned lumbar supports that can be adjusted up and down and forwards and backwards to best fit your shape. If the chair will be used by multiple users then this level of adjustment may be required. However if you are the primary user of the chair then a fixed lumbar support may be acceptable, if it feels comfortable.

4. Don’t forget about the hips

A chair that doesn’t provide enough hip room can make you sit too far forwards on the seat pan, which doesn’t provide so that you will not have enough thigh support.

5. Have a long-term strategy

Think about how the chair will feel after 60 or 120 minutes. Low-density foam seat pans can become permanently deformed after long term use which can affect cushioned support leading to discomfort, imbalance and hip and back fatigue.

And one bonus tip!

6. Chair covers 101

There is a whole range of upholstery materials available, each of which has benefits and concerns. Vinyl and vinyl-like coverings are easy to clean and spill resistant, but they don’t breathe and if the chair begins to heat up under the thighs uncomfortable amounts of moisture can accumulate. Cloth upholstery is the most common covering, but this is less resistant to spills and more difficult to clean. A cloth covered seat pan can also become warm and moisture laden, and cloth covered foam seat pans can be a significant source of dust mite allergen. When selecting your chair covering think about cleaning and maintenance issues and plan appropriately.

Provided by: Dr. Luciano Di Loreto, HBSc., D.C. & Associates



Avoid the Travel Injuries


In the flurry of packing for a vacation or business trip, it’s easy to get carried away and pack every­thing but the kitchen sink into your suitcase and carry-on. But over-packed luggage and improper lifting and carrying techniques are common causes of injury to the back, neck and shoulders.

The good news is many of these injuries can be easily prevented. The following tips can help take the pain out of your vacation:

Choosing your luggage:

  • When shopping for new luggage, look for a sturdy, light, high-quality and transportable piece. Avoid purchasing luggage that is too heavy or bulky when empty.
  • Choosing a bag with wheels and a handle can go a long way to lighten your load.
  • A good quality backpack with adjustable, padded shoulder straps and a waist strap makes an ideal carry-on because, when worn properly, backpacks can evenly distribute weight.

Packing your luggage:

  • Over-packing is an easy pitfall, but consider that the larger and heavier the luggage, the more susceptible a traveller is to neck, back and shoulder injuries. Try to only pack what you absolutely need.
  • When possible, place items in a few smaller bags, instead of one large luggage piece.
  • Ensure your carry-on luggage does not weigh more than 10 to 15 per cent of your body weight.
  • Keep the contents of any carry-on luggage to a minimum, pack heavy items at the bottom of the bag and make efficient use of the bag’s pockets.

Lifting and carrying your luggage:

Lifting your luggage can’t always be avoided, even if your luggage has wheels. But practising safe lifting techniques can substantially reduce your risk of injury.

  • Move slowly and, whenever possible, break the action into smaller parts. For instance, when loading a suitcase in the trunk of a car, try lifting it first onto a chair or step-stool, then lifting it into the trunk. Similarly, when placing luggage in an overhead com­partment, first lift it onto the top of the seat.
  • When lifting your luggage, first get close to the load and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend at the knees and let your leg muscles, rather than your back, do the lifting.
  • Hold the load close to your body.
  • Avoid twisting. Instead, turn your feet in the direction you are headed and turn your entire body in that direction.
  • Do not carry bulky luggage for long peri­ods of time. Make sure to check heavier items when travelling rather than carrying them for the duration of the trip.
  • Try to carry light pieces in each hand rather than a single heavy item on one side.
  • If using a backpack, use both shoulder straps and the waist strap, and adjust them to minimize the bag’s movement.
  • If using a duffel or shoulder bag, switch sides often to reduce strain.

Shared by Dr. Luciano Di Loreto, HBSc., D.C. & Associates