Backcare Awareness Week 2015 special


Wednesday 7 October 2015


Nancy Monk


Nancy Monk will tell us about back pain, upper limb disorders, repetitive strain injuries, visual fatigue and mental strength. She'll also cover the topics of manual handling and keyboard work, and outline the importance of DSE set-up.


Nancy holds an M.Ost in Osteopathic Medicine, a certificate in Advanced Ergonomics, and has completed courses in Occupational Psychology, Education and Learning, Occupational Health Law and Assistive Technology.

Nancy works with Posturite to complete higher level workplace assessments as well as training in Assistive Technology. She is also a practicing Osteopath.

Presentation slides

Unfortunately, due to a technical fault, we were unable to record this webinar for you to listen in again, but we have managed to obtain the slides from the presentation that were used, which you can download here.


Q: Can you provide some evidence based information / advice on the best interventions to reduce the health risks such as back pain that may arise from prolonged standing in the workplace? Thanks.


  • Keep moving
  • Remember to move away from the workstation as often as you would when seated
  • You can get anti-fatigue mats that provide sturdy, cushioned support underfoot
  • The key is to vary your position and move as much as possible, but obviously standing for prolonged periods has its’ own negative effects – although arguably not as many as prolonged sitting.

Q: Please can you state the best method of using mice and keyboards to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome, and whether wrist rests are any use or just soft ways of crushing the carpel tunnel areas?

A: Keyboards should be placed close to you on the desk with the mouse tucked in close to the side of the keyboard.

Depending on the ability of the typist and whether they have floating wrists or not when keying, wrist rests can be useful to encourage better wrist posture, but for those who pivot on their wrists they are not such a good idea. Keyboards shouldn’t be tilted upwards as this causes excess strain through the carpal tunnel area.

Q: The HSE do not stipulate the length of time an individual must work at a display screen for it to be classed as habitual. What would be your recommended time for this? We have several managers who have differing views.

A: If a part of the working day is regularly spent at the computer then it’s habitual. Unfortunately as you stated, there is no stipulations, it is all rather vague. But when we are looking at set-up, then personally I think using any DSE or device for anything longer than 60 minutes a day, whether continuous or not, needs to be assessed.

Q: Can Nancy explain a little more about the terms 'specific' and 'non-specific' strain injuries as no longer using repetitive? Thanks.

A: Most occupational upper limb injuries and disorders are now grouped together as ULD or NSULDs (Upper Limb Disorders or Non Specific Upper Limb Disorders) – the same for lower limb too.

This covers injuries or issues that have been diagnosed, and those that have no apparent aetiology or definite diagnosis. They are umbrella terms that help maintain confidentiality and reduce any stigmas.

Q: Is there any advice for individuals who have neck pain due to 'wear and tear'? Exercises or equipment. Thanks.


  • Ensure your screen is at the right height for your typing ability and height
  • Check the eye to screen distance as too far away means you can hold your head forward, increasing strain through the posterior muscles
  • Neck exercises should be prescribed by your physio/osteo/chiro for your individual needs
  • Have the mouse and keyboard close to you so your arms aren’t stretched out which adds strain through the neck
  • Place the documents in a central position between the keyboard and screen, preferably in an elevated position to avoid any excess rotation and flexion through the spinal joints in the neck
  • Document holders that sit centrally are a good idea. If there is pain in the neck when using the mouse, a roller mouse may be beneficial as it stops any abduction of the upper extremities

Q: A lot of our staff are being told by external specialists that they need a standing desk. I know there is some theory around this but is it really the solution or are they just being advised without thorough thought?

A: Having the ability to vary your posture throughout the day is the ideal for everybody. In many cases it is a good solution. If you have queries about the particular need for a specific individual, it would be best to question the assessor and ask for a thorough justification.

Q: Does the sit-stand desk not create another musculoskeletal problem to the end user?

A: If not used in the way it is intended, yes it can cause other issues. ANY prolonged and/or static posture adopted will cause strain and possible injury though.

Q: There is a 25-26 degrees Celsius in the office I am working in. We have evaporative cooling systems instead of air-conditioning and when it's on people complain it's too windy / cold. How do we approach this problem. We already adjusted flow but people seem to feel cold when temperature drops to 24. Please advise

A: Difficult if there is a divide in opinion and it is in the appropriate range (which is between 19-23 degrees Celsius). It sounds like the temperature is a bit high at your workplace, taking the guidelines and approved codes of practice into consideration. I would advise you to speak to your manager.