Ergonomics - Groomer to Groomer


By Mary Oquendo

I decided many years ago that I wanted to be that old lady that zip lines, jumps out of an airplane, and dances to the wee hours of the morning. But, in order to be in a position to do so, I have found it will be far easier to maintain my good health now than trying to repair decades of damage later on.

While there are many ways to maintain your wellness, this article is going to discuss ergonomics.

Ergonomics is defined as the study of work. It is the science of adapting a job to fit the worker. Its purpose is to reduce or eliminate musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

Musculoskeletal disorder affects the parts of the body responsible for movement such as: muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, vertebrae, blood vessels, and bones.

A short list of examples of MSD’s include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Epicondylitis
  • DeQuervain’s Syndrome
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Digital Neuritis
  • Herniated Disc
  • Ligament/Muscle/Tendon Strain
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Trigger Finger/Thumb
  • Ruptured Disc

According to the Bureau of Labor: Musculoskeletal disorders are responsible for close to 30% of all workers’ compensation costs with an average price tag of about $15,000.

Musculoskeletal disorders begin when the muscles in the affected area become fatigued and are not allowed sufficient time to recover. Over time, when this fatigue/non-recovery time cycle is repeated, a disorder develops.

There are work related risk factors, as well as individual risk factors. Both contribute to the threat of musculoskeletal disorders.

Let’s start with individual responsibility. It’s poor overall health habits that are the culprit. They include, but most certainly are not limited to:


Not only does smoking contribute to MSD’s, but to a host of many chronic medical conditions. Quit smoking. There are many options to help you quit today that were not in place 30 years ago when I kicked the habit.

Alcohol consumption.

Excessive alcoholic drinking taxes the liver making it harder for your body to process those foods that cause inflammation. Reduce the amount of alcohol you consume on a regular basis and drink a glass of water in between alcoholic drinks. Alcohol is a diuretic and water helps to prevent dehydration.

Lack of sleep.

Inadequate sleep disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, which causes hormonal imbalances. This, in turn, affects the function of your organs and their ability to do their job. Going to bed at the same time every night, as well as turning off all electronics at least one hour beforehand, may improve your sleep patterns.


Diets high in sugar, caffeine, saturated and trans fats, omega 6 oils, refined carbohydrates, MSG, gluten and casein, and artificial sugars increase inflammation throughout the body. Eliminating or reducing these types of food will reduce inflammation that may cause pain.


Dehydration damages organs. The basic rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces everyday.

Physically unfit.

Regular exercise strengthens your muscles, which reduces the required recovery time from work fatigue.


Carrying extra weight puts a burden on the entire musculoskeletal system.

There are five primary work related risk behaviors.

Highly repetitive tasks.

This would include scissoring, brushing, combing, drying, and clipping. To minimize the fatigue caused by these actions, take breaks as well as properly fit tools for your body type. In addition, learn how to use the tool in the manner for which it was designed. This is one of the reasons I love to go to trade shows. I can try out equipment, see how it fits and feels in my hands and the manufacturer representatives are on hand to demonstrate their proper usage.

Forceful exertions.

Improperly lifting heavy dogs or moving heavy equipment can cause damage to your musculoskeletal system. Install ramps, use electric tables, and/or request help from a co-worker.

Awkward postures.

This includes working at incorrect heights. Adjust tables to a comfortable working height, as well as add grates to tubs to raise smaller pets so as to not consistently bend over. In addition, instead of bending around the pet to work on them, raise or lower the table or walk around to the other side of the pet.

Vibrating tools.

On the basis of a 1983 National Occupational Exposure Survey, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has linked the use of vibrating tools to Raynaud’s disease. As a profession, we need to use clippers. However, we can test clippers at trade shows before buying to feel the vibration, talk to the manufacturers’ representatives about the vibrational levels of a particular clipper, as well as take breaks while using clippers.

Sustained postures.

Sustained is standing or sitting in one position for any length of time. Change up your positions instead by alternating between standing and sitting. In addition, adding floor mats will reduce stress on your body. Look for restaurant grade mats. They tend to be more expensive. However, they will last longer and are far more effective than their inexpensive counterparts. Quality shoes can also reduce stress on your body if they are fitted for your foot type. Your foot arch should determine the type of shoe best suited for you. There are three types of arches: neutral, low (flat feet), and high. Stores that specialize in walking or athletic shoes tend to have more knowledgeable sales staff regarding the right shoes for you.

The earlier you begin to make changes in your personal lifestyle, as well as in work habits, the easier it is to mitigate or even reverse the damage that has been caused by years of neglect. Come join me o n that zip line!

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