You start to turn and there it is again. You go to stand up from your
chair and it happens again. It's that nagging pain in your neck or lower
back. After several years on the bench, jewelers often develop chronic
neck or back injuries.
Bench jewelers will spend most of the time in the workshop seated at
their workbench. Therefore, time is well spent in adjusting and arranging
it. A poorly adjusted chair and workbench will not only cause discomfort,
fatigue, and muscle cramps that reduce worker efficiency, but more importantly,
it may develop into leg, back, or neck injury.
Many varieties of workbench styles are available from jewelry tool and
equipment suppliers. Unfortunately most all benches come in a standard
height of 39" to 40" and are not adjustable. This one size fits
all bench height fits worse than one-size fits all clothing. Since jewelers
are not all the same height, the workbench MUST be adjusted to fit them
Adjusting Your Chair In order to achieve the proper workbench height you must first start with
the chair. A jeweler may sit in their chair for over eight hours per day,
every day, and even longer during the Christmas Season. A quality chair
designed to be sat in for long periods of time and ergonomically designed
is essential. Your body, limbs, spine, and neck are supported by and affected
by the chair you sit in. Pain associated with seating may develop slowly,
often over many months or even years. A good chair will go a long way
toward preventing these problems.
When selecting a chair do not be fooled by the visual appearance. For
example, a soft, overly padded chair may look inviting. When you sit in
it for the first few moments, it may feel comfortable and soothing. Over
an eight-hour workday, however, this chair may not support your back,
legs, and spine properly.
Once you have purchased a chair, you must adjust it. The best chair in
the world is worthless if it is not adjusted correctly.
Adjust the height of the chair so that when seated with feet flat on
the floor the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. You should
be able to feel the seat of the chair along the back of your thighs. You
should feel enough pressure to support your upper legs, but not too much
pressure as to cut off or restrict circulation. The angle between the
torso and the thighs should not be less than 90 or greater than 110 .
From this position, you need to adjust the height of the workbench. DO
NOT adjust the height of the chair to the workbench.
A chair too high is awkward for shorter jewelers, and it is hard to reach
the foot pedal for the flex shaft. It puts pressure on the thighs, restricting
circulation in the legs. Improper support of the legs and thighs leads
to chronic back injury.
A chair too low is uncomfortable for taller jewelers. Their knees are
raised too high eliminating any support of their thighs. This causes compression
of the lower spine and body organs. Alternatively, they bend their legs
awkwardly under them, causing fatigue and cramping. Both lead to chronic
A backrest on the chair is necessary to help support the spine. The backrest
should support the lower and middle of your back, from your waist to just
below your shoulder blades. Less than this does not give adequate support;
more than this restricts movement. Adjust the backrest up or down to give
this support. Then adjust the backrest forward or backwards so that there
is 2" to 4" of clearance between the front edge of the seat
and the inside of your knees. Just like your thighs against the chair
seat, you should be able to feel the support of the chair backrest along
your back. While sitting your spine is supported either by a backrest
or by your muscles. Avoid fatigue from muscular backache and get a chair
with a properly adjusted backrest.Adjusting Your Bench To determine the proper workbench height, sit comfortably in a properly
adjusted chair. Sit up straight with your back against the backrest. In
this position, your bench pin should come to the center of your breastbone.
If it does not, you need to adjust the height of your bench. Buying the
proper chair and adjusting it correctly will do you no good if you hunch
over your work because your bench is too short!
If your bench is too tall, you can cut the required amount off each leg.
Be certain to cut exactly the same amount off each leg so that the bench
does not wobble. If the bench is too short, glue a block of wood to the
bottom of each leg to raise the bench.
Visors Many magnifying visors available in the jewelry industry hold the magnifying
lens plate out directly in front of your eyes. This forces you to look
straight ahead, not down at your work. To see your work on your bench
pin you must bend over your work. This also leads to chronic back and
Many jewelers further complicate this problem when someone comes to talk
to them while working. Rather than raise the visor, they bend their necks
back and look down under the visor to see the person. Over time, a jeweler
develops a whiplash type injury from this extreme bending of the neck.
A better alternative is to use a magnifier that sets lower in front of
the eyes, such as reading glasses. To use, you look down through the glasses
and only need to bend your head forward slightly, if at all. Then to see
someone you can look straight out over the glasses without bending your
neck.Chiropractor Last, but certainly not least, visit a chiropractor. Find a chiropractor
that works with occupational injuries and provides maintenance care. Chiropractors
that only work with acute injuries (such as auto accidents) may not be
as proficient at working with chronic injury that bench jewelers develop.
In addition, find a chiropractor that will take x-rays of your spine before
making any adjustments. Any competent chiropractor will want to see just
what condition your spine is in before making adjustments.By making a few ergonomic adjustments to your shop and work habits as
well as receiving chiropractic maintenance; your back will begin to feel
good as new and you will have one less Pain In The Neck!