Ergonomics and Jewelry Making – Pain Prevention

Safety and Ergonomics

Your hands, eyes and upper body are your most important and most vulnerable tools. Jewelry making creates a situation in which you use these tools in in an extremely intensive way.

Small movements are repeated many times over and this repetitive use of the hands with the same positions and motion can cause injury, pain and numbness. Incorrect or careless use positioning or use of tools can cause you to lose the ability to work for weeks or months at a time to give them time to heal. A little care taken before and during your work period will help keep your hands, eyes and upper body healthy.

Prepare to Work

Gently move the hands for a couple of minutes before you start working. Bend, flex, rotate, extend and stretch your hands. Wear eye protection when you are using power tools or torches or working with long pieces of wire.

Posture and Ergonomics

Good ergonomics when sated will help your neck, shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers when you are working for long periods of time. Be sure your seat height is correct for the length of your legs. Use a footrest if needed. Support your back properly and match your table height to your seat height.

Keep your hands and arms warm while you are working so keep them relaxed.Place your lighting in a position so you can see your work without shadows or craning your neck.

Do not rest your elbows or your arm below the elbow joint on the table without a pad. This can cause compression of nerves in that area and create numbness of the outer two fingers of the hand.

Exercises

Try to schedule a rest period each hour for a few minutes. You can do hand exercise, eye exercises and neck, shoulder and back exercises to keep mobile and comfortable while you work.

For your hands, use the praying hands exercise. Put the tips of your fingers together and gently push your palms together.Use fingertip touches to touch each fingertip to the tip of your thumb, one at a time. Stretch your fingers like a starfish reaching as far as you can go with each fingertip. Rotate your wrists very gently with your fists doubled up. Stretch your hands back at fingertips using the other hand. Bend the hand forward and use one hand to gently pull the thumb toward the wrist. Do all of these exercises gently but frequently to help your hands.

Your eyes can become dry when you do not blink as frequently as you should, so blink slowly to help bring moisture to your eyes. Close your eyes slowly and while they are closed, look up, down and to each side. Since you are working very close most of the time, change the focus of your eyes by doing the following; focus on your finger and slowly move your finger away. Bring your finger close then focus on something across the room.

The intense work of jewelry making can be hard on your neck, shoulders and back. Exercise them regularly during your rest periods. These exercises should be done while standing.

Exercise your shoulders to relieve tension and soreness. Use the shoulder blade touch. While sitting up straight with your shoulders back and head erect, push your shoulder blades together and hold for a count of five. Shoulder rolls are done by holding the arms and rolling the shoulders, first one and then the other, forward, then back while moving your arms naturally following the motion of your shoulders.

Neck rolls are done by placing one hand on your head to support the weight of your head and gently moving the head forward then to the right, back and left. Support your head throughout all of these movements.

Your back can benefit if you lift your shoulders and bow your back out for a count of three, arch your back for a count of three and then straighten your back. Also, hold your arms out and rotate your hips.

Pressure Points and Massage

Tension in your hands can be relieved if you put finger pressure at the base of the ball of your thumb. You can also put pressure at the base of each finger. Massage of the lower arm and lower back can also help relieve tension

Splints and immobilization

Your doctor may recommend splints or immobilization for certain periods of the day. Even sleeping in splints can help. If you are wearing splints, using ice and using analgesic rubs, you may be able to help your situation with rest and exercise while you are working, but consult with your doctor or physical therapist with these techniques.