MS, Ergonomics, and the Economy of Movement
There is a popular meme often circulated about Multiple Sclerosis with regards to fatigue. It says something along the lines of “it takes a person with MS five times the amount of energy to do something that a non-MS person can do”. That’s a pretty fitting description of what it’s like for many of us that deal with MS-related fatigue. Another popular description you may have heard is the spoon theory, where spoons are used as a visual representation of the finite amount of energy someone with a chronic illness has in any given day. There are many ways people attempt to describe MS fatigue because it affects so much of the MS population (in fact, our MS in America Survey last year came back with an astounding number: 87% of respondents listed fatigue as a major issue). With so many people fighting fatigue, myself included, finding new ways to battle it is a common activity. I’ve gone so far in trying to battle my fatigue, that I’ve begun to look into the realm of ergonomics to help find an answer.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is an applied science that deals with designing and arranging things in the most effective manner. It normally refers to adjustments made in the workplace to make it safer and more efficient. For example, making sure a desk is the right height, so that a person isn’t straining their arms or necks while working, or even making sure that the lighting in a room is proper, so that people aren’t straining their eyes, or even changing the way someone holds a screwdriver to ensure that it is less taxing if you use it for an extended period of time. It’s a series of small changes, not only to equipment, but to the way people do work, that add up to more efficiency over time. It’s fascinating stuff that people spend their whole lives studying and applying to work environments.
Saving precious energy
While I’m not as concerned with a work environment, I suspect there are a lot of changes I could make around my own house that could have big impacts. Particularly when I read about the Principles of Motion Economy, which, while dealing primarily with work environments, still gave me the idea there are more efficient ways of doing even the simplest of things. Techniques that can help me save some of that precious energy (or spoons, if you like that analogy) I need. Even those two words, economy and movement, together started to give me ideas. They made me begin to think of all the things I do around the house and ways I could streamline them and make them more efficient.
Making small changes for a big impact
While a lot of this is an ongoing process for me, as I begin to study more ergonomic principles, I can tell you, that already, just keeping the phrase “economy of movement” in my mind as I go about a tough day has been helpful. It may sound silly, but I’ve started doing basic things like planning out my path to the bathroom and back (will I need anything from the kitchen any time soon, I’m going right past it, maybe I should stop there on the way back instead of making a separate trip later). I’ve looked at how I have things laid out in my shower (because that’s always an adventure) to make that process more efficient. I’ve begun to realize that there are a lot of small changes we can make in our daily environment and routines that can have a significant impact on our energy levels.
Being aware of the way I do things
So as I continue to research ergonomic principles and the potential impact they can have on our fatigue, I wanted to at least start the conversation here. I feel like I’ve already been able to help myself, simply by being more aware of the way I do things and the way certain objects are laid out around my house. I know there will always be days where my fatigue will win, no matter what I do, but there will definitely be days where maybe these little changes can add up and let me have a bit more fulfilling day then I would have normally had. Have you made any changes to your routine or house to help with your fatigue levels? If so, I’d love to hear about them!
Do you live with any comorbidities aside from MS?