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Traditional design of accountants' offices, along with the demanding and hectic lifestyles of accountants, commonly lead to back pain.

According to Quill Corporation, the country's leading direct marketer of office products, specific factors that contribute to back pain for accountants include the following:

* Forward flexion of the neck. Reading documents placed flat on the desk requires the head to be bent forward. Often, a burning pain is felt between the shoulder blades and upper back. Over time, this can weaken upper back muscles and stretch corresponding spinal ligaments.

* Twisting of the spine. Turning to reach files stored on top of a credenza behind the desk can twist the spine. Repeated lifting of heavy documents away from the body in this manner can strain lower back muscles and cause micro-tearing of the tissue that keeps lumbar discs from herniating. Twisted seating postures and spinal problems also are commonly caused by using a computer on a credenza that has no knee hole.

* Heavy or repeated lifting. Retrieving files from a seated position puts stress on back muscles and connective tissue, as well as increasing pressure inside the discs of the lower back. When lifting with the back bent forward, more than half of one's body weight is lifted in addition to the weight of the object. A heavy briefcase held by the handle or strapped over one shoulder places uneven stress on the back and shoulder.

* Inefficient sitting posture. Not everyone fits in the same size office chair. When the seat is too long, the person must either perch on the end of the chair with no back support, or slide back and have the feet dangle, with all of the body's trunk weight being supported by the spine. Both positions lead to backaches.

Quill offers the following back-saving suggestions:

* Use an editor's desk. This portable, inclined surface that fits on a larger desk holds papers of various sizes. An editor's desk eliminates neck flexion and improves visibility of working copy. Some models collapse for storage, and many are produced in attractive woods to match traditional office decor.

* File in rolling storage racks. Rolling storage racks, such as those in libraries, hold files at waist level when seated. They are designed to minimize reaching distance and back bending, thus reducing stress on the shoulders and back.

* Carry brief cases without strain. Brief cases should have cushioned straps that are worn across the body. Carry two smaller brief cases rather than one heavy one, or use a fold away luggage carrier with wheels.

* Use ergonomically correct computer furniture. Computer furniture should have an adjustable keyboard platform height, ample leg room, and a top with enough depth for the computer monitor. This will permit the computer to be positioned directly in front of the user, and the keyboard can be placed at a height that maintains a comfortable straight-wrist position. Ergonomic computer accessories are available to match existing office furniture.

* Be fit to sit. An office chair should fit both the width of the user's body and the length of the leg segments. Chairs with pneumatic lifts, forward tilt, and recline features also are helpful in preventing back pain.

For a free copy of Quill's catalog of ergonomic office furniture and accessories, send your name and address to: Quill Corporation, Public Relations Department #66608, 100 Schelter Road, Lincolnshire IL 60069-3621, or call (800) 789-6640. *

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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