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The ergonomics of kneeling

The information herein was compiled, by Lee, from a two-year study of occupations including all types of flooring installation, construction including commercial, residential, industrial metal fabrication and textile manufacturing. Lee has consulted and conferred with many safety engineers and health experts in the rehabilitation and prevention of occupational knee injuries. Several insurance companies across the United States have processed orders, through ProKnee, for claims growing from occupational knee injuries, says the company.

After studying the various kneeling positions and injuries of people that work on their knees, several observations have been made:

1) People who have sore knees often have sore backs. Why? When people are tired and sore from kneeling they often compensate by stooping over. This causes the weight of the upper body to transfer off the knees and onto the lower back area. This leads to excessive fatigue, chronic pain and injuries to the muscles and vertebra of the lower back.

2) When the weight of a person is concentrated to the knee area, there’s friction between the bones at the joint. Sandwiched between the bones lies a thin layer of cartilage and tissue (meniscus), that acts as a cushion, which allows pain-free movement of the joint. With not much natural support to hold it together, the joint continuously works on this thin layer until it starts to wear out. This may cause an assortment of knee problems including loose joints, knee burn pain, and fluid build-up and tissue swelling, says ProKnee.

3) One of the typical kneeling positions is sitting back on your calf muscles with the tops of your feet flattened against the floor. The drawback is the ligaments and muscles on the top of the foot can overstretch, causing pain and cramping that can make it difficult to walk or run after a full day’s work. Prolonged use of this position is also notoriously known to cause callouses, nerve damage and swelling to the tops of the feet and toes.

4) Says ProKnee: ‘Another popular belief is when a carpet installer kicks a knee kicker, the force of the thigh against the pad on the knee kicker is the damaging factor. The real stress from kicking is, when the thigh strikes the knee kicker, the weight of the whole body is multiplied and then transferred straight down. This extremely compresses the thin layer of cartilage and meniscus located in the knee joint area, thus causing the assortment of knee problems mentioned above. Add to that all the turning and twisting that takes place while walking around on your knees and you can see why so much damage can occur.’

All of the kneepads on today’s market are said to be beneficial to the user. It’s left up to the individual to decide what his or her level of comfort is. As their level of comfort changes, you’ll see them go from not using kneepads at all to something that gets that level of comfort back, thus the multitude of kneepads available.

You may also notice the change in the complexity of the design. For example, foam cushions with straps located behind the knee joints up through to a fully engineered kneeling device.

The company says: ’At ProKnee Corp, we understand the ergonomics of kneeling and have set very high standards of function that must be included in a high-performance kneepad. ProKnee’s design promotes proper kneeling technique, forcing the knees to respond to the therapy that the kneepads create. The company adds: The first thing we do is surround the knee joint area with a knee cup shape, which holds the joint tight as you kneel. Next we take the weight off the joints by spreading it out over the length of the shins. For example, a 200lbs person 5ft10in tall, would be calculated like this: 200lbs divided by two legs equals 100lbs, divided by the length of the kneeling area, 17in equals 5.88lbs per lineal inch +/-, per knee joint.

Being custom fit, the kneepads ride off the tops of your feet which, allows us to locate the top straps approximately 3in below the knee joints. This eliminates pinching and binding that can cause circulation problems to your lower legs. Balancing your body weight across the shins creates a mechanism, which doesn’t allow over-stretching of the ligaments and muscles of your feet, when sitting back on your calf muscles’. Another important consideration says ProKnee, is the material that’s used for the cushion. ProKnee is said to use resilient, cellular urethane that provides even tension as weight is applied. This is said to take the shock out of the day-to-day kneeling.

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