Over the last few months, millions of people have switched from an office or school environment to a home set up.
Working at home has plenty of advantages, but it can also present challenges – especially when it comes to keeping your body pain free. It’s important to optimize your home office ergonomics as well as your movement habits if you plan to work from home for any length of time – and these days it’s looking more likely that working from home will become the norm for many people.
The Effects of Poor Spinal Posture At Work
We see a lot of patients who are suffering from the effects of bad workspace ergonomics, and the end results can be long-lasting pain and discomfort. Here are 2 of the most common examples:
Collapsed Lower Back (aka slouching)
The most common position we see is a slouched back – where your hips slide forward in your chair, and your entire spine curves in a c-shape, leaving no gap between your lower back and chair.
In this position, you’re likely to have to crane your neck to see your computer screen and strain your upper back and shoulders to reach a keyboard. Thus, any short term comfort is soon outweighed by the negative impacts on your upper back and neck, and the chronic weakening of your lower spine.
The opposite of slouching is sitting up straight with your stomach pulling your spine forward. This position allows the hundreds of abdominal and spinal muscles to weaken over time and can lead to chronic misalignment and lack of support in the lower back.
A Lumbar Support Can Help
When you maintain a neutral pelvic position with a slight s curve and upright back, the vertebrae in your back are nicely aligned. This takes a lot of pressure off of your spine and back muscles, which can reduce back pain.
Using a good lumbar support when you sit in your chair at work can help support and strengthen your spine so that you can reap all the benefits of a good posture from deeper breaths to more energy, better memory, and a happier mood.
Good Workspace Ergonomics
Adjusting the ergonomics of your workspace includes looking at your chair, your desk, and any technology that you’re using to ensure they aren’t causing any issues with your alignment and body mechanics. No matter whether you’re sitting in an office at home with a proper desk and a proper chair or sitting at the kitchen table, you need to make sure that you’ve got the ergonomics set up appropriately.
Given the number of hours that you’re probably going to be sitting at that desk, the amount of stress and strain that you put on your body will obviously affect your productivity and concentration. We often experience problems with the neck, shoulders, posture, headaches, and migraines due to poor ergonomics.
Top Tips for Good Workspace Ergonomics.
Use a Pillow
Have a pillow behind your back for support if you don’t have a proper ergonomic chair.
Sit on a Donut
Sitting on an inflatable disc replicates the idea of what we did probably about 20 years ago when we started using Swiss balls, in that it creates an unstable environment that makes us engage our core and sit more upright.
Keep Your Derriere Back
Push your derriere all the way at the back of the chair and rest both feet on the ground. If you do have the opportunity or you have the resources to get one, a footrest can be beneficial.
Keep Your Elbows Close
Keep your elbows close to your side, so that you’re using the mouse with your arm by your side. Try not to have extended periods of time with the mouse straight in front of you. That can start to place undue stress on your shoulders.
Check Your Monitor Distance
Test the distance of the computer monitor from your head. To do that, just put your arms straight out in front. You should be able to touch the monitor just with your fingertips.
Keep the Monitor at Eye Level
One of the challenges with working from home is often people aren’t necessarily at a desktop, and they might be using a laptop in the short term. One of the things with the laptop is obviously that the screen tends to be lower, so we tend to have our heads down.
To avoid “text neck,” make sure you have good posture when you’re sitting in front of a screen. You want to look straight ahead most of the time, so that you’re not putting undue stress on the neck and the shoulders, and that you’re taking our head out of that flexed forward position and having it in a nice upright position. If you’re one of these people that work on a laptop, try propping the laptop up on a couple of books or even better use an external monitor.
Use an External Keyboard
Try an external keyboard and an external mouse so that you can have the laptop further propped up if You’re not using an external monitor.
No matter what your situation, you should do an audit on your ergonomics. You can find many resources online if you search “ergonomics” or “correct sitting posture” or “desk set up”. And our team at Life Force Physiotherapy is here to help you with a posture assessment and tips to fix up your home office so that it works for you and doesn’t cost you your physical comfort.
A Note About Movement
You’ve likely heard the catchphrase “sitting is the new smoking.” That means if you sit at a desk for eight to ten hours a day, you’re probably going to have similar health outcomes to smokers. This is not really news – we know that moving around and having an active lifestyle is vital to our health.
However, many people find that they move less when they’re at home. That’s because they no longer have to walk to meetings or to talk with coworkers. Everything happens online – right in front of us!
Set a Reminder to Move Regularly
Try to set a timer to remind you to move at least once an hour, whether you’re taking a short walk or doing some simple office stretches. Even taking two or three minutes to move your spine will help. The body is designed to move, and it will thank you.
Try to get outside as much as you can. This can be easier when you work from home than it is from an office building. In fact, maybe this is one of the advantages of this time because people get to spend more time outside when they take a short break. And vitamin D, particularly when we’re talking about immunity, is important. So get out of the house when you can!
You Can Stay Healthy And Pain-Free, Even Working From Home!
As you can see, a few key changes can help keep you pain-free and productive while you work at home. If you’d like to work together to assess your posture and create some new habits and routines for work-from-home success, give the office a call! Together we make sure you’re set up for a healthier, more productive “new normal.”
CALL FOR YOUR INITIAL ASSESSMENT (416) 207 9395
* Please be aware that information on this web site is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding an injury or medical condition.