As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and many of us are forced to continue to work from home, you may have noticed some additional aches and pains. If this sounds like you, you’re certainly not alone: a recent poll on the American Chiropractic Association’s Facebook page found that 90% of respondents are experiencing more pain now that they are working from home.
Although pain is complex and multifaceted, one change with working from home that is hard to ignore is the fact that many of us have been forced to set up a DIY workstation, which may be contributing to your pain.
Fortunately, ergonomics; the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment, can help reduce pain by making your work from home set up more efficient. Here are some basic ergonomic tips for your home workstation:
- Keep yourself in a line
Your head should be vertical to your neck and back, so that you could draw a straight line from your lower back all the way up to your neck and ear. This will be the position that causes the least amount of stress for your neck, and therefore will require the least amount of effort. Be realistic with yourself! Nobody is perfect; if you regularly sit like in photo 1, don’t expect to be able to quickly get yourself disciplined to be completely vertical. The posture of photo number 2 is a good goal to start with.
- Raise your computer monitor up
The ideal height for the top of your screen should be at the level of your eyes. This way, when looking at the center of your screen, your eyes will look slightly down. If the height of the monitor is lower than this, you will likely have to bend your neck or slouch your back in order to look at your screen.
The ideal distance from your eyes to your monitor is 20 inches, which is about an arm’s length. This will reduce the amount of effort your eye muscles use in order to focus on the screen. If you have a large monitor, add more distance.
- Take frequent breaks
Ideally, you should get up from your seat and move around every 20 minutes. While this isn’t possible for everyone’s work, the closer you can get to this, the better. Try to set a goal for yourself that is realistic and use a timer to remind yourself. Your break can be as simple as a quick trip to the kitchen to grab yourself a glass of water.
While these tips are a helpful way to keep pain at bay, the reality is that if you are reading this article, you have likely already had pain for some time now. To break out of this pathway of pain, you will need first address the 3 points mentioned above, but will also likely need to do some exercises to strengthen your muscles. Everyone is different and has different individual needs, but below are some general exercises that will help strengthen someone with a slouched posture from working at home.
- Chin tucks
Stand or sit up tall, and bring your chin back, until your ears are in line with your shoulders
Focus on keeping your head pointed forward, without looking up or down throughout the movement
If it feels like you are giving yourself a double chin, you are doing it properly!
- Bent over Y’s
Stand up, bent forwards 45 degrees from the hips, with your hands in a “Y” shape above your shoulders, as if starting the YMCA dance
Moving from your shoulder blades, raise your hands up about 3 inches, and slowly back down again.
- Pec stretch
- Stand in a doorway, with 1 hand on the side of the door from at a 90 degree angle
- Push your body forward, leaning with your chest until you feel a light stretch in your pec muscle
- Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side