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Work from Home Ergonomics

Life looks a little different right now. Have you noticed? More and more people have traded highway commutes for commuting down the hall to the home office. For many, this new way of life is here to stay. The home set up that may have worked for an occasional day of working from home is just not feasible long term. I am certainly seeing that here in the clinic, many clients are coming in with aches and pains associated with a poor work set up.

Luckily, there are some common culprits you can address to decrease those bothersome aches and pains.
I'd like to introduce you to some of my alter egos with poor body mechanics:

This is The Scruncher.

My chair is way too short, keyboard too high and too far away, and I am wearing my shoulders as earrings. Not great. This position can lead to tightness of the upper trap muscles, the shoulder shruggers. Tightness here can result in neck and shoulder pain. 

To improve this I could lower my desk so my elbows fall under my shoulders and bend to about 90 degrees.

This is The Sloucher.

There are a lot of issues here. I am sitting right on my tailbone, my shoulders are rounded forward, and my arms are having to reach really far out. This could result in tailbone pain, shoulder pain, low back pain, and neck pain. Not great. 

To fix this I would scoot my hips way back into the chair to sit on the sit bones and bring the computer closer to not overstrain my arms.

This is The Squinter.

Shoulders rounded forward, back of the neck scrunched, chin out. This posture can cause neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, and headaches. Not great. 

Try making the screen larger to prevent you from having to lean to screen to see. A good general tip is to keep the back of the neck long to avoid jutting the chin out. A screen that is in line with your eyes won't cause you to round forward as much.

This is The Sweet Spot.

Ah. Much better. A lot of my posture trouble was facilitated by my makeshift set up. 

Having a desktop allowed the screen to be bigger and higher to prevent me from bringing my head forward and squinting. A separate keyboard allows my elbows to be under my shoulders, bent to 90 degrees, and allows me to type without having to rest my wrists on anything. My back is well supported by the chair and my feet are flat on the floor. 

It's important to know that even perfect posture isn't supposed to be used all day. Our muscles, nerves, and joints crave movement. Taking frequent movement breaks throughout the day is just as important as a good set up. Aim for some sort of stretch every 30 minutes.

From the ground up let's review a few quick takeaways to consider for your own home set up:

  • Your feet should be able to rest flat on the floor.
  • Knees should be bent to about 90 degrees in your chair- adjust your office chair to make this work. 
  • Your hips should be all the way back in your chair with your low back well supported by the back of the chair. 
  • The curvature of your low back should be well supported by your chair. 
  • Your shoulders should be stacked over your hips and should be low, away from your ears. 
  • Elbows are bent to 90 degrees and are below the shoulders. 
  • Your wrists should not be resting on any firm surfaces. 
  • Your neck is long without jutting out your chin and your ears are stacked over your shoulders. 

Have specific questions about your own set up? Try a video visit in your home office with one of our physical therapists. We can help troubleshoot your set up and eliminate those aches and pains.


Exercise: Seated Hamstring Stretch

The hamstring muscles commonly get tight with a lot of sitting. It is important to counteract this by stretching these muscles. There are many ways to stretch your hamstrings. A seated hamstring stretch is easy to incorporate into your work day.
  • Straighten one leg out away from you resting your heel on the floor.
  • Keep your back straight and hinge forward from your hips to feel a gentle stretch in the muscles in the back of your leg.
  • Hold for 2 sets of 30 seconds. 

Do you suffer from back pain? 

Chronic pain is a huge problem worldwide. Physical therapists are trained to treat pain without surgery or medications. If you have back pain, an arthritic knee, neck pain, or an old injury that won't go away, a PT may be able to help. Call us today and start your pathway to healing - 858-457-8419