- Dr. Eric Carlsen
Adapting Your Home Office
Proper ergonomics are essential to a healthy home-work environment. Adjusting your workstation and incorporating more movement into your day can help prevent aches and pain caused by poor posture and inactivity.
With so many people working from home these days to maintain social distancing from their colleagues, many are developing musculoskeletal pain. Improving posture and ergonomics is a proactive way to take care of your body while working remotely, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).
Postural imbalance is one of the most common reasons patients seek help from chiropractors. Most of us slouch, text constantly, tip our head and hold our telephone to our ear, and sit at the computer all day with our shoulders and neck rounded forward with legs crossed.
To reduce stress on the body, consider trying any or all of these suggestions:
You might need a quiet room to work or specialized software that keeps you pinned to your desk. For everything else, identify a few places in your home where you can work, and change body position and location throughout the day. Find ways to work standing, walking, and sitting.
Sit in a good chair—even a wooden one—on your sit bones (the bones at the very bottom of your pelvis), with a little arch in your low back. Avoid the slouch, that half-sitting, half-lying position so many of us use to lounge on the sofa or in bed. If you want to work in bed or on the sofa, sit up on your sit bones.
When sitting, put both feet on the floor with a right angle at your knees. Avoid crossing legs or tucking in feet. Good posture means the bones carry the weight of your body. Aligning your posture lets your bones do the work, not your muscles. This prevents muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation. It can even prevent nerve pain and headaches.
Use a keyboard tray and pull it out over your lap. If you use a laptop, use it as a screen only, placing it at eye level with a stand or a stack of books. Get a remote keyboard to use with a keyboard tray.
To avoid neck pain, keep your screen at eye level whether you use a laptop or monitor. Put books underneath your monitor to raise it or use a stand, if necessary.
Shoulders should be dropped and relaxed, with elbows hanging down, centered at the seam line of your shirt. Don’t use the keyboard with your elbows reaching forward. This could cause isometric spasms in your neck and/or shoulders and arms, leading to pain and inflammation.
Keep your sternum or breastbone lifted. This keeps your torso, head, and shoulders erect. Letting the sternum collapse down will pull the head forward and compresses your torso.
Avoid forward head position. Keep your head erect, in line with your torso. Keep your screen at eye level. For every inch your head is forward it increases the weight on your upper back and neck by 10 pounds! If you use a cell phone, rest your elbows on your chest and hold the phone at eye level.
Use a telephone headset so you don’t have to crunch your neck when using the phone.
Remember to take several exercise breaks throughout the day, even if only to empty the dishwasher, put in a load of laundry, climb the stairs a few times, do yoga, get in some planks and squats, dance, or take a short walk.
Don’t be surprised if you catch yourself with poor posture several times a day. As your habits change, you’ll be able to spot poor posture right away and fix it.
Excerpts from the ACA