Sitting at a desk for long periods? Or perhaps sitting on a couch or a barstool while working from home? Constant headaches? Neck pain? Upper back and shoulder pain? These are common challenges people working from home face every day. If this sound like you, then this article is for YOU!
Prolonged sitting, particularly in a poor posture, places a lot of undue stress on the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders. Our muscles are not designed to sustain static and awkward postures for long periods; it is not surprising the result is often pain and dysfunction.
Commonly seen attributes of poor posture and how they relate to pain and dysfunction include:
- Poked chin = headaches and neck pain
- Rounded shoulders = tight chest muscles (pecs) and upper shoulders
- Rounded/slumped lower back = tightness in lower back muscles and sometimes sciatic pain in more severe cases
- Feet not contacting the floor = swollen ankles.
Never fear, here are 5 easy ways to improve your working from home habits:
1. Fix your set up
Having a great set up will improve your posture and encourage you to have healthy desk habits. Try the following:
- Adjust top of the screen to eye level (you can elevate your monitor on a book)
- Adjust the screen to approximately an arm’s length distance in front of you
- Ensure chair is supporting your whole spine
- Recline the back rest to 10-20 degrees from vertical
- Support your forearms at a 90deg angle (horizontal) to the keyboard. Ensure shoulders are relaxed
- Have a small gap (two fingers width) between the back of your knees and the front of seat base
- Knees should be at right angles (or hips slightly higher than knees) and feet supported on the floor. You may use a footstool if your feet are unable to reach the floor
- Invest in a sit-to-stand desk
2. Take breaks
Sometimes we get caught up with our work we forget to take breaks! Having a break not only benefits us physically, but mentally also. Increased stress gives rise to increased muscle tension, which can inevitably result in pain.
Try these tips:
- Take a break every 45 mins-60mins — even if it is just for 5 minutes. Get up, stretch, and walk around the room
- During your working day, try factoring in having a chat with a co-worker, a spouse… or even a pet! Ideally do this in the standing position
- If possible, allocate time to get outside for fresh air during your working day. Your lunch break is perfect time for this
- Set a schedule (with an alarm) for a 10min coffee break in the morning and afternoon. If possible, take these in standing
3. Stay active
Getting cardiovascular exercise in your workday is another away to not only break up your working hours but to release endorphins and destress. You can do this by incorporating either a short walk or a 10 min HITT session during your lunch break.
Also, encourage yourself to do some stretches like the ones listed below, just remember to do a couple when you’re taking a break and hold for 30 secs.
4. Have different working zones
It’s important to consider work zones once you have your workstation set up. These include:
- Primary reach zone:
Items that you use constantly and don’t want to be reaching awkwardly at frequent intervals. These include the keyboard and mouse
- Secondary reach zone:
Items that you use semi-frequently, such as phone or certain files.
- Outer reach zone:
These are things that you don’t use often but will encourage you to get out of your seat. These include a printer, stationary, drink bottle and documents. Place these in another room to encourage you to get up and walk!
5. Contact a XRHealth Physio
Lastly, if you have been struggling with your work set up, or are experiencing any pain and dysfunction, you can contact one of our XRHealth Physios! They will complete a comprehensive assessment with you and design a tailored program, just for you, that will help target your problem areas.
We use state of the art Virtual Reality Headsets with gamified medical applications; this is a fun and novel way to help reduce your pain, get stronger and more active, and reach your health goals.