July 27, 2020
by Michael Much, PT, DPT

With our ergonomic workspaces gathering dust at the office, many of us are working from home in makeshift offices and kitchen tables. And we may be feeling it with some new aches and pains courtesy of our less-than-ideal home workspaces.

Here are some ways to treat your body better, prevent pain and create a healthy workspace in your home.

How’s your home workspace feeling?  

  • Evaluate your workspace. Take some time to properly set up your work area. Find a location that provides enough privacy for remote meetings and phone calls.
  • Consider purchasing equipment that will help prevent discomfort such as a laptop stand, separate keyboard, lumbar support or a sit-to-stand desk. A sit-to-stand desk can lessen the strain on your spine.
  • Place your monitor so the top third of the monitor is at eye level. A laptop stand can help bring the laptop up to this level. Prolonged looking down at a laptop screen will likely lead to neck problems including headaches and neck pain.
  • Place your keyboard close to your body with your wrists in neutral position and elbows at 90 degrees. A separate keyboard is helpful if your laptop is placed on a stand. If your wrists are bent upward for prolonged periods of time, you are putting yourself at risk for carpel tunnel symptoms

How’s your posture?

  • Without proper back support, prolonged slouching can lead to neck and low back problems. Consider purchasing an office chair that has good back support.
  • You may use a folding chair or dining chair and sit all the way back against the support of the chair. Consider placing a small pillow between your low back and the chair for additional support.
  • Try sitting on an exercise ball if available or purchase an exercise ball as this will naturally promote an upright sitting posture.
  • Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground, or use a footstool if your feet don’t reach the ground or similar object from around your house.

Are you moving throughout the day? 

  • Keep your muscles loose by taking standing or walking breaks every 30-45 minutes
  • When possible, give your eyes a rest by looking away from your computer every 20 minutes and focusing on a distant object

Are there movements to help prevent pain or alleviate tension?  

  • Shoulders: Shrug shoulder up and down, squeeze shoulder blades backward and perform backward shoulder circles several times throughout the day
  • Neck: Tilt head side to side, rotate head side to side, flex your neck forward several times periodically throughout the day
  • Wrist: Straighten elbow out and grab the back of your wrist with other hand with fingers pointing downward and gently pull. Reverse direction with fingers pointing upward and gently pull. Perform stretches for 15 seconds in each direction.
  • Low back: Stand up, place hands on hips and bend backward several times for a low back stretch. Avoid flexing the trunk forward, such as touching your toes, as this is the same direction as slouching and may worsen low back pain and possibly even worsen leg pain
  • Stop performing any exercise that creates or worsens pain.

What should I do if I am in pain?