Following the mass exodus of office workers flocking to their homes a few weeks ago, many may have envisaged this as a short term way of working. As we look on, we realise that weeks are more realistically going to turn into months as we batten down the hatches. Here are some of Thorpes’ top tips for staying pain-free as we embark on this new daily routine:
1) DO NOT work from your sofa.
The sofa or arm chair is probably the single worse place you could choose to work from home. The initial perception of comfort can lead you to adopt a rounded and hunched posture which increases the load on your lower back and neck. Our natural backward curvature (lordosis) found at the neck and lower back becomes flattened or worse rounded forwards (kyphosis) leading to increased strain on surrounding muscles, eventually leading to the formation of trigger points (colloquially known as ‘knots’ – see article here which explains all about trigger points). These painful knots can lead to restricted movement, localised discomfort and referred pain including tension headaches.
2) DO optimise your home work station setup as if you were back in your office. So you might be working at home for the next few months – why should your home set-up be any different from that of your office?
Here are some tips for setting up your workstation correctly:
-Sit at a desk or table that allows you to comfortably tuck your legs underneath with your keyboard at a height that is between your lower breastbone and your navel. Pick a chair that provides adequate back support and it should be reclined to approximately 100-110 °. If you do not own a multi-adjustable office chair this may be something to look into in the long run, but as an alternative some foldable office chairs offer reasonable support with a slight natural recline. You can use a cushion or lumbar support in the small of your back if you have a tendency to slouch. Ensure your upper spine remains in contact with the back of the chair – this will help you to avoid slouching. Your knees should be bent between 90-110° (right angle or slightly straighter) with feet flat on the floor, if this is not possible you may wish to use a foot rest (you can improvise using things from around your home including cushions or planks of wood from your garage!).
-Your monitor screen should be at an appropriate height and distance. Ideally the top of the screen should be approximately 2-3 inches above your natural eye line. Your monitor should be at arm’s length to avoid eye strain (unless of course you have a particularly large monitor (>22 inches) then you may wish to have it placed further back on the desk. ensuring that your monitor is at an appropriate height. If you are using a laptop ensure it is raised high enough to meet this requirement. You may benefit from switching to a wireless or separate plug in keyboard and mouse if you have one at home to again prevent unnecessary slouching. If you are using a gel bar/wrist support it should not exceed the height of your space bar and it is recommended that you only use the wrist support to rest your wrists in between key strokes – do not keep your wrists supported for prolonged periods whilst typing as this may lead to wrist strain (from excessive extension or bend in the wrist).
Your keyboard should be in a position that allows your elbows to fall into a 100-110° angle (straighter than a right angle). Your wrists should be straight and forearms close to the horizontal. Your elbows should be close to the sides of your body, if they feel too wide, re-adjust your position.
3) TAKE regular breaks from your desk. Stand up, walk around, make a cup of tea and go outside where possible every 45 minutes. Under current guidelines you are entitled to 30 minutes outdoor exercise per day in a public space keeping at least two metres distance from people outside of your household. Try and head to a local park or open space away from others in your lunch break – you can walk, power walk, run, cycle, scooter, skateboard – whichever takes your fancy! This will prevent you from becoming stiff and reduce the risk of accumulative strain on your muscles – think of this as a reset switch for your body.
4) EXERCISE for a minimum of 30 minutes every day. This can include a combination of cardiovascular exercise (brisk walking, jogging, cycling, and home interval training/HIIT) and resistance training (weights, calisthenics, resistance bands, TRX). With both forms of exercise you should become breathless and be perspiring to get the most from your workout. Taking some time to strengthen your core muscles as well as your upper back can help you to maintain better posture by allowing your muscles to tolerate being in one position for longer. Resistance training in particular will provide you with better bodily awareness when you are performing your workout which often then translates into everyday life. Ask yourself, when did you last see a gymnast, ballet dance, martial artist or bodybuilder slouching? Read more about the benefits of resistance training here. You will feel fitter, stronger, have more energy, reduce your blood pressure, improve mental health, improve your sleep, improve productivity….. the list is endless!
If you are still unsure on your work setup at home or need some further advice or guidance, Thorpes are offering one-to-one virtual consultations using zoom software. This allows us to see your workstation and provide you with expert advice on any amendments that can be made to optimise your home setup to prevent any unnecessary aches or pains.
Do not delay, call us on 01276 37670 to arrange a virtual consultation with one of our expert physiotherapists who will be able to guide you from the comfort of your home.