The amount of people working from home has increased significantly in the last several years. This was in part due to lockdowns that were imposed when the COVID-19 situation was at critical junctures, but also because more and more workplaces have embraced the work from home culture as one that is here to stay.
At the same time, we have seen a large increase of patients who work from home complaining about postural pain, or pain ranging from the neck and shoulders to the lower back. With ergonomics becoming less of a consideration among informal work-from-home setups, it is no surprise that there is a rise of postural pain complaints in tandem with the number of people currently working full-time from home.
In this article, we will share some tips on how you can ensure your work-from-home setup is ergonomically optimised, as well as various exercises you can do to improve your physical well-being.
Let’s begin with the neck and shoulders
To prevent recurring pain in your neck and shoulder, you need to ensure your workstation is set up correctly. A lot of neck pain is related to the position of your computer monitor; when placed too high it causes pressure at the base of your skull, too low and it causes pressure at the base of your neck and between your shoulder blades.
Firstly, ensure your monitor is at eye level when sitting comfortably. Remember, it may not just be the monitor that needs to be moved! Changing the height of your chair will also impact the relative height of your monitor.
If you are working on a laptop for extended periods of time, consider connecting an external USB or Bluetooth keyboard, allowing you to position the screen at a more suitable height.
Quick work-from-home exercises for the neck and shoulders
Thoracic extension. This exercise will help you mobilise your upper back and can be easily done with nothing more than a towel and a pillow.
Trapezius stretch. Try out this exercise while working from home as it is ideal for releasing tension in the neck and upper body.
Next, we take a look at the lower back
Sitting for long periods of time in any position can cause stiffness and pain in your back. Ensuring that you are in a comfortable position with support in the correct places will help prevent the onset of lower back pain while working. Making an effort to get up and move every half an hour will also help with reducing stiffness.
Here are some helpful tips for reducing lower back pain while working from home:
- Ensure both feet are in contact with the ground while seated. If that is not possible, use a box or book to put under your feet so they are not left hanging.
- Try to sit with your shoulders above your hips. You may need to set up your chair or use supports to achieve this: towels, cushions, and heat packs can be just as effective as specialised ergonomic supports.
- If you feel pain at the front of your hips or down your legs when sitting for an extended period, you may need to raise your chair to reduce the angle at the hips. If this is not possible, consider kneeling or look into a standing workstation.
Quick work-from-home exercises for the lower back
Lumbar roll/release. This exercise is an easy way to help mobilise and massage the lower back while releasing built-up tension too.
Seated glute stretch. This feel-good exercise is fantastic for loosening up your lower back after periods of prolonged sitting.
And last, but certainly not least, we will focus on the wrist and elbow
A lot of wrist and elbow pain is related to the position of your keyboard and mouse. Ensuring that you are not reaching too far or extending your wrist too much is the best way to prevent wrist and elbow pain while working.
Try to ensure your elbow is not behind your body and that your shoulder is not reaching in front of your body when using your keyboard or mouse. If you are extending your wrists when using the mouse or keyboard, try placing a support under your forearm – a heat pack or rolled up hand-towel can do the trick!
Additionally, if you are using a laptop, connect an external mouse rather than use the inbuilt mouse pad as it is better for the motion of your wrists and hands.
The video below shares some methods for self-treating wrist and elbow pain.
Looking for treatment of your neck, back or wrist pain?
Here at the Healing Hands osteopathic clinic in Croydon and Ferntree Gully, we have the best remedial massage therapists and expert osteopaths to assist with your pain! All our patients undergo a thorough history and physical assessment so that we can provide specific treatment and long-term advice that is tailored to their specific needs. Book an appointment so that we can address your pains today!
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