Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the number of individuals working from home rather than in a corporate setting has exponentially skyrocketed. The mass exodus of workers from the corporate environment is leading to a renewed interest in investing in ergonomics for working from home.
However, it is important to note that having access to home office ergonomics may not be enough to keep neck, back, and shoulder pain at bay. To make the most of your work from home experience:
- Take inventory of your current home office setup
- Learn how to set up the correct ergonomics for working from home
- Know how to spot persisting neck, back, and shoulder pain that may require a visit to the chiropractor
Top Considerations for Ergonomics for Working from Home
Ergonomics is essentially the study of an individual’s efficiency in their own work environment. In terms of successfully putting together a home office, the process is twofold:
- Select a designated space and collect the necessary equipment
- Set up the equipment in a way that works for and not against your body
While the equipment needed to do specific jobs may vary, some details of a home office set up are more universal. A few smart ergonomic tweaks individuals can make to their workstations can include the positioning of their:
Instead of randomly choosing the couch or a floor cushion to sit on and do work, consider using a chair that supports the curve of the spine. This is usually best achieved by ensuring your thighs are parallel to the floor and your feet are resting comfortably, flat on the floor. Try to use a chair whose height can be adjusted and use a footrest if needed. If utilizing armrests, make sure the arms of the chair are at a height that adequately allows the shoulders to relax.
To minimize neck pain associated with looking down at a computer screen, make sure the monitor or screen is around eye level and is roughly an arm’s length away. If you work from a laptop where the screen level is fixed, consider either elevating your laptop by placing it on a desk stand or by using a separate monitor.
Your desk should accommodate the chair positioning discussed above. If there is not enough room under the desk to sit appropriately, it may be possible elevate the desk by placing sturdy blocks or boards underneath the legs. Refrain from storing objects under the desk so that your legs have ample room without feeling cramped.
Use proper form by keeping the keyboard close enough that the arms can easily reach it. Ensure the wrists are not resting against the keyboard and keep hands around the same level as your elbows while using it. Some individuals choose to use a wrist rest to help with better positioning while working on a keyboard.
If using a mouse, make it accessible by keeping it right next to the keyboard. To avoid overusing one hand for the mouse, consider occasionally switching the mouse to the other side of the keyboard and using the other hand.
To make ample room for office supplies such as pens, pencils, scissors, a stapler, and so on, it can be a good idea to store these in a desk drawer just below the keyboard or within reach on your desktop, as long as it does not contribute to overcrowding your work area. Avoid storing these objects so far away that you have to reach or strain to grab them.
If your job requires the frequent use of a phone, it may be beneficial to use a special headset or put the phone on speaker to avoid bending the neck at an odd angle to keep the phone in place while you type.
In order to avoid neck, back and shoulder pain associated with office work, consider if you have access to each of the items required of most workstations. Once you have these tools, be sure to consider whether they are ergonomically correct in their positioning.
Why Chiropractors Are Seeing an Influx of Patients Since the Pandemic Began
In early 2020, as many businesses temporarily closed the doors to their corporate offices, a staggering number of Americans found themselves suddenly working from home, and in some cases without the proper equipment needed to do so. Unfortunately, having improper workstation equipment or unsatisfactory positioning of equipment can be a common cause for neck, back, and shoulder pain.
The longer Americans keep working from home without ensuring an ergonomic workstation, many chiropractors are seeing an increase in the number of patients complaining about related discomfort or pain. Some of the more common scenarios chiropractors can hear from patients working from home and experiencing pain in the neck, shoulders, and back can include:
Patient: “I like working from my couch/bed.”
Problem: This can lead to hunched shoulders and poor posture without proper spinal support, and working from a couch or bed for extended periods of time may ultimately contribute to pain or discomfort.
Patient: “I work next to the window in my apartment.”
Problem: Depending on the amount of sunlight or cloud cover present each day, it can affect the desk lighting and may cause individuals to lean forward and squint, which can negatively impact spinal alignment.
Patient: “I don’t like to take too many breaks, or I lose my focus and motivation.”
Problem: Remaining seated all day can be hard on the joints and the body. As tempting as it may be to knock everything out for work and then take a break, it is better to take periodic breaks throughout the day to both stimulate the mind and relieve the joints.
How A Chiropractor Can Help
If you are experiencing persistent neck, back, or shoulder pain it may be a good idea to make an appointment with a reputable chiropractor. Chiropractors can assist their clients by finding out the cause of their pain and then establishing a chiropractic health plan to help relieve it.
If a chiropractor suspects your discomfort may be due in part to the lack of an ergonomic workstation at home, they may make some helpful recommendations that can make working from home more enjoyable in the future.