During the current global pandemic, many of us have found ourselves having to work from home. At first, this change of pace almost seems like a luxury. Getting to work the same job from the comfort of your own home doesn’t sound half bad! Now that we are weeks deep in the era of social distancing and widespread quarantine, you might be noticing some strange aches and pains in the neck, shoulders, back, and hips flaring up. In this guide, I am going to discuss what habits could be contributing to this pain and what measures we can take to mitigate it.
If you don’t have a proper workspace set up at home, bringing your laptop into bed with you for your 9 to 5 is incredibly tempting. In fact, for the initial days working from your bed, you might be incredibly comfortable. This work setting will, however, grow stale after a little while.
If you are working from your bed and experiencing pain in the back, hips, or neck, figuring out a designated workspace within your home is a crucial step toward a pain-free workday.
Though having a designated non-reclined workspace is a step in the right direction, it does not guarantee relief from the aches and pains that I’ve discussed. In fact, you may spend your workday in your home office at a desk and still experience these same pains. It is important to consider the set up of your home workspace since you will be spending several hours here. We want to make this area as ergonomic as possible. But what does that even look like?
how to make your workspace ergonomic
Let’s start with your desk chair (if you have one). You definitely don’t need to go spend a boat load of money on a brand new cutting-edge desk chair. The main areas I would be concerned with for a chair are the height and the firmness of the chair itself. Ideally, the height of the chair should allow for your feet to be in contact with the floor (heel to toe), and the crease inside your elbow should remain above or at the surface of your desktop so that your elbows will be at 90 degree or greater angles when using a keyboard. Armrests on the chair are based on preference and not entirely necessary. The chair itself should be firm enough so that it offers at least some support while still being comfortable enough to sit on.
The keyboard and mouse are next up on the list (if you’re using a laptop and don’t have an extra mouse and keyboard, skip to the next paragraph). Your keyboard and mouse should be placed close enough to your desk’s edge so that your elbows are able to remain at your side when reach your hands to type or click. Ideally, these positions should prevent the shoulders from rolling forward.
The screen height is probably the most important piece in this puzzle. Start by sitting in your chair and gaze straight ahead. Wherever your gaze lands, this is the optimal placement for the top of your computer screen. You will most-likely need to elevate your screen somehow with a book or desk organizer. If you are using a laptop computer without an added keyboard or mouse, don’t be as concerned with the keyboard or mouse positioning, rather focus on adjusting your screen height to its most ergonomic position.
Standing desks are a super trendy fix for the issues that sitting for long durations impose on the body. By all means, if you have a standing desk, use it! The only caveat I have is to follow the same ergonomic positioning cues that I described above to be sure your standing posture while working is not causing you more harm than benefit.
habits that help
In the end, sitting all day still has potential to cause join stiffness and muscular discomfort, even in the most ergonomic of settings. In order to troubleshoot your pain a little bit further, we are going to need to stand up and move.
Make a habit out of standing up every hour for at least 5 minutes. Use this time to walk around and stretch out some. By standing up and moving, we’ll allow for more blood flow to our stiff tissues and hopefully loosen these areas.
Drink more water! If you are already tracking how much water you drink and you are at 64 fl oz or more, ignore this. Most of us drink way less water than we need. Water serves A TON of purposes to our body, but one that is super relevant here is joint lubrication. The synovial fluid that acts as a lubricant to our joints is made of mostly water. If we are not providing our bodies with the main ingredient of this fluid, our bodies probably will use it sparingly, leaving our joints with slightly more friction than what is optimal. So drink up and feel the difference!
I will be posting more guides on pain management very soon, and will be including specific movements and stretches that should assist in alleviating pain in several areas. If you found this helpful, please share it with a friend who’s also working from home!