At Home Ergonomics
by Dr. Livia Chiarelli, Chiropractor
What comes to mind when you think about working from home? No commute, sweatpants and a t-shirt as the new at home office wardrobe, messy hair, no makeup, not showering until mid-day? Sounds glamorous! How about back pain, tight shoulders, stiff hips and a numb butt? Not so glamorous right!? However, these seem to be the new complaints that many are facing as the world has turned to working from home as a means of helping to flatten the curve and practice social distancing.
Most people who are used to going into the office every or almost every day don’t have the proper workplace set up in their own homes which seems to be taking a toll on people’s bodies. So we’re going to discuss a few tips and tricks to improve your home set up and hopefully lessen your body aches.
A great starting point is the 90-90-90-position of good posture. Meaning, when sitting at your new workstation your elbows are bent to 90 degrees, your hips are bent to 90 degrees and your knees are bent to 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor. For most people this rules out being able to sit on the couch while working. The couch often feels comfortable to start but as the time goes on we sink into the cushions and lose any attempt at good posture we once had.
Next, once you’ve been able to find a place that allows you to closely get into the 90-90-90-position of good posture you’re going to have to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Just because you may be in the best posture you’re able to achieve at home in your new workspace that pain or stiffness you might start to feel creep in is your body’s way of telling you it’s time to move and switch it up! Sitting all day without changing your position can have huge impacts on your body’s health and it has been recommended that people change their position from standing to sitting throughout the workday at least once an hour. Can you slide over to a countertop, bookshelf or tall dresser somewhere in your house and makeshift a standing desk for a portion of your day? This will help ease the load on the body felt while sitting. The same protocol for a 90 degree bend at the elbows is recommended when choosing a makeshift standing desk and keeping in mind that you want to place equal weight on both feet to begin. Shifting your weight from one foot to the other throughout the standing portion of your day will help ease the pressure in your back, hips and legs.
In addition, fewer and fewer people seem to be using desktop computers while working from home and laptops are quickly becoming the new from home office staple. In the transition to a preference of portability we have lost some of the built in ergonomic features of the desktop computer such as keyboard size, screen size and mouse position. A few simple steps will help minimize the poor ergonomics of a laptop computer.
- Try using a keyboard you can attach to your computer, rather than the one built in to your laptop.
- Place a stand or a few big books under the laptop to help elevate the screen to eye height if you’re using a secondary keyboard.
- Try using a secondary mouse that attaches to the computer rather than the built in track pad on the laptop.
Finally, don’t forget to perform some gentle stretches through the day to ease any built up tension in the back, legs, neck, and shoulders to maintain good muscle health while working. If you’d like specific stretches that can be done while at your workstation your Apple Creek practitioner would be happy to help.
Dr. Livia Chiarelli