In this article, our head Chiropractor, Guthrie Steer, at our Abbeville Road clinic, outlines 5 ways working from home is causing your body strain & how to fix it with Our N.E.W. guide on how to set up your home workspace.
Thrust into makeshift home offices, for many of us, much of our working day is now spent hunched over a laptop at the dining table, sat on the sofa or armchair, none designed to support your body for up to 8 hours daily.
Whilst some homes have an equivalent office set-up, most don’t, and the absence of some of the features of adjustable office furniture adds to the strain of working from home.
Lower Back Pain –
Lower Back Pain is the most common mechanical problem arising from prolonged sitting.
This is particularly true of working in a home environment rather than an office. A kitchen chair, for example, is unlikely to be adjustable or have any lumbar support.
The absence of these 2 features alone significantly contributes to the slumped posture that is a significant cause of lower back pain when working from home (WFH).
Neck and shoulder stiffness –
Similarly, the tendency for the lower back to slump forward on inappropriate seating also tends to create an adaptive angle backwards in the neck.
Along with the rounding forwards of the shoulders, this is a common source of muscle and joint stiffness of the entire upper back and neck region.
Working from home at a laptop usually involves looking down towards a screen. This encourages a slumped posture, which can be reduced by elevating the screen.
Typically, the laptop must be raised anywhere from 5 to 10 inches for most users to provide the proper height. An effective way to improve the positioning of your computer is with a Laptop Riser to raise the screen to increase your comfort.
We recommend Posturite Smartfit Easy Riser Laptop Cooling Stand or similar. Alternatively, this lightweight Opløft Sit-Stand Platform by Posturite offers a portable office set-up that can be adjusted to your requirements.
One potential complication of the upper back and neck muscle and joint stiffness is what’s known as a Cervicogenic Headache.
Muscles have characteristic pain referral patterns, meaning that pain can be experienced in areas distant from the site of the problem.
In the upper back, the pain referral patterns frequently involve the base of the skull, the temples and sometimes above the eyes.
Eye strain and dehydration can also contribute to Headaches in office environments, particularly with WFH.
Prolonged static positions have wide-ranging effects on your mechanical & circulatory systems, negatively impacting your concentration & performance.
Regular breaks or the introduction of frequent micro-breaks are a way of reducing these negative effects.
One simple strategy is the 20 for 20 – get up and move for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
This simple strategy is a deceptively simple & effective way of improving your comfort and concentration.
Wrist Pain –
The small repetitive movements of the wrist using a keyboard are far from ideal at the best times.
When working from home, the keyboard is a laptop, and the table isn’t the right height.
As with many mechanical issues that arise with WFH, the effects are cumulative rather than traumatic, so the steady extra loading of the wrists and pressure of the wrists on the edge of the table often build up tension at the carpal tunnel and in the muscles of the forearm.
Also, it’s worth noting that once the laptop is elevated, it is usually tricky to use the keyboard and trackpad. Having the mouse and keyboard as separate items also enables them to be positioned to suit you.
A4 Tech Compact Mini Keyboard Optical Mouse Industry-standard kitchen tables are about 3cm higher than the average office desk. The result is that when sitting and working, the elbows drop below the level of the wrists.
This contributes to additional wrist pressure and a more slumped posture. A wedge cushion is another excellent tool to improve posture and avoid wrist pain.
A wedge cushion can offset this height difference and introduce a better posture from the bottom up.
Hip stiffness –
Sitting for sustained periods contributes to shortening the muscles that cross the front of the hips. These are extremely important influential muscles, poor function of which can contribute to various movement issues.
These can appear in joints of the lower back, pelvis, knee and even as far away as the foot and ankle – as well as the hip joint itself.
Investing in a footrest improves posture, giving a remarkable level of comfort & increasing circulation to the legs & feet. It also helps adapt to the height difference between the standard office and dining tables.
Recommended Products: Posturite Series Ultimate Foot Support
Recognising the stress and strains that home working has on your body is crucial in determining which areas you need to adjust.
It could be as simple as raising your laptop by 5 inches or investing in some ergonomic support that will save you a lot of pain and discomfort in the long term. Follow these rules to keep your posture safe whilst working from home.
N – Neutral Posture: a neutral seated posture should include sitting with the neck straight, shoulders straight down loosely at the sides, elbows at a right angle, wrists, low back supported on the backrest of the chair, 90 ° at the hips, 90 ° at the knees, and feet flat on the floor or on a footrest should you need one.
E – Eye and Elbow Height: Whether seated or standing – ensure that the keyboard and mouse are positioned at the elbow level. The top of the monitor should be at or slightly below eye height, depending on your screen size – if using a laptop, get a separate keyboard and mouse and place the laptop on a box or books to gain the correct height.
W – Work Area: Keep items used often in the primary work zone. Keep items used less often in the secondary work zone (area within the outstretched arms). When working at your computer, your keyboard and mouse should be in the primary work zone, centred with yourself and the monitor. – Source: CMC
*Please note that this is not a paid endorsement. The products listed here have been suggested as solutions by our Chiropractic team.
Are you working from home? We also offer desk assessments that can be conducted at your workplace or remotely.
Did you find How to Set Up Your Home Workspace useful? Read our top tips for simple home stretches for home working.
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