Have you noticed that your back, neck, or shoulders have been aching at the end of the day after working from home or have you heard from another about this being a recent problem? Unfortunately, this can be a common side effect from working at home at a computer. Below we discuss a few prevention strategies and a few tips to help if you currently are experiencing pain.
Work set up:
- Ensure that you have a proper work set up that allows for midline alignment of head, shoulders, wrists, hips, knees, and feet positioning the joints in the least amount of stress.
- Screen at eye level so that you are not looking too far down or up
- Keyboard and mouse at a level that allows for your shoulders to be relaxed, elbows to bent at 90 degrees by your side, and wrists in neutral
- Chair depth so that your knees are lower than your hips
- Proper back support so that you are sitting with a vertical spine and not a rounded back to activate muscle support.
- A standing desk can be purchased to allow for adjustable desk height and can allow for alternating between sitting and standing postures. You can also stack books to create a make shift standing desk
- Every half hour, hour, or at the very maximum every 2- 3 hours. This can include doing some of the exercises below, taking a quick walk around the house, or even walking to get a snack. Not only is taking a break good for you physically, it can be helpful mentally to clear your mind for a few minutes which can lead be better productivity.
Exercises for prevention and management:
- Pec Stretch – stand in a doorway with your arms out like a goal post and place the arms on the door frame then step through the doorway until you feel a gentle stretch along your chest
- Upper Trap stretch – side bend your head so that one ear is going down towards the shoulder. You should feel a slight stretch on the side of the neck
- Levator Scapulae stretch – turn your head down to one armpit like you are going to smell it so that your chin is close to your chest. Be sure that you anchor the shoulder by keeping it relaxed and your hand pinned behind your back. You should feel a stretch on the back of the neck opposite to the armpit you are turning towards.
- Shoulder squeezes – think about a pencil between your shoulder blades and try to squeeze them together but be sure to not lift your shoulders up to your ears.
- Chair lean – *need a lower back chair for this one – cross your arms over your chest or behind your head to support your neck and then lean your mid back over the back of the chair and hold for a few seconds.
- Chin tucks – place one finger on your chin with two other fingers on your collarbones and then try to make a double chin or think about pushing your head directly back into the chair. You should feel the small muscles in your neck are working. Try to hold for 5 seconds. This should be a small motion and not a very dramatic one. If you feel like there is a lot of tension in your neck try a smaller chin tuck.
Even if you are not working from home it can be beneficial to incorporate these strategies when sitting for a prolonged period of time. Take control of your work posture and pain today!