According to CNBC, something like 42% more people in the US are working from home due to the pandemic, including myself.
The other day, I found myself pounding away on the keyboard at my beautiful Antique Secretary desk — it had been a gift from my mom when I graduated Acupuncture School — and sitting in a chair made by my Grandfather.
I noticed some pain and tension in my back and grabbed a small pillow for lumbar support.
Still, by the end of the day, I was stiff and sore. I stretched out and moved around, then headed to the kitchen to make dinner.
Later, I sat down at the desk for a Zoom call with friends, something I’ve been looking forward to. The tension in my neck, soreness in my wrists, and pain in my back all resurface.
Although it sure is pretty to look at, this work station was never meant for 8-hour days!
Does this sound familiar?
Working from Home can Be a Pain
If you are one of them, you’re probably counting yourself lucky, as I am.
But if this is new for you, you may be crammed into a makeshift “dining room table” desk or simply using furniture that’s not set up to support you properly.
My gorgeous work chair looks great, for instance, but the straight hardback has zero lumbar support.
A poor ergonomic setup like this can quickly lead to:
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Low back pain
- Wrist pain
- Screen fatigue
- General stiffness
If you feel a little stiff and sore, you may be thinking: it’s just a little tension, I’ll push through.
It’s More than Just a Little Tension…
Tension and pain resulting from makeshift cubicles can lead to more fatigue, stress, and loss of focus at a time when most of us are already struggling with these issues.
(If this is you, check out this article for tips on lowering stress and boosting immunity.)
Isometric contractions employed by our muscles to maintain our body in sub-par work positions will eventually create trigger points and more pain, possibly leading to repetitive strain injuries.
Getting specialized furniture is a great idea if you are working from home on a permanent, full-time basis, but it’s not something we can always afford to invest in, at least not right away.
So if you are just working from home temporarily, here are a few free and easy ways to reduce pain and tension.
And feel free to check out my Facebook live video, where I share which Acupressure points can help reduce with neck tension, back pain, and headaches.
Check Your Posture
Many of them are grateful they have a job and reluctant to complain about aches and pains. If this is you, I imagine you’re reading this at your desk right now.
Stop working, check out your overall posture to see where you might be out of alignment.
Where are your feet?
Where are your hips?
Are you sitting up straight or are you slouched?
Are your shoulders by your side or winged out like you’re about to start flapping and take flight?
Is your head looking straight ahead or looking down?
What position are your hands in? Are they flexed, neutral, or extended?
Where do you feel the most tension?
Once you’ve diagnosed some key problem areas, you can take some steps to adjust your desk area and make it more comfortable.
How to Optimize Your Home Workstation
No matter what you’re working on — or where — the most important thing is to move around every hour. (This rule is true regardless of ergonomics.)
Next, check out and adjust the position of your chair, desk, and computer.
Adjust Your Sitting Position
Sit up straight, feet on the floor, with your sit bones firmly in the chair and spine in an upright neutral position.
If your chair lacks lumbar support and you find your low back collapsing, grab a small pillow or towel.
Make sure the pillow is not too big, or it can exaggerate the curve and also cause discomfort.
Adjust Your Computer
Keeping your neck neutral allows the skull to be supported by the spinal column, but if your head is tilted, your muscles will be strained.
Your computer monitor should be at eye level; when your neck is tilted forward, muscular support must hold the head up.
If you’re working on a laptop and have access to an external mouse and keyboard, I recommend using them on the desk, then raising the laptop screen to eye level on a stand or a stack of books.
The upper arm should fall naturally by our sides and the forearm extended out to the keyboard and mouse while maintaining the upper arm in neutral, parallel with the sides of the body.
Your wrists should be in a neutral position.
Staying In Alignment
If you can’t implement all these changes at once, don’t worry, just start with what you can.
Even subtle shifts towards supporting better posture can go a long way in reducing pain and supporting your health.
Therapies like yoga, acupuncture, massage, and physical therapy can also help you to restore balance and alignment.
If you’re missing your regular bodywork appointments, join me on Facebook where I share weekly health advice and self-care advice for you while we stay at home.
If you’re looking for relief from chronic back pain, headaches, or related problems, we can help — schedule a consultation today!
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