Have you had back and neck pain, headaches or shoulder stiffness, since you started working from home? Here are 5 top physio tips on working from home.
As the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has been keeping us at home, a lot of us were forced to find solutions and strategies to work from our houses. Unfortunately, not everyone has a home office, a desk or even space that they can use to set up their computer equipment correctly, with focus on the right posture. So if we are confined to our homes, we must make sure we set ourselves up properly if we want to avoid bad postures which can lead to issues such as neck and back pain, triggering old injuries or creating new ones.
If the idea of working from home in our pyjamas may have once seemed like a treat, the practical side of it is certainly challenging.
Suddenly, we found ourselves working in the same space as our family, bent over a laptop at the kitchen table, slouched on our beds or “comfortable” sofas, instead of sitting or standing at a dedicated workstation with ergonomic equipment.
It is unclear for how long the virtual set-up will be our new reality and the combination of long hours on a laptop over the dinning table can be both physically and psychologically stressful on a long term.
It is important to think about “good posture” when setting up your working-from-home environment. A “good posture” should reflect a neutral and aligned spine with a gentle ‘S’ shape with your head relaxed, balanced in a midline position over your shoulders and your shoulders in line with your hips.
Luckily there are some creative and cheap ways to improve our working from home set-up, making it more posture friendly. So here are 5 tips on how to optimise your working space and improve your comfort when working from home.
- Move more and stretch regularly
Take regular breaks and change position. Very easily you’ll get to the end of a working day and feel that you haven’t moved much from your computer, which will make you feel stiff and less mobile. For this reason, it is really important to take regular breaks.
One tip is to set an alarm for every 30-45 minutes, allowing yourself to take a 3-5 minutes break to move and then reset your posture. Phone calls can be a great opportunity to change work position, just stand up and pace around the room. For a DIY adjustable standing desk, try using an ironing board and adjust it to the your height.
See our factsheet Desk Stretching Exercises
- Set up a dedicated office space
it might seem like obvious advice but avoid working from your bed/ sofa as it will make you adopt a very unnatural posture, which can create aches and pains fairly quickly. Instead, try to sit at a kitchen or dining room table, with similar height to a work desk. Ideally, try to replicate your office setup as far as possible.
- Laptop and screen height
If you don’t have a desktop PC then try to position your laptop straight in front of you to avoid twisting and straining your neck and back.
One of the most important things is to raise your laptop, bringing the top of the screen to your eye level, using a laptop stand, some books or boxes. Bringing up your laptop screen will automatically cue you to lift your head and neck into a more upright position, reducing the strain on your neck muscles.
- Mouse & Keyboard
As your laptop is now at a higher position, you may find that your mouse and keyboard are too high, making your shoulders raise. It may be worth investing in a separate keyboard and mouse. Ideally you want the keyboard in a position that allows your wrists to be straight and your hands to be at or below elbow height. If you don’t have a separate mouse and keyboard, try angling a lever-arch file or a chopping board on top of a book to use as a ramp for your laptop.
- Choose or buy a decent chair
Considering your chair height, ideally your elbows should be level with the top of the work surface and your forearms horizontal. If your chair is too low, use cushions to raise yourself up, making sure your hips are slightly higher than your knees.
The chair should also have a sturdy back support and your lower back should be in contact with the backrest of the chair, for which you may use a folded scarf, towel or lumbar roll.
Make sure your hips are placed towards the back of the chair and your feet are flat on the ground. For that purpose, you may have to use a footrest, stool, some old books or a box.
For your standing desk position, make sure you always adjust the work surface to your elbows height; keep your neck “tall” and shoulders relaxed; don’t lock your knees or shift your weight to just one leg; keep your screen to your eye level; keep your wrists straight and parallel to the desk.
Not sure how to set-up your home office? Getting aches & pain?
At Physio for All we have a multidisciplinary team of Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Pilates instructors and massage therapists who can help and guide you, addressing and treating posture related pain and imbalance. We will also give you advice for preventive measures, such as explaining the ergonomically correct workstation setup and advising on exercises. Look at our Posture screening services
Our Physiotherapists and Osteopaths remain available for remote video consultations and “in person, face to face” appointments only for urgent cases. We are following strict health & safety guidelines to provide essential treatment at the Practice or Home Visits.
To book an appointment or chat to a Physiotherapist or Osteopath, first please call 020 72282141 or click here to email your enquiry or firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to a physiotherapist talking about How to combat back pain while working from home during the lockdown