Working from home? A guide to ergonomics outside of the workplace
The start of 2020 has been difficult for most if not all of us. In response to the government recommendation on social distancing, more and more companies encourage their employees to work from home. This means that having an optimal work station set-up at home to minimise the chance of getting musculoskeletal injuries, especially neck and back pain is more important than ever.
First thing first, what is ergonomics and why is it important? Ergonomics is a relatively new branch of science, which aims to create a safe, comfortable, and productive work environment. The importance of correct ergonomics has always been neglected. Staying in a sub-optimal position can put greater stress on certain areas, and over-time this can cause recurrent lower back, neck pain and headaches to name a few.symptoms. Given that lower back pain is the world’s most common work-related disability it is incredibly important to get ergonomics right.
‘4 steps’ to correct ergonomics:
Step 1) Adjust the height of your seat, so:
-Your feet are touching the ground
-Your things are fully supported
-Front of seat is not pressing on the back of the knees
-Your elbows are in 90 degrees.
Step 2) Adjust the back rest of your seat, so:
-Your back is fully supported (especially the lumbar (lower back) region)
-Your physio might suggest you to tilt the seat slightly forward/ backward if you have existing back pain depending on your presentation. In general though, you want to relax into the back of the seat so that you are not having to actively hold yourself up for 8 hours a day.
Step 3) Adjust the monitor, so:
-The monitor is roughly one arm length away
-The top 1/3 of the screen is set at eye level
Step 4) Adjust the keyboard and mouse, so:
-They are close to you, and you do not have to reach forward
-You can use a stack of books to adjust the monitor height
-If your feet do not touch the ground, you can step on a stool
-If your chair does not have adequate back support, you can put a pillow behind you
Have a look at the pictures to the left -what is wrong?
1) If the monitor is too low, or too far away from us, it encourages us to slouch. A lot of the time this comes with over extension of the neck, overtime this might leads to neck stiffness and neck (cervicogenic) headache.
2) If you have 2 or more monitors, we would recommend you to put the main monitor directly in front of you to minimise the time spent in a twisted position. If you use them equally often, you can put both of them in the middle:
Even you have the ideal work station set-up, please do not forget to take regular breaks every 30 minutes. If that is not feasible getting up and moving at a minimum every 1 hour and a half will minimise the chances of issues from developing.
A good rule to remember is - Your next posture is the best posture!”
Here are some stretches that you can do in sitting to prevent injuries:
1) Chin to shoulder
Description: Begin sitting upright on a chair, grasp the edge of the chair at the back/ sit on your hand. Rotate your head to the side opposite to your anchored arm. With your free hand, gently pull your head downward and toward the opposite side
Hold: 30 secs – 1min | Sets: 3
* This helps to release the neck muscles that get tight from a slough position.
2) Backwards shoulder roll
Description: Sit up right, tuck your chin in. Rotate you shoulder backwards 10 times.
Reps: 10 | Frequency: 2-3x/day
* This discourages you from staying in a slump position and overly extending your beck.
3) Lower back rotation stretch
Description: Hold on the side/arm rest of the chair. Use it as an anchor, then rotate your trunk to the L then R.
Reps: 10 | Frequency: 2-3x/day
* This helps to stretch the lower back muscles and prevent the back from getting stiff. *
To sum up, here are the things you should be doing:
(1) Set-up a work station with correct ergonomics as outlined above
(2) Take frequent postural breaks (Ideally every 30 mins)
(3) Stretch regularly
If you have been experiencing issues while working at home and would like some more information feel free to give the clinic a call or come by either the North Perth or Malaga clinics to have a chat with the physiotherapists there.
If you have had poor ergonomics at home or at work for an extende dperiod of time and have been having repeated episodes of pain it is often worthwhile to get assessed to see what is the underlying issue. In these scenarios muscle imbalances and strength deficiencies in postural muscles need to be identified and corrected in order to achieve long term success.
PhysioLogix - Malaga