Upgrading your Work-From-Home Space

Whether you have always worked remote­ly or recent­ly tran­si­tioned to work­ing from home dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, set­ting up an at-home work­space is not always an easy task. Longer peri­ods of sit­ting, makeshift desks and uncom­fort­able chairs while work­ing from home can all cause mus­cle pain due to poor pos­ture. Luck­i­ly, there are many ways you can trans­form your home office to improve your health.

Office chair

Whether you have a tra­di­tion­al desk chair or are using anoth­er chair from around the house, it is impor­tant to choose a chair that is upright and sup­ports your back. Your home office should include a chair that is a prop­er height from the ground based on your height. To achieve this, adjust your chair so that your feet are rest­ing com­fort­ably on the floor in order to pre­vent low­er back pain. Using books or oth­er flat objects to rest your feet on can also help align your pelvis2.

If your office chair has adjustable arm rests, ensure they are posi­tioned to allow for relaxed shoul­ders and a neu­tral arm posi­tion. Avoid lean­ing against your arm rest as this can put pres­sure on the nerves in your elbow. 

Anoth­er way to trans­form your chair and reduce low­er back pain includes uti­liz­ing a lum­bar pil­low. Sup­ple­men­tary mate­ri­als such as a firm pil­low or a tight­ly rolled up tow­el are oth­er great options for lum­bar sup­port. Prop­er place­ment of lum­bar back sup­port includes find­ing the nat­ur­al curve of your spine in your low­er black.

Desk work­space

The abrupt change to work­ing from home dur­ing COVID-19 left a lot of peo­ple with­out a desk that is suit­able for long hours of work. If you do not adjust your work sur­face prop­er­ly, you may expe­ri­ence mus­cle strain due to poor pos­ture such as strain­ing your neck to look at your com­put­er. To avoid this, raise your mon­i­tor to be at eye lev­el after adjust­ing your chair to the prop­er height. Addi­tion­al­ly, make sure to place your mon­i­tor, key­board and mouse direct­ly in front of you. Pro­longed turn­ing of the head to look at a mon­i­tor can lead to neck and shoul­der aches. 

Anoth­er way to help min­i­mize mus­cle pain includes adjust­ing your desk so that when you type, your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. There should also be space between the top of your legs and the bot­tom of the desk. This ensures you can adjust how you are sit­ting through­out the workday. 

Addi­tion­al­ly, being out of the office can often lead to a more seden­tary work­day. Stand­ing desks are a great way to reduce shoul­der, back and neck pain caused by sit­ting all day. It is rec­om­mend­ed that you ease into using the stand­ing desk by only stand­ing for 15 min­utes at a time. Those who do uti­lize a stand­ing desk should con­sid­er get­ting an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. Anoth­er option is to buy a small stool and rotate one foot on and one foot off to help avoid overuse of the mus­cles you use while you stand3. Anoth­er impor­tant fac­tor to con­sid­er is the shoes you wear while using a stand­ing desk. Flat shoes are the best option to wear instead of shoes with heels or not wear­ing shoes at all. 

Work­space add-ons

Ergonom­ic key­boards allow you to work for longer peri­ods of time on your com­put­er while pro­tect­ing you from hand, wrist and shoul­der dis­com­fort. Ergonom­ic key­boards have cush­ioned pads that can help pre­vent you from bend­ing your wrists upwards while typ­ing. If your cur­rent key­board is propped up in the back, sim­ply retract­ing the height adjust­ment at the back of the key­board or putting it on a tray with a slight down­ward tilt can help improve your hand posi­tion. The length of the key­board can also be adjust­ed to your shoul­der width to help avoid shoul­der pain. Ergonom­ic or split key­boards pro­mote a neu­tral wrist posi­tion which can min­i­mize the strain on the mus­cles that cross our wrist. Addi­tion­al­ly, many key­boards are designed with light touch keys” that require less force through­out the fin­gers when typing.

Anoth­er office item to ben­e­fit your health includes an exter­nal mouse which can help min­i­mize shoul­der pain. Those who use their laptop’s mouse pad often turn their shoul­ders inward which can cause shoul­der and neck pain. Choos­ing a mouse that is more con­formed to the size and shape of your hand can help reduce strain of the fin­gers and thumb. A ver­ti­cal mouse is a great option since it pro­motes a neu­tral wrist posi­tion. To avoid repet­i­tive wrist motion when using the mouse, attempt to use your hand, wrist and fore­arm as a unit to move the mouse. Also, rest­ing your hand off of the mouse when not in use can reduce strain in the fore­arm and wrist.

Addi­tion­al­ly, uti­liz­ing a timer can help remind you to stand up, walk around while read­ing a doc­u­ment or even stretch while remain­ing seat­ed. A good seat­ed stretch includes reach­ing your arms up, look­ing up and down, or arch­ing your back for 10 to 15 sec­onds. Set­ting your timer to go off every 30 to 45 min­utes will help you remem­ber to repo­si­tion your body to avoid mus­cle pain through­out the workday.

If you’re feel­ing aches and pains relat­ed to your home office set up, sched­ule an appoint­ment with one of our Phys­i­cal and Occu­pa­tion­al Ther­a­pists today by call­ing 630−967−2000 or click here for more information. 

1Gabriel, PT, OCS, CSCS, C. (2019, Feb­ru­ary 21). 7 of Your Most Burn­ing Ques­tions about Stand­ing Desks Answered by a Phys­i­cal Ther­a­pist. In Ortho Car­oli­na. Retrieved from https://​www​.ortho​caroli​na​.com/…

2Bergquist, A., & Urban, K. (2020, April 24). Home Work­space Caus­ing Back and Neck Pain? Try This. In Michi­gan Health. Retrieved from https://​health​blog​.uofmhealth​.org/​w​e​l​l​n​e​s​s​-​p​r​e​v​e​n​t​i​o​n​/​h​o​m​e​-​w​o​r​k​s​p​a​c​e​-​c​a​u​s​i​n​g​-​b​a​c​k​-​a​n​d​-​n​e​c​k​-​p​a​i​n-try

3Shmer­ling, MD, R. H. (2016, Sep­tem­ber 23). The truth behind stand­ing desks. In Har­vard Health Pub­lish­ing. Retrieved from https://​www​.health​.har​vard​.edu…

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