2020 was the year that most of us started working from home…and your back probably paid the price.
Here’s how to set up an ergonomic workspace anywhere that will help—not hurt—your body.
This year has brought a lot of changes into our lives. Not only are we all getting accustomed to wearing masks everywhere, many have switched to working remotely. And while you probably enjoy skipping the commute and wearing pajamas to work, we’ve noticed that a lot of home “offices” aren’t exactly ergonomic.
Prior to the pandemic, if you worked from an office, you probably had everything set up the way you like it: a comfy chair, computer at the perfect height, and maybe even a footrest. Now? Some of you have had to make do with a TV dinner tray on the couch.
What’s the good news? With only a few handy hacks, you can have an ergonomic workspace that will alleviate your “Self Isolation Syndrome” pains. Read on for the top five areas that are most important to your chiropractic health and what you can do to avoid potential injury or discomfort.
1. Back Support
Face it…if you work a desk job, you’re sitting a lot, and it’s vital to your back health to have the proper chair. (Slouching on the sofa isn’t going to cut it.)
Here are some features to look for:
- Good Back Support – You’ll want something that fits the curvature of your lower back to keep your spine in the right position. Can’t spend money on a chair? Tuck a pillow in the small of your back for some extra support.
- Leg Room – Make sure the seat is the right length to accommodate your legs. There should be some room between the backs of your knees and the end of the chair. If the chair ends right at your knees, it can compress your nerves.
- Foot Rest – Dangling legs are not only uncomfortable, they can put stress on your spine and legs. If your feet cannot lay flat on the floor, a foot rest (a stack of boxes is fine) can help.
2. Computer Monitor
I know what you’re thinking, “As long as I can see the screen, it’s fine, right?”
Looking down for extended periods of time puts a lot of strain on your neck, as it has to compensate for your head’s shifting center of gravity. A few simple changes, however, can alleviate stiff, sore muscles and headaches.
- Screen Height – Most of what you view on your computer is located within the top third of your screen, so make sure the top of your screen (not the middle!) is at eye level. This helps to keep your neck straight instead of straining up or down to see the screen. If you don’t have a designated computer stand, a stack of books will work just fine. If you’re too low, place a pillow on your seat to lift you up a few inches.
- Screen Depth – Your screen and keyboard should be about an arm’s length away, with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. This is far away enough that you’re not hunching your shoulders and close enough that you’re not leaning forward to reach or see.
- Protect Your Eyes – The amount of blue light emitted by most electronic devices has been known to cause eye strain and headaches. Luckily, you can help fight this with a pair of blue light blocking eyeglasses or screen protector. (By the way, optometrists recommend taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus your gaze at least 20 feet away.)
3. Mouse & Keyboard
Computer use is a common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, due to the position that most people hold their hands and arms. But a few simple changes can help lessen the strain.
- Take a Break – It might not feel like it, but your hand is using muscles just by resting on the mouse. You’ll want to stretch your hand every chance you get. Don’t need your mouse currently? Hands off.
- Relax – The strength with which you hold your mouse could be affecting you, too. Loosen your grip on the mouse when you’re using it. Easy does it!
- Switch Your Equipment – An ergonomic keyboard and mouse set can put your wrist in a more comfortable position. It may take some getting used to, but it can make a huge difference at reducing pain in your wrist.
As in-person meetings become a thing of the past, phone calls have become more common. If you find that you’re constantly on the phone during work hours, here are some vital tips for you.
- Go Hands Free – Cradling the phone between your shoulder and ear may help with multitasking, but can really damage your spine and neck. It can also compress nerves in that area. Get a good headset with a microphone and mute button to create your ergonomic, hands-free telephone.
- Consider Meeting “Face-to-Face” – If possible, stick to Zoom meetings. Since your monitor is already in the proper position, it won’t put any extra strain on your neck or arms.
5. Get Up and MOVE!
Sitting in the same position all day can compress the discs between your vertebrae. This is one reason why regular chiropractic adjustments are extremely important for the health of your back. But what about in-between appointments? Getting up and moving around is your best bet.
- Stretch – It’s a good idea to get up and stretch your body periodically. Take a walk around the block, do some yoga (YouTube is a great resource!), or do some gentle stretches.
- Standing Desk – Consider converting your work surface to a standing desk. A sit-to-stand workstation makes it easy to turn whatever surface you’re using (desk, table, TV dinner tray) into a standing desk whenever you feel the need to stretch.
2020 has been a difficult year for most of us, but it shouldn’t have to be hard on your body. Use these tips to create an ergonomic workspace that works for you and don’t forget to get regular chiropractic adjustments.
At Oviedo Chiropractic, our goal is to keep our patients feeling as healthy and pain-free as possible and—most of the time—that starts with you.