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Is Working From home taking its toll on your posture …?

As most of us are working from home in a less-than-ideal office setup, without ergonomic chairs, keyboards or computer monitors. A lot of us are experiencing new body aches and pains. Slouching, sitting too long, extending your wrists and relying upon a laptop screen will undoubtedly put physical stress on your body, that you may not notice now, but will definitely feel later.

If you are currently holding your neck from the pain of staring down at your laptop, you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Keeping your body in a neutral, relaxed position while working is key to avoiding pain. If your working from home setup isn’t ergonomic, you will accelerate the onset of musculoskeletal problems ranging from neck, shoulder, back problems, to hand-wrist problems, to leg problems, all because of working in poor postures.

I have put together a list of some of the common body aches to watch out for and ways to address them:

Do your neck and shoulders hurt?

If your neck and shoulders are sending you warning pangs, your posture and the way you are looking at your work may be the culprit.

Some of you may be looking at a low monitor, (sitting in bed doing some early morning work emails, or sitting on the with a laptop on your lap). This position is a big NO NO! As you are going to be flexing your neck and your head forward and down, which is going to change your posture.

Solution:  Make sure to position the monitor at eye level, so that your neck and shoulders are in a neutral position. If you’re working from home on a laptop, I suggest placing the laptop on a table or desk that is preferably at elbow height. Change locations and positions frequently up to twice an hour to increase your circulation.

Do your eyes feel fatigued?

When you stare at the glare of a computer screen for too long, you are making your eyes work harder. This habit can lead to digital eye strain that is characterised by headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. Eye strain is also common for those who don’t take breaks from the computer screen, mobiles and tablets.

Solution: Seek natural light and take frequent breaks. To give your eyes a break, follow the 20-20-20 rule: “Take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.” Try positioning your desk near a window with natural light that is preferably at a 90-degree angle to your screen, as opposed to right behind you. That will better for your eyes than the artificial light. 

Are your hips feeling tight?

 A very common issue I have come across at the moment.  Did you know your back is actually supposed to recline 15 to 20 degrees to keep your hips open, not be ramrod straight?

When you’re sitting at 90 degrees, your hip flexors get super tight because they’re kind of squished, so when you go to get up out of your chair, if you haven’t gotten up in a while, it feels like   you’re 100 years old.  Really tight hip flexors lead to a lot of back pain. It’s a common connection.

Solution: Recline your seat if your chair is adjustable, and if not, get up frequently. Break at least every 20 minutes and get out of that tight posture. The good thing about working at home is that you have that flexibility.

Do your legs cramp?

Leg cramps are signs of poor circulation, and the ache is your body telling you that you are not working with good posture. If you get a cramp in your leg, that’s the muscle saying, blood supply is restricted, just like if I ask you to sit down kneeling on your legs all day, you’re pretty guaranteed to get a cramp there.

Solution: Promote good circulation in your legs. One way to do this is to adjust the height of your chair so that your feet are flat on the ground. If that’s not possible, use a footrest. That way there is less pressure on your thighs and the position promotes good circulation.

Periodic breaks every 20 minutes to move around are another way to promote good circulation. When you’re walking around, the muscles of the body are pumping almost as much blood as your heart is pumping. 

Do your wrists hurt?

When your forearms sag and your wrists are bent, this position can put your wrists at greater risk of wrist extension.

If your hands and wrists are straining and aren’t in a neutral position, That puts more strain on the tendons that go through a structure in your wrist called the carpal tunnel, and as those tendons become inflamed, they put pressure on the median nerve, and then you get a problem called carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects 1.9 million of us, can result in tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in your hands and fingers.

Solution: Keep your wrists flat and straight. You want your wrists to be as flat as possible and straight, so they are not bent left or right.

If it’s possible, look into a keyboard and mouse that will keep your wrists neutral. If your wrists ache or tire, look into buying an ergonomic keyboard that angles out from the center, making it easier for you to keep your hand and forearm in a straight line.

Does your back ache?

Did you know that back pain symptoms are among the top 10 reasons for medical visits in UK? Leaning forward to type, for example, puts strain on your lumbar region, which can lead to back injuries. “If you lean forward, you increase the compression on those vertebrae, you increase it up to 200% compared to if you can sit back in a relaxed position”.

Solution: Make sure your back is supported and not being strained. The goal with ergonomics is to get your body into the best neutral position you can get into.

When your seat is slightly reclined, “the chair starts to work for the body and there are significant decreases in postural muscle activity and in intervertebral disc pressure in the lumbar spine.”

If you are seeking makeshift lumbar support, try using a towel. Roll up the towel and put it behind your back so that it preserves the inward bending of the lower back.

 

The key really is movement for both mind and body at the moment. Taking your 1hr of outside exercise is essential to keep moving, getting those steps in and switching off from work, social media, stresses and worries. 

With most of us losing our morning and evening commutes (Hello Commuter Challenge) which may have involved walking even a short distance or cycling to work, over time your body will miss this regular movement as well as the little calorie burn. Try incorporating a morning mobility in before work, even if this is just a ten-minute stretch/yoga flow ensuring good circulation and priming the muscles and the joints for the day ahead. It also sets you up for a more positive mindset which in turn will help you achieve more in your day.