Source: Central Jersey.com
There are plenty of great things about working from home, like a commute calculated in feet rather than miles and a relaxed dress code. But there is a downside to the change in work environment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Makeshift workspaces and ill-defined work schedules can be hard on your neck, shoulders, back, hips, and even your wrists. If working from home is becoming a literal pain in the neck, consider talking to your doctor about physical therapy.
Most people don’t have perfect posture and often sit with their head and shoulders forward, and back rounded. Additionally, typing with your wrists flexed for a prolonged period of time can cause strain and could eventually lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
For instance, most people who sit at a kitchen table or kitchen counter end up with their hands and wrists too high (higher than their elbows), placing increased stress on their wrists, neck and shoulders.
Now consider that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic people are spending most of their time working on computers in locations like the kitchen table or the couch. This means they are putting even more strain on their bodies. Unlike most office and desk chairs, a kitchen chair is typically not adjustable, so people end up molding their bodies in uncomfortable ways to fit the chair.
Couches may seem more comfortable at first, but couches tend not to support proper posture. If the couch is too low or not firm enough, your hips end up below the knees and your lumbar spine will be curved or flexed. Sitting like this for an extended period of time can lead to tight hip flexors and strain your lower back.
Further, your elbows are not supported, which forces your upper trapezius muscles and neck to work harder. And if the computer is in your lap, you’re now looking down, which encourages forward head posture and increases neck strain.
• When possible, sit at an actual desk and use a computer desk chair that is adjustable.
• Make an effort to sit with good posture, with a focus on the neck, shoulders, wrists, and lower back.
• Avoid perched sitting (no back support) by sitting back in the chair and getting a footrest if needed.
• Take a one-minute break every 30 minutes to stand, stretch, and reduce stress and stiffness.
• Always position your computer directly in front of you, not off to the side.
• Avoid positions where you are looking down at the computer screen or your wrists are bent in an awkward position.
• Avoid holding a phone while working for extended time periods. Use ear buds or a headset so you can work hands-free.
By Megan Advani, PT, DPT, is a doctor of physical therapy and outpatient rehabilitation manager with Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center Princeton Rehabilitation. You can call them at 609-853-7840 or visit online at PrincetonHCS.org.