When much of the world shifted to working at home suddenly in March 2020, few had a proper home office. Suddenly, dining room tables, kitchen islands, and coffee tables became our new offices, and many thought it would just be a temporary setup – no need to invest in a chair with ergonomic support like we had in the office, or in an office setup that was even slightly conducive to protecting our necks, backs, and beyond.
Well, flash forward more than 18 months later, and many of us are still at home, but have adapted to our new office setups and, meanwhile, forgot to make sure it was ergonomically friendly. As such, many are now experiencing severe neck and back issues because of our working conditions this last year and a half – issues Southlake Orthopaedics is happy to help fix but would much rather prevent. Here are a few tips that can stave off WFH pains – and when to recognize signs that it’s time to give us a call.
Prevention Tip No. 1: Stand up once in a while.
When you sit for too long – by the way, the average adult sits for nine hours each day (!) – your whole body suffers, from your neck to your shoulders to your lower back and hips. Consider adjusting your work from home office setup to include a standing component where, at least for part of the day, you are standing up. Make sure your computer is at a comfortable height, so you don’t need to crouch. People that add bouts of standing into their workday experience 50 percent less lower back pain (but only if you are working at a workstation that is the right height – not too high or too low). Try to avoid the need to lean or slouch. A standing desk can be a great investment you’ll thank yourself for later, and you’ll know you have the height just right when your elbows and wrists are at 90-degree angles when you type. And, while it’s tempting to work barefoot all day since you’re in the comforts of your own home, when you’re standing, make sure to wear supportive shoes.
Prevention Tip No. 2: Arrange your monitors properly.
No matter if you are sitting or standing, make sure that you don’t have to look up, down, or to the side at your computer monitor. This will save you ample neck pain like tech neck – normally associated with staring down at a cell phone all day – but it can apply to computer monitors, too. You’ll want any screen you’re looking at to allow you to look straight ahead for the best neck support.
Prevention Tip No. 3: Ergonomics matter.
Simply put, ergonomics make sure your work environment is comfortable and efficient. It goes without saying that, if you haven’t invested in ergonomic home office equipment by now – you need to and soon. The first cornerstone? An ergonomic chair, which will prevent pain in your lower back, neck, and hips. You’ll want to pick a chair that is both supportive and comfortable to your lower back and hips. Make sure you’re able to work in your chair without having to lean too far forward or too far back.
Prevention Tip No. 4: Invest in a foot stool.
To take extra pressure off of your lower back, try using a foot stool for support. Your knees should be at hip level or slightly above. Try not to cross your knees and ankles – this can also add to lower back pain.
Prevention Tip No. 5: Make sure your lighting is good.
If you need to strain too much to see what you’re working on, your neck (and eyes) will suffer. Consider making your home office a place with natural light or, if that’s not possible, invest in a floor lamp or a tabletop lamp for your desk.
Prevention Tip No. 6: Move around every hour.
Make it a point – even set an alarm – to make sure you’re moving at least once an hour. We all know how easy it is to get sucked into work and look up at the clock and realize three hours have passed by. Stand up, move, and stretch. Take a walk. Rotate your neck by going first up and down and then side to side in slow motion. Make sure you’re moving your entire body multiple times a day.
Signs of a problem
The first and most obvious sign of a problem is always stiffness and pain in the affected area. Never hesitate to reach out to the experienced professionals at Southlake Orthopaedics. You can book an appointment easily by clicking here.
However, if you experience any of the following, please seek help immediately by requesting an appointment with Dr. Chris Heck, spine specialist for an evaluation.
- Weakness or tingling in your arms or legs that you’ve never experienced before
- Pain that wakes you up at night
- Severe pain
- Numbness in the pelvic area
- Urinary or fecal incontinence
With a few minor adjustments to your WFH set-up, you’ll be able to avoid any long-lasting discomfort, meaning you can be at your very best while you knock out that to-do list. Now, all you need is a cup of coffee and your favorite loungewear. Talk about maximizing performance!