By : Dr. Laura Konopacki – NSA Chiropractor
Working from home has its advantages. It’s a major plus to be able to check your laundry anytime, live in yoga pants, and have zero commute.
But now that we’ve been at this new normal for a while, working from home is taking its toll on a lot of us. We’ve been getting by with laptops at dining room tables or leaning on the couch and just dealing with back and neck pain at the end of the day.
If you’re constantly in a bad posture while you work, your tissues conform to that shape like shrink wrap. Your body holds stress which snowballs into other things; it even becomes harder to focus and manage the day.
I had to figure this out for myself too; with reduced patient hours early on in the pandemic, I spent time redoing my website and social media accounts which meant more hours at home on my laptop.
My setup was bad and I started to feel it. My neck and shoulders got tight and the stress in my body made it hard to take a deep breath. Sleep was getting worse too; the things I used to count on to get my ‘reset’ like exercise and meditation weren’t doing the trick.
So, I had my forehead slap moment of realizing I needed to do something about it… and I should know better, ergonomics is part of my living as a chiropractor.
Here are some simple and inexpensive ways to upgrade your home office setup. With little effort, you can feel good while you work and feel energized and motivated even at the end of your day.
- Check your screen height. The top third of your computer screen should be at eye level when you look straight ahead. Grab a few old Amazon boxes and stack one or two until you get that ideal height. Your head should always stay neutral when looking at your screen.
- Check keyboard placement. As your hands rest easily on the keyboard, your shoulders should feel relaxed, with your arms hanging by your sides, and elbows at a 90-degree angle. If you just lifted up your laptop to a better height, order an external keyboard and mouse to use at a lower level: mine cost around $27, and it’s been a game-changer.
- Develop an awareness of the position of your head. Your head is like a bowling ball balancing on the top of your spine. Just like when you hold a bowling ball close to your body it feels easy, but gets much harder the farther out you have it. When your head is too far forward, your neck and upper back muscles strain under the extra work. This can cause chronic tightness, muscle spasms, and headaches. When you sit, keep your chin level and try and push your head back. Maybe set a reminder app every 20 minutes to help make this a habit.
- Support your spine from the bottom: grab the best chair you’ve got, and consider using a pillow to sit on so your sit bones are slightly raised. This helps increase the natural curve of your lumbar spine. It can also help raise you up to get to that ideal arm angle for typing.
- Support your foot height to keep knees at a 90-degree angle. This is more important if you’re sitting at a taller table. Grab a box, books, towels or pillows to rest your feet on and support your spine.
All these ideas apply for standing desks, too. Remember the basics of good screen and keyboard height; stacked amazon boxes are a quick and easy way to try this out.
Bonus functional performance hacks:
If you want to add more of a sensory challenge to your standing desk, try standing on a wobble board. For some people, this extra engagement of the brain and body calms down the static and helps supercharge their work experience.
Have a yoga mat next to your workspace for those zoom minutes where you can get a down dog in. Changing your position and movement throughout the day pays dividends.
Think about your eyes. Most desk jobs have you staring at a computer all day, focusing ahead at the same distance for hours at a time. Eye strain can affect the muscles that control your posture. Give your eyes a break whenever you can, at least a few times every hour.
Look out the window at something in the distance for 20 seconds, letting your near focus muscles relax. Another one to try: hold your arm out in front of you and move your thumb slowly in a big circle. Follow it and feel your eyes stretch through their full range of motion to unlock that straight-ahead gaze.
If you’re a visual learner, check out my website for 2 short videos: CLICK HERE (one is on desk setup and the other is a posture exercise).
Upgrading your desk setup takes very little effort, and it can make a big difference in how you feel. Your body won’t hold onto as much stress, which we all know is a good thing.