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Pain-Management

Updated 31 July 2020

Avoid aches and pains by setting up your workstation properly at home

Working from home? Avoid discomfort by setting up an ergonomic home office with these tips.

  • If you suddenly find yourself experiencing more aches and pains while working from home, you are not alone
  • Our backs and necks can suffer from tremendous strain when our workstations are not ergonomically sound
  • Luckily, you don't have to invest in expensive office furniture – a few simple tweaks will do the trick

Whether you only recently started to work from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic or whether you are a seasoned home worker, you might be experiencing some aches and pains. Whether these are wrist pains, back pain, neck pain or headaches, they all have one thing in common – poor posture.

But luckily there are ways to set up your home office for the long haul – and to avoid those painful niggles.

What should you be looking at?

According to chiropractor Dr Andrew Bang, there are four key areas you need to keep in mind when setting up your workstation: your head, arms, back and movement. You don’t have to invest in expensive office furniture if you are only temporarily working from a home office, but there are some practical measures you can consider to take the strain off your body:

1. Your head and neck

Your head needs to be supported by a neutral spine position to avoid strain on your neck, which can lead to neck pain and even headaches. Whenever you jut your head forward or have to look down or up to see your computer screen, you are moving your head further away from your neutral spine, and your spine needs to compensate. 

Fix it: Ensure that your computer screen is straight in front of you when you look ahead. Put your laptop on a dedicated laptop stand, or a makeshift stand made from books. Ensure that your second monitor is either slightly to your left or right, so that you don’t have to strain your neck to see it. Always sit up straight.

2. Your arms and hands

If you spend the entire day typing, you may soon start feeling strain in your wrists and even your shoulders. If your wrists are hanging over the edge of your desk, you may start feeling the strain – and this may lead to the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that can cause extreme discomfort and numbness.

Fix it: Always keep your arms in a 90-degree angle to close to your sides. Don’t lean on the ball of your hands or your wrists and ensure that your desk is the correct height so that you can reach your equipment without having to bend down or stretch forward. Ensure that your shoulders are neutral and down and not hunched up towards your ears. Swap your traditional mouse for an ergonomic mouse, allowing your wrist to remain in a neutral position instead of having to move your wrist around.

3. Your back

Although most office chairs have lumbar spine support, many of us had to leave these chairs in the office while we're working from home. If you can invest in a proper office chair, it is recommended that you do so, but there are ways to ensure that your back is in a healthy position while using a normal chair. When you don't maintain a proper posture, you are putting strain on your back, which can lead to nagging backache.

Fix it: Focus on your posture, even when you don’t have a proper office chair. Take regular breaks or stand up and stretch and remind yourself to fix your posture. Ensure that your feet can comfortably touch the ground or use a footrest so that you can keep your back up straight. Adjust the height of your chair to ensure that you are sitting in a slightly reclined position of 100 degrees. This will allow you to maintain the normal curvature of your spine. If you are using a normal chair, invest in a spine support, which is more affordable than a new office chair.

4. Your general movement

If you remain sedentary for too long, your joints and muscles may become tense, which can lead to aches and pains. And if your equipment isn’t within immediate reach or properly positioned, you might be putting yourself under strain.

Fix it: Add movement (and structure) to your day by regularly getting up from your desk. Use a kitchen counter or chest of drawers for a makeshift “standing desk” when you get tired of sitting. And incorporate daily workouts, including stretching, into your routine. This will keep your muscles and joints strong and healthy.

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Image credit: Retha Ferguson from Pexels