Working from home has its pros and cons. On the plus side, you save time by not commuting to an office and can often get away with wearing sweatpants all day.
But along with the positives come some negatives. You may notice aches and pains from the way you sit and use your computer while working from home.
Extended periods of sitting can take a toll on your joints and muscles. This is especially true when your workspace is the kitchen table, couch, or bed instead of an ergonomically-designed workstation like you may have in the office.
From lower back and neck pain to carpal tunnel symptoms, discomfort due to incorrect posture is a common complaint of people who work from home.
New Aches and Pains at Home
Don’t let the comforts of home wreak havoc on your posture and cause temporary or chronic aches and pains. Here are five ways to make sure no body part is twisted, straining, or awkwardly bent when using un-traditional workspaces:
Use a Table or Desk
It may sound like a dream to be able to work from your bed, lounge chair, or couch with your computer on your lap. But this usually leaves your computer positioned in such a way that your body is at an awkward angle. Working like this for extended periods of time can result in back and neck pain, wrist soreness, and eye strain.
If you want to sit on a softer surface while you work, such as a couch, position your computer on a table in front of you. Try a stack of pillows, or a lap tray to keep it at the right height and distance. Better yet, sit in a supportive chair that allows you to sit back in the chair comfortably. If the chair doesn’t have enough back support, use a rolled-up towel or small pillow behind your lower back.
Look Straight at the Screen
The position of your computer monitor plays a big role in how your neck feels. If your screen is too low or too high, it puts your neck at an awkward angle that may result in pain and tightness. Keeping your screen to the side makes you constantly turn your neck, leading to strain and soreness.
Make sure your screen is at a comfortable viewing height – it should be directly at eye level. Use books or boxes to elevate the screen if needed or raise your chair. You should also view iPads, phones, and papers with a straight neck.
Pain Won't Go Away?
Talk with your provider to double-check your symptoms and find ways to relieve them.
Rest Your Feet on a Flat Surface
Letting your feet hang in the air while you are sitting puts pressure on your thighs and hampers blood flow to your lower legs. This can increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis and also lead to lower back or hip pain.
If your chair is too high and your feet don’t reach the floor, put a pile of books or a footrest under your feet to allow for direct contact. Also, don’t sit for prolonged periods on a couch or bed with your legs crossed or positioned straight out in front of you.
Don’t Overextend Your Arms or Wrists
Carpal tunnel syndrome causes a nerve in the wrist to become compressed, which can be very painful and even debilitating. It can have multiple causes. But activities that include overextension of the wrists – like typing – are often to blame.
Extending your arms for long periods of time can also cause back, shoulder, and neck pain. Avoid this by properly positioning your wrists, hands, and arms. Keep your keyboard and mouse in front of you, close enough that your arm remains near the side of your body and your hand is level and straight.
Take breaks from typing during the day, and do a few hand and wrist stretches.
Get Up and Move
Just as you need to periodically get up from your desk at the office to move your body, you need to be mindful of that at home as well. Try these tips:
- Take a walk around the house every hour for a few minutes.
- Alternate standing and sitting.
- Changing positions and moving your body throughout the day will help you avoid aches and pains while working from home.
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