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Work From Home Ergonomics

Due to our current times, many people find themselves newly working from home. This can leave people in a work environment that is set up more for relaxing rather than sitting and working for long hours. An improper workstation can increase back pain, neck pain and even shoulder pain. It’s important to ensure that your workstation is optimized for you so that you are able to transition painlessly into working from home.

The general checklist of a good workspace is as follows:

  1. Top of the monitor should be at eye level

    1. Make sure that your head is in a neutral position, you should not have to crane your neck forward to work.

  2. Shoulders should be relaxed, keep them away from your ears!

    1. Its very easy to allow your shoulders to tense up as you work, give yourself a posture check every now and then to make sure you haven’t let your shoulders creep up.

  3. Desk height should allow elbows to be parallel to floor

    1. Try to maintain elbows no more than 90 degrees bent, they should always be slightly in front of your body.

  4. You should be sitting upright with a small support for your lower back

    1. You can place a small pillow, rolled up towel, or use a chair with a good lumbar support to help maintain your spine in a neutral position.

  5. Make sure your hips are higher than your knees

    1. This helps to reduce strain on your lower back

  6. The back of your knee should clear the end of the chair by an inch or two

    1. If your knees are touching, it can limit blood flow and cause pain.

  7. Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor, don’t let your feet dangle

    1. Place books, boxes, or a footstool underneath you if you aren’t able to reach the floor normally. This will help take off weight from your legs and back and also allows you to more easily change positions and prompt blood flow back up to your body.

Many people will find that they are working off of a laptop at home. This can lead to a few problems as they limit your flexibility in adjusting your keyboard and monitor position. A great work around is to purchase an external keyboard and mouse so that you can put your laptop in a higher position and not have to strain your neck down all day to look at your screen. You can purchase a stand for your laptop, or simply put it on top of a few books or boxes until it’s at your ideal height.

While it is important to meet all these pointers, keep in mind that there is no perfect posture you can hold for hours on end. It is important to be changing positions, shifting your weight and moving throughout the day. Not only in your chair, but you should aim to stand up and walk around for a few minutes every hour. Set a timer if you find that you get too caught up in your work and lose track of time.

Whether you’re still going into work or working from home, you are bound to wind up with tightness and pain through your neck, shoulders or back. Here are a few stretches you can perform throughout the day to make sure you stay feeling comfortable.

Upper Trapezius Stretch:

To perform this stretch begin by sitting up tall. Keep your head facing forward and drop your ear to your shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the Left side of your neck if you lean to the Right and vice versa.

Levator Scapulae Stretch:

Begin by sitting tall. Bring your ear to your shoulder and then slowly turn your head down as if looking at your pocket or your armpit. You should feel a pulling along the back of your neck. If you want a little extra stretch, place your hand on top of your head and allow the weight of your hand to pull your neck down, do not pull on your neck as you may overstretch the area!

Upper Back Stretch:

Many of us find our upper back rounding, this can help us sit up straighter and decrease pain in our neck, upper back and shoulders. Sit up tall against the back of your chair. Place your hands behind your neck. Bring your elbows together and then arch your back over the top of your chair. As you breathe out let yourself sink deeper into the stretch. You should feel mild pressure in your back.

Lower back stretch:

Begin by going onto your hands and knees. Reach forward with your arms and then bring your bottom back as if to sit on your heels. Keep your hands forward and feel a stretch through your back. You can place both hands to your left or right to feel a more intense stretch on either side.

If you find yourself with new or recurring pain as a result of your new work area, don’t hesitate to find a Physical Therapist who can evaluate, identify, and treat your individual problems. Physical Therapists are specially trained to optimize movement and treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions.


Author: Edgar Vargas, PT, DPT

Dr. Edgar Vargas, PT, DPT received his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with emphasis on Exercise Science from California State University, Long Beach graduating Cum Laude. He later received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chapman University. He has clinical experience in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings including orthopedic and neurologic. Through his treatments, Edgar aims to treat the patient as a whole by listening to and understanding the individual needs of the patient. He seeks to educate each patient so that they may become confident in managing their conditions.Outside of the clinic, he spends his time rock climbing, traveling, and relaxing with his family and friends.

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