The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way the world is working and learning. Working from home comes with its challenges, both mentally and physically. Spending hours each day at a work station that doesn’t promote good posture and body mechanics can leave you with back and neck pain, eye strain, and can limit your productivity. Even if you don’t have access to your ideal office chair or standing desk, you can get creative with what you have at home to set yourself up for success:
- Chair height: Hips should be slightly higher than knees and feet placed flat on the floor to reduce strain on the low back. A kitchen chair can work well in the absence of a traditional office chair. Add a small lumbar pillow or roll up a towel to place in the small of the back if needed. If you have armrests, make sure they are set low enough that your shoulders aren’t scrunching up.
- Monitor: The top of the monitor should be at or just below eye level and about an arm’s length away from your eyes to reduce neck and eye strain. Grab some books if you need to prop up your monitor height. If you have dual monitors, place them at the same height and centered close together so you don’t have to turn your head significantly from one monitor to the other.
- Desk or table height: Forearms should rest comfortably on the table, about parallel to the floor. If you are not sitting at a desk or table, a lap desk may help elevate your work or school materials enough to make a big difference in your comfort.
- Movement: Set at timer for activity and stretching breaks every 30-60 minutes. Get up and walk or stretch. One of my favorite stretches that helps reverse the effects of prolonged desk work is a pectoralis stretch in the doorway. Prop your arms up in the door frame at a 90 degree angle (your arms should look like a football goal post) and gently shift your weight forward to feel the stretch in the chest and arms.
- Special considerations for school work with younger kids:
o If the child’s feet don’t reach the floor while they are sitting, try placing a stool or book under their feet.
o Plan frequent and fun activity breaks to keep kids engaged and alert. Ideas could include doing frog jumps, jumping jacks, races around the outside of the house, hopscotch, or setting up a simple obstacle course.
If you are experiencing pain that does not resolve with adjustments to your posture and body mechanics, let our team of physical therapists help. There are currently 3 options for accessing care during the COVID-19 pandemic: in office visits, in home visits, and telehealth visits. Let us know how we can help resolve your pain and set you up for success!
Dr. Megan Barrett, PT, DPT