Working From Home – Advice From A Physiotherapist

Working From Home – Are You Feeling The Strain Yet?

With many of us moving away from our offices and setting up to work from home, we are seeing more complaints about neck, shoulder and back pain. Laptops and dining room chairs may have seemed comfortable enough at the start of lockdown, but as the months have gone by it becomes apparent that they are not appropriate for full time or long-term use. The following article aims to provide advice on ergonomic set up and exercises to help improve comfort and reduce the risk of repetitive strain.

Workstation Set Up When Working From Home

You may not be able to take your entire desk and chair home with you, but a few minor adjustments can make a big difference. Here is a check list of things to look out for.

  1. Feet well supported – your feet should be comfortably on the floor, if you cannot adjust your seat height you could use a box or step to use as a foot rest. Knees should be level or slightly below your hips so choose your seat appropriately. Supported legs will reduced the strain on your lower back.
  2. Arms supported and not over-reaching – preferably your desk chair should have arm rests to be used between tasks. They should be at a height where elbows are supported without your shoulders rising up. Ensure your keyboard and any other frequently used items are close to the desk edge so that your elbows rest under the shoulders (rather than reaching out). This will improve comfort for the shoulder and neck.
  3. Screen height – for lengthy computer work you should ideally have a separate monitor. You could have a monitor connected you your laptop if you don’t have a separate computer. The top of the screen should be at eye level and roughly and arms-length away. This will reduce neck and eye strain.
  4. Back support – you want to aim to be sitting upright but supported, particularly at the lower back. If you do not have a supportive office chair a small cushion or rolled up towel behind the lower back can make a huge difference

Exercising During The Working Day…

Our bodies unfortunately aren’t designed for sitting at desks 9-5pm Monday to Friday so inevitably most of us will suffer from aches and pains when having a sedentary lifestyle. Any way you are able to be more active during your daily life will help prevent and reduce mechanical/musculoskeletal pain. Working from home will mean being even more inactive for some – but it doesn’t have to be. Think of the time you are saving from that commute! Could you squeeze in some Mr Motivator/Joe Wicks workouts? Exercise doesn’t even have to be a “workout”, here are some bite-size exercises you can do at your desk. It has been recommended that you do not sit working for more than 30min at a time. Break up the working day by adding in some of these exercises every 30-60min to allow muscles to relax, improve the blood circulation and prevent injury.

  1. Shoulder shrug – squeeze the shoulders up to the ears, then backwards, hold 5sec and relax
  2. Chin tuck – without nodding push the head backwards and hold 10sec (if you’re doing it correctly you will give yourself a double chin!)
  3. Backward bend – stand up and with hands on hips, push hips forward and lean back as far as is comfortable. Hold 10sec.
  4. Chest opening – hands behind your head, squeeze your elbows back and open-up the chest
  5. Chair squats – Stand up and sit down, or squat (almost sit down) and repeat
  6. Take a walk – Why not go up and down the stairs a few times while the kettle boils, or take a walk while you’re on a call? Walking is one of the single best exercises you can do for your health. Take every opportunity to get outside, and no matter how sluggish and tired you feel you are more likely to feel energised and in a better mood after a walk. This is because exercise releases “happy hormones” such as endorphins which can alleviate pain and adrenaline that will wake you up.

During lockdown, we are seeing an ever increasing amount of patients presenting with aches and pains which are a direct consequence of working from home with poor workstation set-ups and/or poor ergonomic routines. If the above tips don’t help alleviate your symptom fully, we can offer tailored hands on treatment and exercise to eradicate both symptoms and their causes.

We offer clinical physiotherapy appointments at 4 clinical locations – Glasgow West End (G3), Clarkston (G76), Newton Mearns (G77), & Kirkintilloch (G66). 0141 3530906 to appoint or enquire…