In 2022, our workforce is shifting to an entirely new way of working. Whether it be a hybrid model or fully remote, an increasing amount of people are trading in their trips to the office for home headquarters. While there are many advantages of the new occupational structure, increasing demands, poor workstation setups, and reduced access to resources can all contribute to increased discomfort. If your home setup is causing you neck or back pain, read on for a few simple tips to keep you safe and productive while working at home.
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With the average person looking at a screen for more than 7 hours per day, an appropriate ergonomic workstation setup has never been more important. Ergonomics is a term that refers to an individual’s efficiency in his or her working environment. This means setting the individual up in the most appropriate position to avoid muscular strain. Let’s review the basics of an efficient workstation setup:
Neglecting to maintain any of the above-stated recommendations can ultimately cause muscle and/ or joint dysfunction. Investing in an adjustable chair, considering a standing setup, and adapting your monitor and keyboard to an appropriate level can save your neck and back from chronic issues.
An often neglected component of neck and back pain is poor vision. Bad eyesight can lead to compensation elsewhere, causing a forward head, rounded shoulders, and strained eyes. As eye strain exacerbates with prolonged computer use, so too will associated neck and back pain. Get your vision checked regularly and ensure appropriate lighting to minimize pain aggravation elsewhere.
Immobility has become a true risk factor for the development of chronic illness and pain. The saying movement is medicine is true but an often overlooked concept. Simple movements such as shoulder rolls, neck rotations, or forward folds can provide notable benefits in promoting mobility, circulation, and stress relief. Counteracting forward head and kyphotic posture by laying on a foam roller or stretching in a doorway can also be beneficial in preventing muscle shortening and poor posture.
Sustained positioning of any sort can lead to stiffness and trigger point development. That is why it is recommended that individuals take standing rest breaks every 30-60 minutes. Even if it means standing and walking to grab a glass of water or touching your toes, motion is lotion and can help lubricate your muscles and joints and prevent shortened muscle tissue and associated pain.
Managing stress is also essential to avoid the exacerbation of myofascial disorders. Although we often think only of physical contributions to pain, psychological and social factors can also contribute to the pain experience. Stress has been shown to have direct links to all systems of the body, including the musculoskeletal system. Practice mindfulness, pause to take a few deep breaths, or visualize a calming environment when tension begins to develop.
Ultimately, with individuals spending, on average 90,000 lifetime hours in front of a screen, setting yourself up for success at your workstation is key to preventing injury, keeping you productive and safe, and maintaining health for years to come.
If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent neck or back pain, contact our office or check out the ITR Physical Therapy website to set up a consultation.
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