If Your WFH Office Setup Is Causing You Body Aches and Pain – These Expert Tips Are Here to Help

02/06/2020 - 08:40 AM

In light of the current global pandemic, millions of employees and business owners worldwide have had to resort to working from home — an initiative aimed at reducing the risk and spread of the COVID-19 virus [1]. However, doing so – especially without the right home office setup can result in several health problems, ranging from body pain, aches, eye strain, and more.

"If your work from your home setup is not ergonomic, you will accelerate the onset of musculoskeletal problems ranging from neck, shoulder, back problems, hand and wrist problems, to leg problems, all because of working in poor postures. Keeping your body in a neutral, relaxed position while working is ideal to avoid pain," explains Dr. Marc El Najjar [2], a Consultant Orthopedic and Spine Surgeon for Medcare Hospital Sharjah [3].

To help minimize the risk of WFH injury, we asked Dr. El Najjar [4] for tips on how to create the very best home office space.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

If your neck and shoulders are sending you warning pangs, your posture, and the way you are looking at your work may be the culprit. If you are working from a low monitor, you are going to be flexing your neck and your head forward and down, which is going to change your posture.

Corrective Tips: Position your monitor at eye level, so that your neck and shoulders are in a neutral position. Place your laptop or desktop at elbow height and be sure to place frequently used objects nearby to reduce the possibility of physical strain further. Changing locations and positions at least twice an hour ideal for regulating and increasing the circulation of blood to your body.

Eye Fatigue

When you stare at the glare of a computer screen prolonged periods, you are making your eyes work harder. This habit can lead to digital eye strain, which is characterized by headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, as well as neck and shoulder pain.

Corrective Tips: Seek natural light and take frequent breaks. To give your eyes a break, follow the 20-20-20 rule; this means taking a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Work near a window with natural light that is preferably at a 90-degree angle to your screen, as opposed to right behind you.

Tight Hips

Your back is, actually, supposed to recline 15 to 20 degrees to keep your hips open, not to be ramrod straight. If you are sitting at 90 degrees, your hip flexors will tighten as a response to the pressure caused by body weight (if you've ever sat up after sitting for a long time and felt difficulty moving, this is why). If not treated, this could cause low back pain.

Corrective Tips: Recline your seat if your chair is adjustable. If it is not, be sure to get up and more around – frequently, ideally, every 20 minutes.

Leg Cramps

Leg cramps are a common sign of poor circulation. The ache you are feeling is your body telling you that you are not working with good posture.

Corrective Tips: Promote good blood circulation in your legs. One way to do this is by adjusting the height of your chair. Your feet need to be flat on the ground, reducing the amount of pressure on your thighs. If you can't do this with the chair you are currently using, try to use a footrest. Taking regular breaks every 20 minutes is also a great way to promote blood circulation.

Wrist Pain

If your hands and wrists are straining and aren't in a neutral position; it puts more strain on the tendons that go through a structure in your wrist called carpal tunnel. When these tendons become inflamed, they put pressure on the median nerve, resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness in your hands and fingers.

Corrective Tips: Your wrists need to be as flat as possible and straight. If possible, look into getting a keyboard and mouse that will keep your wrists neutral. If your wrists ache or tire, look into buying an ergonomic keyboard that angles out from the center, making it easier for you to keep your hand and forearm in a straight line.

Back Aches

Leaning forward to type, for example, puts strain on your lumbar region, which can lead to back injuries. When you lean forward, you increase the compression on your vertebrae by up to 200 percent, when compared to sitting in a relaxed, neutral position.

Corrective Tips: Opt for ergonomic chairs that recline. When your seat is slightly reclined, the chair starts to work for your body, resulting in a decrease in postural muscle activity as well as a decline in intervertebral disc pressure in the lumbar spine. If you do not have access to an ergonomic chair, try using a towel. Roll up the towel and put it behind your back, preserving the inward bending of your lower back.

Click here for more [5] health and wellness tips, interviews, and features.

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