We’ve been doing a great job of managing Covid here in Western Australia, but as we head in to the thick of things over the coming weeks and months we are seeing a lot of people taking the work from home option, when mandated and sensible. While we fully support the virtues of flexible working arrangements, one thing that we have noticed throughout last two years is a sharp increase in sore necks, low backs and headaches, so it seems like a relevant time to review how we can set up our work station at home.
Suboptimal work set ups can lead to musculoskeletal ailments, so we’ve put together six simple tips for you to implement to reduce the risk of neck-related headaches and spinal pain with the change in work environment that many of us are currently facing.
Get your seat height just right:
When it comes to seat height, aim to get your seat to a position at which your hips are slightly higher than your knees. This will allow your low back to maintain it’s usual slight curve, but also allow more freedom for it to move and subtly change positions. If your legs don’t reach the floor, a stool under the desk is a good option.
If you’re bunkering down for a six, seven or eight hour day in front of the screen, good quality back support will mean that you’re not relying on every muscle in your back and neck to be working the whole time. Office chairs often come with a curve that mimics that of your spine. Depending on your personal preferences, we recommend that the back of your chair is tilted just past vertical – at about 100˚
Screen set up – how far is too far?
Once you’ve established your chair and desk height, we now turn our attention to the screen. The optimal distance from the screen will depend on your eye sight, but usually a good starting point is to be arms length away if your desk depth permits. You can always adjust from here. Monitor your eye fatigue throughout the day. If your eyes are feeling tired or heavy, this is often a sign that your distance might need some tweaking.
Your monitor/s should be set to a height that reduces the work your neck muscles need to do all day. Too high and you can irritate the joints in the back of your neck. Too low and the muscles will be working overtime and get fairly sore, fairly quickly. The current guidelines recommend that we have our eyeline about level with the top third of the screen and bottom of the screen no lower than our navel.
Optimise your keyboard:
Aim to have your keyboard flat or on a slight incline on your desk. It should sit 12-15cm in from the edge of the desk so that your hands and wrists can rest comfortably whilst working. This should ensure that your shoulders and traps aren’t working overtime to hold your arm up all day.
Posture vs movement
After decades of research, it seems evident that there is no one “perfect posture”. What we have learnt however, is that regularly changing position, moving and stretching can reduce end of day discomfort and stiffness, and also improve productivity. So every 30 minutes, if you have capacity to do it, we suggest getting up and moving around for a couple of minutes. Have a stretch, do some squats, have a drink of water then get back into it!
We wish all West Australians the best of luck getting through the challenges ahead of us in the best possible mental and physical health.
The team at Subiaco Physiotherapy