by Troy Goetsch, PT, DPT, SCS
With the COVID-19 global pandemic, along with necessary social distancing and self-quarantine measures, has come a surge of previously office-based workers now finding themselves working from home. While this is an excellent way to help limit contact/exposures, and ultimately help slow the spread of the virus, this is also problematic for the worker who may not have a home office, let alone normal workspace set-up. I’ve spoken with several newly home-based workers suffering from musculoskeletal pains influenced by these recent changes in their usual workspace, including:
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Elbow pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Tight, aching, or tired muscles
Below I’d like to offer some tips for adjusting your home workspace to better fit you, using items you can easily find around your home. This will ensure that you can continue to remain productive while alleviating your pains or likelihood of developing pain.
- Identify an area in your home that is well-lit, possibly with good natural light during work hours.
- Choose a chair that allows you to sit upright, rather than reclined or slouched. Use a rigid- or firm-backed chair if able. If you don’t have an office or computer chair, then a dining room or even folding chair could work well, but you will want to put some padding down like a towel or blanket to soften the seat.
- Your keyboard should be at a height that allows your elbows to be bent to 90 degrees (the corner of a square) with your shoulders relaxed. Consider raising your seat height using blankets or a firm pillow to allow for this, especially if you are sitting at a desk/table that doesn’t have adjustable height.
- Your wrists should be relaxed and resting on a softened surface. A folded dish towel can work well here.
- Place a rolled up towel or a pillow behind your low back to help support it and maintain the natural curve (lordosis). You should feel like you are sitting on your “sit bones” (ischial tuberosities) rather than your “tailbone” (sacrum/coccyx).
- Your feet should rest flat, with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees. If needed depending on seat height, you can use a box, case of soda, or books to raise your feet up to allow for this.
- Your monitor should be arm’s length away. The top of your monitor should be at a height that is even with or just below your eye level. Consider using muffin tins, baking pans, or books to adjust for this.
For reference, you should be able to see most all of these put into action with my wife’s workspace at our dining room table above. I know you may not be able to account for all of the adjustments, especially if you don’t have the furniture or are working from a laptop, but I hope some of these tips help you to remain pain-free in your own home workspace!
Stay tuned later this week for Part 2, the daily exercises you should be doing to further decrease or prevent home workspace related pains!
Do you have questions on how to optimize your home workspace? Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 402-421-2700.
From us and ours, to you and yours, wishing you the best of health in 2020 and beyond.