Tips For Avoiding Neck and Back Pain While Working From Home

In the past two years during the Covid-19 pandemic, many different professions have seen a significant increase in employees working from home. If you are one of these employees, you may notice some new aches or pains while working in a new setting. The most likely reason for this is that at-home workstations may not be ergonomically designed for you. Although not mandated, most office settings follow a standard called, “American National Standard for Human Factors Engineering of Visual Display Terminal Workstations” or ANSI-HFS, following ergonomic design to furnish offices with furniture and accessories that would minimize things such as repetitive stress injuries and maximize work safety. Consequently, most people need to create a makeshift workspace at a kitchen counter, dining room table, lounge chair, or even bed. Since these types of furniture are not made for prolonged sitting or are ideal for viewing computer screens from, people may notice some new pains such as neck or back pain/stiffness. Here are some tips if you find yourself in this kind of situation:

1. View your computer and paperwork with a straight neck: A common question most people ask is, “What angle or height should my computer screen be at?” Simply put, you should be looking straight at your computer screen. When setting up your screen, you should avoid looking down at the screen (e.g., Like you would your phone or laptop) and also avoid a set up where you need to keep your head turned to view the screen. If working from a laptop, you can try placing it on a stack of books or a cardboard box to raise the viewing level. The same can be said for paperwork. While reading printed work, try to avoid prolonged looking down/up while doing so to prevent increased neck stiffness and/or pain.

2. Keyboard and mice should be positioned at a comfortable height: A good position to keep your mouse and keyboard is close to you and your forearms/hands should be level and straight. There are many nerves that run from the neck down the shoulder/arm and to the wrist/hand. Keeping your arm close to your body with your forearm and hand level minimizes strain placed on those nerves, minimizing any prolonged strain on these structures.

3. Sit back in your chair: Another common question is, “What should my sitting posture/position be like?” Answering this question is tricky however the best answer is to not strain yourself to sit upright but at the same time, do not hunch forward in your chair like a turtle. Typically, there are natural curvatures throughout the human spine which help to minimize stress and equalize weight throughout the spine, vertebrae, and intervertebral disks. While sitting you want to support these natural curves with the chair back as much as possible in order to continue to minimize stress/pressure on the same structures. If your current chair doesn’t allow for this, you can try placing a pillow or rolled towel in between the chair back and your mid-low back for extra support.

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