It's not just about the chair
The first step to working from home safely is figuring out how you’re going to approach work, says an ergonomics expert, Jodi Oakman, an associate professor at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She stresses the importance of a holistic approach to organizing the work environment before tackling the workspace.
“Where are we going to do it and how am I going to do it? What hours am I going to do? Can I do all of my job?”
Careful planning, for instance, getting up earlier to get through tasks before the rest of the household stirs, can reduce the likelihood of injury and improve productivity Oakman suggests. “Back pain is caused by work-related stress as well as work-related physical factors,” she explains.
OK, let’s get to the chair …
It’s important that the chair facilitates good posture – many chairs that aren’t ergonomically designed go out at too far an angle. It is recommended to ask someone in the house to take a photo of you sitting, so you can check whether your torso and head are in a straight line.
The chair should support your lower back, so the spine is in its natural S-shape. If not, it is recommended to add a cushion or rolled-up towel. This lumbar support is not designed to take all your weight, just to act as a reminder to sit in an upright, S-shaped position.
The chair should also allow the knees and elbows to be at right angles, to minimize unnecessary muscle strain.
If the chair is too high and your feet aren’t supported, It is recommended using a stable surface to prop them up, like a box or ream of paper. The desk should support the elbows – if that’s too high and you can’t lift the chair, try sitting on a pillow or a cushion.
Keep your eyes up
Your keyboard and mouse should be about 8cm to 10cm from the edge of your desk, and the top of the monitor should be about one arm’s length away, at eye level to avoid leaning forward or back.
This can pose problems for users of laptops, which are best suited to occasional work and checking emails while traveling. People who don’t have other options should source an external keyboard and mouse so they can raise the laptop to eye level using something like a shoebox, to prevent hunching over. Similarly, any reference documents that make you look down should be raised.
Movement is your friend
If there really are limited options for achieving the ideal work position, Oakman says you should do your best to change positions and move between sitting and standing frequently.
What about a standing workstation?
Standup desks are great, mostly for facilitating frequent postural change without having to move away from the desk. But they tend to be expensive, so it is not recommended running out to buy one. If you have a bench or ledge at an appropriate height to set up a monitor or laptop, you could use it to work standing up for 15 or 20 minutes every hour or two – the maximum recommended standing is for 20% to 30% of the working day.
Workouts will help
Exercise has numerous physical health benefits and is also a brilliant way to strengthen muscles and protect your back, especially through a strong core workout and bodyweight exercises.
If you do have problems
For people with pre-existing conditions or emerging back problems, solutions need to be tailored to the specific issue by specialists, informed by a full medical and treatment history. Back problem is one of the most common conditions we treat here at NY Four Seasons Acupuncture and Wellness Center. Give us a call at 888-251-4088 for a free consultation.