Have you been working from home and now have aches and pains? Many of us have been making do with an at home office at the kitchen counter or worse, the couch, slaving away on our laptops. This scenario doesn’t exactly meet the requirements of an ergonomically safe work station.

We have already seen an influx of patients with neck and back pain as more and more workers report for duty on their sofas or kitchen countertop. Anytime you’re in one position for a long time, there are problems. As you sit — or even stand — gravity compresses the discs in your back. Over time, those compressed discs may cause back pain and nerve issues.

One thing that greatly helps is just 20 to 30 seconds of moving around (go get a glass of water, go outside and face the sun, or just stand up and stretch). This movement draws fluid back into the discs and helps set everything back in its proper position. Ideally, microbreaks for movement every 40 minutes is ideal.

Most of us tend to position ourselves in a way that makes us feel most comfortable because what feels best must be best, right? Well, this is not true—failing to take ergonomic precautions when it comes to sitting for a long period of time can result in several musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and seriously impact our health.

The symptoms of MSDs include recurrent pain, stiff joints, shooting pains, swelling, dull aches and loss of strength. They can affect any major part of the musculoskeletal system, but most frequently affects the back, neck and shoulders.

 Some good tips to self-check while you are working from home:

Chair adjustments.  Chair needs to be at a comfortable height with feet lying flat on the floor and knees as at a 90° angle. The back should be supported by the back and seat pan, preferably in a chair with lumbar support. You should sit up straight in the seat and take regular breaks away from the screen and walk around, even if this is just to the kitchen to make the tea round.

Computer monitor. The screen should be adjusted so that eyes are level or slightly higher than the top of the monitor, to limit the requirement of excessive neck movements. It should also be positioned at an arms-length away.

Keyboard and mouse. The computer mouse should be comfortably within reach, with the forearms, wrists, and mouse parallel to the desk. Wrists should be in a neutral position and is best assisted by a wrist or palm support. The keyboard should be slightly tilted and at a comfortable distance.

Other accessories. Any equipment used should not require strained, repetitive or awkward postures or motions. This includes phones, headsets, staplers, and calculators for example.

WHAT should you DO IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING A MUSCULOSKELETAL DISORDER?

If you are experiencing symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder such as back, neck or shoulder pain, physical therapy can help.  Physical therapists are experts not only in treating pain, but also in finding its source. Physical therapists will look for areas of weakness or stiffness that may be adding stress to the places that hurt and they will treat those areas with manual therapy and teach you specific exercises to ease pain and help you move better.

Each person may respond differently to therapy. Your body type, daily activities, alignment, and habits all affect your treatment plan. If you stick with your customized plan, however, you are sure to gain short term as well as long term benefits.

To contact STARS at one of our many therapy locations, visit our website at www.starspt.org or call us at 208-367-3315.