Many of us are working within a makeshift work-from-home set up. While the change of pace may be refreshing, if your office set up is less than ideal, it can lead to pain and long-term health problems that stay with you long after the pandemic.
You may be putting physical stress on your body that you may not notice now, but will definitely keep later. If you’re working without ergonomic chairs, keyboards and computer monitors, are slouching, sitting too long, extending your wrists and relying on a laptop screen, you may start to experience new body aches and pains.
To avoid accelerating musculoskeletal problems such as neck, shoulder, leg, back and hand-wrist problems, it is important to maintain good posture by keeping your body in a neutral and relaxed position.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, here’s what to watch out for and how to find a solution:
Neck and shoulder pain
Symptom: If you are looking at a low monitor or a laptop, you will be flexing your neck and your head forward and down. This change in your posture will cause your neck and shoulders to send you warning pangs.
Solution: Evaluate your work station to determine what is causing your neck and shoulder pain. Position the monitor at eye level so your neck and shoulders are in a neutral position. Place frequently-used objects nearby so your body doesn’t have to strain to use them. Place your laptop on a table that is at elbow height, and change locations or positions a couple of times per hour to increase your circulation.
Hips feel tight
Symptom: Are you sitting on the dining room chair or couch? When you’re sitting at 90 degrees, your hip flexors get tight because they’re squished. When you get out of your chair after a long time sitting, you may feel tightness in your hips. This leads to a lot of back pain.
Solution: Recline your seat to 15 or 20 degrees if your chair is adjustable, and if not, stand up frequently. Take a break every 20 minutes and keep your body moving so you’re not stuck in that tight posture.
Legs are cramping
Symptom: Leg cramps indicate poor circulation. The aching is your body and muscle saying you are not working in a good posture, you’re not getting good blood supply here.
Solution: One way to promote good circulation in your legs is to adjust the height of your chair so your feet are flat on the ground. Otherwise, use a foot rest. This new positioning alleviates the pressure on your thighs and promotes good circulation. Take breaks every 20 minutes to move around and promote good circulation.
Back is aching
Symptom: If you are leaning forward to type, this puts strain in your lumbar region. Leaning forward increases compression on those vertebrae, which can lead to back injuries.
Solution: Make sure your back is supported and not being strained, by getting your body into the best neutral position possible. If you don’t have a chair that reclines, try placing a rolled up towel behind your lower back. This preserves the inward bending of the lower back.
Wrists are hurting
Symptom: When your hands and wrists aren’t in a neutral position, this puts more strain on the tendons that go through a structure in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. As those tendons become inflamed, they put pressure on the median nerve, leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. Symptoms include tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in your hands and fingers.
Solution: Keep your wrists flat and straight when you’re working. Wrists should be as flat as possible and straight, so they are not bent left or right. If possible, use a keyboard and mouse that is ergonomic and angles out from the centre, which makes it easier for you to keep your hand and forearm in a straight line.
If you are already experiencing joint pain and muscle ache, remember to use emu oil daily to help alleviate the inflammation, tenderness, stiffness and swelling. Using it consistently can improve joint mobility and also prevent further damage by preventing scar tissue formation within the joints.