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Working from Home? Three Simple Tips for Preventing Neck and Low Back Pain

It feels like the world changed in an instant and we are all adjusting to the changes that come with fighting a global pandemic. You might find yourself working from home during the Stay at Home ordinance designed to flatten the curve and help stop the spread of COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus. Working from home might be new to you, so we wanted to help set you up for success and make sure you have the information you need to avoid experiencing neck and low back pain. We hope that these 3 tips, put together by our awesome intern, Rachel Harren, who will be graduating from Pacific University in May with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy, will be helpful to you!

NO!

YES!

ASSESS YOUR DESK SETUP:

Are you working on a laptop computer? Typing on the couch most of the day? Assess your our desk setup and consider our recommendations for optimal posture. We’ll start from the bottom up!

  • When sitting in a chair, place your feet flat on the ground. If your legs don’t reach the ground, place a stool, text book or paper ream under your feet.
  • Shoot for a 90° angle at your ankles, knees and hips! If you have long legs, you may consider sitting on a pillow or flat bolster.
  • See if adding some support to your low back feels good. If you are sitting in a chair with a backrest, all you need is a small rolled up towel. Place the rolled towel horizontally across the small of your low back.
  • How are your elbows looking? Aim for another 90° angle! This is ideal whether you’re typing on a keyboard, moving a computer mouse, or writing. If the desk or table you are sitting at is a bit high, add a pillow or a ream of paper under a pillow to raise your seat high enough to allow your fingers to rest on the table top when elbows are bent to 90 degrees while shoulders/arms are relaxed at your side. This will reduce the hiking up of shoulders if straining to reach a high keyboard.
  • If desk top is too low, prop it up on all four legs with sturdy wooden blocks.
  • Adjust the height of your laptop screen or external monitor; the top of the screen should be at eye level. For many of us who use laptops, this may mean investing in an external keyboard or monitor. We have provided a few external keyboards options that are available for purchase online.
  • If you don’t have a standing desk or access to a tall counter, you still have options! You can stack up a few books or paper reams and place your computer on top of them. If that doesn’t work well for you, you can look into purchasing an adjustable desk. We have provided a few examples of adjustable desks available for purchase online.

MIX UP YOUR WORK SPACE!

Some of us are used to working from home. Others are newly adjusting to working remotely as our community responds to COVID-19. We recognize that not everyone has access to a formal desk at home. Whether you’re used to working from home or not, when at all possible, we recommend that you alternate where you spend your time at home throughout the day. Consider working at your kitchen table, office desk or coffee table for a few hours, and then migrate to the kitchen counter for a standing desk option later on.

When the workday is done and you relax on the couch with your tablet or phone to scroll through the day’s events, keep these same tips in mind. If you are going to spend more than 20 minutes online, use the TV and systems like apple TV, or Chromecast so you have a big screen to look at in front of you, as opposed to being hunched over your phone with your neck bent. If you prefer to use your smaller devices for entertainment, you can look into lap pillows and tablet and phone stands, which are available for order online.

FOLLOW THE 30/30/ RULE:

Our bodies are designed for movement! Many of our body’s tissues only get nutrition for hydration, healing, and prevention of injury through the process of actively moving, which circulates fluid and keeps tendons, disks and ligaments elastic and hydrated. So, try to change your posture for at least 30 seconds every 30 minutes.

Many of us spend the majority of our day sitting and tend to fall into some unfavorable habits when it comes to our posture. Some of these habits might include:

  • A forward-leaning head which puts strain on the neck
  • Rounded, hunched over shoulders
  • Slouched mid and lower back

If you’re exhibiting any of these tendencies, you can set a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off you can:

  • Stand up and walk around for 30 seconds.
  • Bend your neck backwards for 30 seconds.
  • Gently tilt your head from side to side for 30 seconds.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 6 times.

If you are more of a visual learner? Here’s a 3 minute video that offers some similar information:

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to your local MTI Physical Therapy clinic. We are an essential service according to the Department of health and are following every guideline to sanitize and keep everyone safe. As such, we are still open for in-clinic visits when appropriate or eVisits if you are an existing patient. We are here to support you during this challenging and uncertain time.


Additional Resources:

External Keyboard Options:

  • ($23) https://smile.amazon.com/Logitech-MK270-Wireless-Keyboard-Mouse/dp/B079JLY5M5/ref=sr_1_8?dchild=1&keywords=bluetooth+keyboard&qid=1585200302&sr=8-8
  • ($17) https://smile.amazon.com/OMOTON-Ultra-Slim-Bluetooth-Keyboard-Enabled/dp/B00GD1BGYO/ref=sxin_2_ac_d_rm?ac_md=1-1-aXBhZCBibHVldG9vdGgga2V5Ym9hcmQ%3D-ac_d_rm&cv_ct_cx=bluetooth+keyboard&dchild=1&keywords=bluetooth+keyboard&pd_rd_i=B00GD1BGYO&pd_rd_r=404244a8-aa31-459b-b389-c1fd5ac8ef21&pd_rd_w=qtCXM&pd_rd_wg=E9rCn&pf_rd_p=ab7e4d6d-4494-43e9-8915-3a4910aefd56&pf_rd_r=M1TC0334A25WJ2041E3A&psc=1&qid=1585200374

Adjustable Desk Options:

  • ($40) https://smile.amazon.com/Homfa-Adjustable-Portable-Breakfast-Serving/dp/B01N6NES32/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=wooden+stand+up+desks&qid=1585200532&s=electronics&sr=1-6
  • ($140) https://smile.amazon.com/VIVO-Adjustable-Converter-Workstation-DESK-V011G/dp/B079PB3QSX/ref=sr_1_17?dchild=1&keywords=varidesk&qid=1585200611&s=electronics&sr=1-17

 

Rachel Harren is a Physical Therapy Intern working with Rebecca Catlin, PT, DMT, OCS, FAAOMPT, at MTI Physical Therapy’s First Hill Clinic. She is currently scheduled to graduate from Pacific University’s School of Physical Therapy with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She is also her class President and the Treasurer of The Collective for Diversity and Social Justice.

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