I hear these questions often. “How can I improve my posture?” Or “How can I improve my desk posture?” I’ve been hearing them even more frequently since COVID began. The workforce in the United States went from commuting to offices to suddenly working from home, so it’s no surprise.
The term “home office” should be taken with a grain of salt these days. I’ve treated patients that come in with back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain. When I ask them what they use for a home office setup, the answers are astonishing! Who knew that a bean bag chair and four stacked pizza boxes could be considered a home office!? Well, welcome to 2020 I suppose!
Of course, not all home office workstations are not that crude. But, there are many common mistakes people make when arranging their new workspace. In this article, we are going to cover some of the most common mistakes made when arranging your home office. And, what can be done to prevent pain and long-term physical issues that come along with a work from home lifestyle.
Raise Your Monitor
There are some basic rules to follow when arranging your workstation for proper desk posture. Firstly, make sure that your computer monitor is not in a position that forces you to drop your shoulders and neck. Slouching and looking down is NOT the position you want your body to be in for 8+ hours per workday.
It is very important that your main computer monitor and all supplemental monitors are at eye-level. Keeping your monitors at eye level will prevent strain on your neck, which can lead to other bad habits in shoulder and back posture.
If you own a laptop, invest in a docking station and an external monitor. DO NOT sit in a chair with your computer in your lap. It’s simply terrible for your posture. An easy remedy for a monitor that is too low is to take those old college textbooks of yours and stack them! Yes, make a “platform” for your monitor with whatever sturdy objects you have. However, pizza boxes are not recommended. They lack integrity.
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Keep A “Military-Like” Desk Posture
One of the hardest things to correct when improving your desk posture is the unconscious desire to slouch. We quickly forget how we are sitting when our attention is dedicated to what’s happening on screen. We are not thinking about how our body is positioned. The body is going to be lazy, and it’s up to us to proactively recognize this when it happens.
It takes more energy to sit up correctly at the desk than it does to slouch. But, your body doesn’t know what’s best for it, and you do. It is much less painful in the long-run to check in on your posture and force your body to sit up straight. Otherwise, you’re stuck dealing with all the nagging pains that come along with slouching over time.
Sit with your keyboard positioned, so your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Your hand should effortlessly rest on the edge of the keyboard. Keep your shoulder blades back and neck straight. Your arms should be back, but not so far as to compromise the 90-degree angle bend at your elbows. A comfortable chair helps with this. If a drill sergeant walked into your office right now, would they be satisfied with your posture? Strive for a military-grade approach to desk posture.
Stand Up Often
Stand up every half hour to forty-five minutes and do some desk exercises. This is critical to improving your desk posture and maintaining good health. Getting the joints and muscles moving at least once an hour will keep them from settling into bad habits and developing issues from inactivity. Standing desks are great. Studies have shown that standing desks can help with chronic lower back pain, and if you can get one, it’s highly recommended.
Maintaining an active lifestyle is incredibly beneficial for many reasons, and just because you work at a desk doesn’t mean you cannot fit some activity into your daily routine. Set an alarm at your desk to go off once or twice an hour. The alarm will act as a reminder to stand up, take a walk, and STRETCH!
Getting up to go to the bathroom, walk down the stairs, or take the dog on a walk will help open up your chest, hips, back. When the body is sitting prone at a desk, the joints, discs, ligaments, and even nerves can become compressed. Consistent movement and light exercise will help to decompress your body. All of these efforts will save you from experiencing pain that arises from an inactive lifestyle.
Small Changes Can Have A Big Impact
Remember, improving your posture isn’t about making drastic changes. The best way to create a healthy and sustainable workstation is to make small changes that add up and create a healthier environment for your body. What may seem like a pain at first will simply become a part of your workday, and your body will be happier in the long run.
If you have any questions regarding proper posture, healthy habits, and ways to avoid nagging pains, please contact us.