After four and a half weeks of lockdown, and even as we move into Alert Level Three, figuring out how to work from home has become a new challenge. This may continue for many of us for weeks or months to come. As a physio, I am hearing a lot from friends and family all over the world who are suffering from pain associated with their new work environment and seeking advice on how to better set themselves up to avoid these symptoms. Here are some tips on working from home to help avoid developing tension, headaches, and pain.

1. Your computer set up

Ideally you want to be sitting at a table with your monitor at, or just below, eye level. This might mean getting creative with a stack of books or less flimsy boxes you find floating about. If you have a laptop, investing in a separate keyboard and mouse may be worthwhile so that you can continue to work with your arms relaxed and at table height. These are considered an essential item and many affordable ones are currently for sale online with fast shipping, so this is achievable even if you don’t already have one.

2. Chair

If you have an office chair then fantastic, but most of us probably don’t, so a dining room chair may have to suffice. If you have a Swiss ball then that might be a better alternative, as dining room chairs tend to be very firm and unforgiving after a short period of time. This can also be mitigated with a folded towel or thin cushion or pillow on the seat and a rolled up one in the small of your back to create a lumbar support.

3. Posture

We know now that there is no such thing as the “perfect posture” and that the best posture is the next posture! That being said, when you are sitting for much of the day, holding your muscles in their lengthened or shortened positions can make them more painful and faster. Try to sit with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent to 90 degrees. If your knees are slightly lower than your hips then your back will have less pressure on it, so either sit in the middle or the edge of your seat so your thighs aren’t resting on the chair, or sit on a cushion or towel to raise yourself slightly higher. Sit on the bones of your bum so you are not tilting your pelvis back too far and rounding your back. Sit tall, from your tailbone to the crown of your head, and widen your shoulders to open up your chest and upper back simultaneously. Pull your head back so your ears are more in line with your shoulders, and lengthen through the back of your neck by slightly tilting the chin down. Now once you have done all of this, breathe out and relax slightly! You shouldn’t be stiff as a board.

4. Regular breaks

No activity should be done in one position for hours on end, our bodies crave movement and variety. Make sure you set yourself a little reminder every 60-90 minutes to get up and have a micro-break. Go to the bathroom, get something to drink, do some exercises, do literally any movement that is the opposite of what you have been doing.

5. Desk exercises

Research has shown that one minute breaks, combined with exercises, can help mitigate RSI and muscle fatigue in office-based workers. During your micro-break, do 10 sets of a varying exercises each time to give your body the relief it needs from sustained static postures.

For example:

  • 10 push ups
  • 10 squats
  • 10 resistance band rows
  • 10 star jumps
  • 10 knees to chest running on the spot.
  • 2 min walk (around the inside / outside of the house)
  • 10 deep breaths

You might not completely eliminate your pain with these tips, but you should significantly reduce it, or extend the amount of time you’re able to work pain-free in the day. The physios at Healthzone Physiotherapy are still conducting online and phone consultations, so if you need any further help or advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment.

Contact HealthZone Physiotherapy today on: (09) 477 2098

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Rebecca graduated from AUT in 2008 with her Bachelor of Health Science in Physiotherapy and started working in a West Auckland private practice. She quickly gained an interest in sports physiotherapy including injury prevention and management. Rebecca worked for four years with premier and reserve club rugby teams including Waitemata and Kumeu / Helensville. She was the physio for the Western Pioneers team in 2012 when they won the North Harbour competition. Rebecca also practiced as a community physiotherapist administering the Otago Exercise Programme which focused on falls prevention for the independent elderly. Through these clients, she developed a curiosity in chronic pain conditions. While she has had plenty of experience in standard post surgical rehabilitation, she took a particular interest in Functional Reactivation Programmes, which work with people suffering persistent pain and complex recoveries post surgery or injury. Rebecca takes an interest in working with clients who have exhausted their channels within the health profession for the management of their pain and enjoys the challenge of helping these patients manage their conditions and return to activities of daily living. To aid in this work, she went on to get her Postgraduate Certificate in Rehabilitation from AUT. Rebecca’s passions include travel, yoga, food, comedy and film – don’t get her started on the topic of movies if you don’t have the time and energy to discuss them with her. She lives in central Auckland and is fiercely local – preferring to commute every day across the bridge than to live any distance away from friends and family!