So we are all house-bound and have been instructed to continue working from home. Need to set up a space where you can be productive and get things done? Want to make sure you are looking after your spine while doing so? You have come to the right place!
It may be tempting to set up shop on the couch, turn your bed into a soft oasis of productivity or work cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV. While this sounds cozy and relaxing, it is definitely not wise, and sooner or later your spine will complain. The only thing worse than being stuck inside is being suck inside in pain! Fact is, after only 3 minutes of complete spinal flexion (that forward bent position we all know too well) the ligaments that help stabilise your spine begin to stretch, or in Chiro terms, become “lax”. This laxity persists for up to 30 min after you have stopped slouching and started moving. The laxity that develops as a result of constant, repeated spinal flexion is called “creep”, and is the reason for the forward-hunch-rounded-shoulders-poking-head postural picture that has become the new normal.
The good news? Working from home doesn’t need to be a pain in the neck and a hunch in the back. Without constant eyes on your every move, you now have none of the excuses, and all of the the time and privacy to do what it takes to protect your spine during your work day:)
Lets go through some pointers to set up a perfect isolation work station:
- The height of your seat should be such that your feet touch the floor and your knees are no higher than your hips. If your chair has an adjustable height, great! If not, you can use a book or box under your feet to ensure they are touching the ground if your seat is too high. If your seat is too low, prop yourself up using a pillow to raise your bum to ensure your knees are hip level.
- Arm rests are ideal. If your chair does not have arm rests, tuck your chair under your work surface so your forearms are able to rest on the surface you are working on. The work surface should be just above the level of your elbows when you are seated. You may want to pad the work surface with something soft to decrease pressure on your forearms.
- A good lumbar support is essential to help you keep a neutral spine while working. If you are lucky enough to have moved your super fancy, work-issued ergonomic chair with you to your home office, lucky you! For the rest of us, a rolled up towel placed in the small of your back while you work will be just as magical!
- When it comes to your computer screen, make sure the centre of the monitor is at the level of your nose, and minimise screen glare as much as possible to avoid straining your eyes and neck.
- Place your keyboard such that your wrists are not bent when typing. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle with forearms supported and your shoulders relaxed.
Having an ergonomic isolation station is only half the battle won. Movement is an essential key in spinal health, and often, despite our best ergonomic efforts we find ourselves slouching after a marathon session at the desk.
One way to combat this, which I’m sure many of you already use, is a “Sit-to-Stand” desk. Remember this is only a solution if you actually actively engage in regularly changing from sitting to standing (You know who you are). Otherwise it’s just an expensive, cool sounding regular desk. I would recommend switching from sitting to standing every hour at least. If you currently have back pain, you should switch every 20 minutes. If you don’t have this kind of set-up, no fear! You can reward yourself with regular micro-breaks throughout your workday. Micro-breaks can include a walk to the kitchen for a glass of water, getting up to go to the toilet, doing a couple star jumps, giving your body a stretch or trying some of my favorite spine relief activities posted below. Again, I would recommend these breaks at least every hour, if you are struggling with neck or back pain, these breaks should be taken every 20 min.
Below you can find links to 4 of my favorite recommended activities to break up your hours at the desk and give your spine some relief from flexion stress’n:
- The Cat Cow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KpNznspZZEY
- Wall Angels (Or as I prefer, the Cactus Wave): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO87HFVgsGo
- The Brugger Relief position: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMI6YKANzxw
- . Chin Tucks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1v9e8PdmqEI
I hope these tips go a small way in gaurding against pain and help make your work from home experience a little more enjoyable.
Through these uncertain times I believe we all have the opportunity to look inside ourselves and choose the way we want to be in the world. To choose kindness over judgement, generosity over gain, community over self and love over fear. My hope is that you take this time to self reflect, take a breath and honor your body and your emotions. When all else fails, share a smile..they are infectious in the best way! (and can be safely done from 2 meters)
Sending you all love and best wishes.
Stay safe. Stay Sanitised. Stay Home.
Move Well. Live Well.