Create a Home Workspace to Stay Pain-Free, Productive
As millions transition into working from home to help thwart the spread of the coronavirus, maintaining both comfort and productivity has no doubt been an issue for many.
While in-office workstations are often designed around ergonomic considerations and long-term trial and error, ensuring optimal comfort and health, home workspaces can often fall short in this regard, says Carmel physical therapist Divya Narayanan.
“While it sometimes feels we’re all sacrificing right now to survive the COVID-19 outbreak, that doesn’t mean we ignore self-care,” said Narayanan, owner of One 2 One Physical Therapy in Carmel. “That includes focusing on the hours you spend every day working from home, ensuring your workspace – whether at your kitchen table or at a desk in the corner of a spare bedroom – isn’t putting you at risk of pain or injury.”
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), injuries resulting from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) due to poor workplace ergonomics account for 34 percent of all workday injuries and illnesses.
Neck strains, pain in the shoulders or lower back, tendinitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome … Narayanan says these and other common ailments and injuries can and should be prevented in the workplace, even when that workplace is in your home.
“These are the types of injuries we associate with poor workplace ergonomics,” Narayanan said. “Sitting in fixed or constrained positions most of the day, often repeating movements with the arms, hands and wrists, can take a toll on your body, leaving you more vulnerable to injury to the muscles, tendons and nerves.”
In contrast, OSHA estimates that the implementation of proper office ergonomics can increase productivity by an average of 11 percent.
“As a rule, a comfortable workspace is great for productivity and morale,” Narayanan said. “Whether your work-from-home stint ends in weeks or months, it’s important to consider workspace improvements with an eye toward longevity.”
Narayanan offers the following basic guidelines for creating a safe and comfortable workstation:
- Set your desk, chair,keyboardand mouse in position so your hands, wrists and forearms rest in straight lines and run parallel to the floor. Use a wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse, if needed. Allow your upper-arms to hang normally from the side of your body, elbows bent at around 90 degrees.
- Place your monitor at a height that keeps your head level (or bent forward slightly) and in line with the rest of your body. The top of your monitor should sit slightly below eye level and about an arm’s length away.
- Ensure your chair offersproper lumbar support, allowing for a slight inner curve of the lower spine.
- Keep your knees at about the same (or slightly lower) height as your hips, and make sure your feet can sit flatly on the floor. If theydon’tfully reach the floor, bring in a footrest to support your feet.
- Take frequent breaks from sitting. Take time to stand up and stretch for a minute or two every half-hour or so. And, if you can, take a walk over breaks or during lunch.
If stiffness, soreness, numbness and pain persist, or you have a question about setting up a proper workspace in your home, contact the physical therapy team at One 2 One Physical Therapy to discuss options for an initial assessment.
Narayanan offers trigger point dry needling, one of the first physical therapists to bring this treatment to Indiana. Involving the insertion of multiple thin filament needles into a “trigger point” to stimulate the healing process of soft tissue, dry needling offer many near-immediate relief from tension and pain.