Since working from home, I’ve had a lot of neck and shoulder pain, and I’m assuming it’s because I don’t have access to my office’s chair/desk setup. How can I make my home workspace more ergonomic with what I have at home??
Pain and No Gain
Dear Pain and No Gain,
Through my work on The Landing Support Team, I spend a lot of time helping to make your space more comfortable - and advising on ergonomics does just that! Below are my tips to help you move to no pain, just gain. :)
It takes a lot of physical energy to hold the body in good posture, so getting props to do the work for you is a great idea. I use smaller pillows stacked in different thicknesses to create a little “nest” that cradles the body in place. I’m also sitting on one of those Purple cushions that my parents had :). You can try experimenting with throw pillows, rolled up sweatshirts, or even bedroom pillows to give the right level of support. It’s more important for it to be functional than beautiful (I think :) ) because if you’re in pain, you can’t be as productive.
Make sure you have a footrest so your feet are firmly planted and not dangling in space when seated. The more solid the contact between body parts and the ground, the less chance there is for strain in areas with weak/lighter contact. It helps to evenly distribute the gravitational pressure on your body/circulatory system.
Try folding your legs up criss-cross in your chair to relieve the pressure on the lower spine that comes from sitting with legs down for long periods of time. Alternate which leg is on top and stop when your knees hurt. Practice half-lotus to stretch hip flexors.
- Don’t stay in the same posture all day! Rotate between sitting, standing, and reclining. When reclining, create a straight line of sight between screen and eyes — sit your computer on cushions that elevate it, so your neck isn’t straining to see downward. I like to sit on the couch with an ottoman in front of me, and the computer propped up between legs on cushions. I have a pillow that cradles my neck, so I don’t lose energy by holding my neck up so much.
- In all positions, keep your spine straight and as supported as you need it to be. Staying in twisted positions to one side or the other for any serious amount of time will cause strains.
Other pro tip:
- Lie down. Not to work, but to recharge. Getting completely horizontal, even for just 10 minutes, helps redistribute lymphatic fluid and cerebrospinal fluid inside your body.
Forward fold, malasana (yoga squat), runners lunge for hip flexors, crescent moon side stretches. Quads might not feel tight but stretching quads helps loosen hamstrings. Clasp hands behind back and lead backwards to stretch open chest muscles. Rolling neck from side to side and back is important to loosen it up, since it’s stuck in the same position for so long each day.
Also, eye yoga! Look up and around in circles to stretch eye muscles. Top right as far as you can look, bottom right, bottom left, top left. Go slowly and feel the stretch! If there are sticky spots, stay and stretch a little longer.
Having a light computer mouse is key for healthy wrists! I use the amazon basics corded usb mouse. It’s super cheap, and light to move around so your hand doesn’t get tired. Don’t use the trackpad for extended periods of time. Think about opening up the chest, rather than contracting it. I also think that the capacitive surfaces of the trackpads are stressful to the body in general — they work by having your finger draw in a small amount of electrical current to track where it is on the surface…but I digress :)
Try to support the wrist in a variety of positions as you move working postures throughout the day. Have the standing desk at a different wrist angle than the sitting posture, and the reclining posture with a different wrist angle again. Having variety is the key to not creating repetitive stress injuries, and this applies to spine as well as wrist joints.
Self-massage is also great for wrists throughout the day. Muscles get tight from repetitive use, so loosen them up by rubbing firmly in circular motions. Start at the wrists, go up through the muscles of the hand and up each finger, kneading as you go.
Ideally, screen at eye-level and keyboard around elbow level. Without a separate monitor and keyboard, there will be a tradeoff between line of sight from monitor and height of laptop for typing. Try to get a keyboard, even a cheap corded one, to be able to create a screen height level with eyes, and keyboard location around elbow height. If not, stack with books for eye-level height when doing more visual work, remove it and have the keyboard closer to elbows for more typing-focused work.
We’d love to see how your DIY ergonomic workspaces are going! Let us know @thelandinghome or via writing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in #CreatingSpace,
The Landing Team