More adults and children are working and learning from home than ever before. That means hours on computers and iPads, perhaps using couches or beds as offices and classrooms. This can lead to headaches and back, neck and shoulder pain. With a few simple ergonomically correct set-up tips, gentle stretching exercises, and frequent breaks, you can reduce the risk of these aches and pains and enhance your productivity and mood.
Ergonomic Set-Up for Home Offices and Classrooms
Ergonomics is the science of designing work spaces to fit a user’s needs, increase efficiency and reduce the chance of musculoskeletal injuries. Here are some tips:
- Set up your computer on a table or desk. Reduce the temptation to work from your couch or bed.
- Sit in an office chair or firm chair with back support and your feet flat on the floor. If your feet do not reach the floor (often the case with children), place as small stool or box under your feet. You can also create lumbar support with a small pillow or a towel roll in the small of your back.
- Adjust your monitor to eye level. If you are using a laptop computer, you may want to consider using a separate key board and mouse and elevating the laptop to eye level.
- If you must use the phone often, use speakerphone or a headset to avoid holding the phone between your head and shoulder.
Take Breaks and Exercise
In addition to good ergonomic set-up, take frequent standing or walking breaks and try to incorporate some simple exercises into your day to help avoid muscle tension and fatigue.
Standing up and walk around every 30-45 minutes will help you avoid slouching and keep your muscles active. Your eyes will also benefit from the break from the computer screen.
Since our backs, necks, shoulders, wrists and hands are repetitively stressed with prolonged sitting use of the computer, doing a few simple exercises several times throughout out the work or school day can also help reduce tightness and strain as well as encourage healthy posture.
Passive Cervical Retraction Stretch
Sit with good posture. With your head level, place two fingers on your chin and gently push your chin directly backward. Hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Gentle Upper Trapezius Stretch
Sit with good posture. Reach one hand toward the floor. Gently tip your head to the other side. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 2 times to each side.
Sit with good posture; arms resting in your lap. Pinch your shoulder blades together. Avoid shrugging them up. Hold for 3 seconds. Repeat 10 times
Wrist Flexion and Extension Stretch
Bring one arm straight out in front of you. Keeping your elbow straight, gently bend your wrist down. Hold for 10 seconds. Now bend your wrist up and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times with each arm.