How to Avoid Aches and Pains While Working Remotely

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Dr. Carolyn Driscoll, DC

Working from home has become the new norm, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Global Workplace Analytics, more than half of US employees (i.e. 75 million workers) may be working remotely before the crisis is over. While working in pajamas may be a small perk, the departure from your ergonomic office workstation to your relaxed, DIY home office desk could have a negative impact on your posture and overall health. Below are a few tips to maximize your new workspace to minimize your body’s aches and pains.

(1) Maintain Healthy Posture
There’s an old rule of thumb that suggests that the correct sitting posture is composed of right angles at the knees, hips and elbows—the so-called “90-90-90” rule. Modern studies suggest that there is no one single posture that is correct for a sustained period of time. In other words, to stay healthy, you need to shift positions often. Use the 90-90-90 rule to get in a starting position and then fan out from there:
• When sitting in your office chair, position your knees at 90 degrees, directly over your ankles to keep your spine comfortably upright.
• Your feet should be flat on the floor, with your thighs parallel to the floor. Supportive armrests should not cause you to shrug your shoulders.
• Good lumbar support such as a pillow reduces strain to the lower back.

(2) Alternate Between Sitting And Standing
Keep in mind that sitting creates a load on the lower back that is 50 percent greater than standing, so it is beneficial to create an at-home standing desk if possible. Consider any excess furniture in your home as a potential standing desk and get creative.

(3) Take Frequent Breaks And Stay Active!
Our bodies are built for movement. Getting up at least once an hour to physically remove yourself from the workspace reduces pressure on spinal disks and boosts circulation. Try using a free app on your laptop or phone to set a recurring reminder for yourself about when to get moving.

(4) Adjust Your Monitor or Laptop
Your laptop screen should be positioned so that the very top of the monitor is at eye level. This height allows you to maintain a healthy, neutral spine. Use books or an upside-down laundry basket to raise your laptop to a higher level at home if need be.

(5) Give Your Shoulders a Little Love
Sitting or standing at your desk for most of the day pulls your head forward and rounds your shoulders, resulting in achy, restricted shoulders. You can combat this with a simple wall stretch: Begin by standing tall with your right forearm against a wall and your elbow bent to 90 degrees. Gently turn your body away from the wall until you feel a mild to moderate stretch across your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times. Repeat with your left arm.

(6) Strengthen Your Core
Weak core muscles contribute to slouching and accelerate wear and tear on the spine. Core exercises such as bird-dogs, planks and glute-bridges will give your body a strong foundation
and it’ll keep you upright, balanced, pain-free and, most importantly, happy.

(7) Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
Remember that what you eat will impact your overall health, mood and energy levels. Focus on protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables to fuel your body throughout the workday.

(8) Stay Hydrated
Hydration is key to maintaining soft tissue elasticity and fluidity in joints. Our spinal disks are vulnerable to dehydration and can begin to lose height. As spinal disks begin to shrink, you become more susceptible to painful disk conditions.

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