For many of us, working from home has become the new normal over the past 18 months.
As a family physician/ general practitioner, I have seen an increase of headaches, neck and back pain, sore buttocks, arms, wrist strains and sprains. While these conditions need to be individually assessed I thought an article on prevention would be timely, and how an ergonomic working desk home environment helps prevent some issues.
I imagine by now you will have found your working space at home. I have listed the golden rules for an ergonomic space below:
- I advise my patients on the 90 degrees (right angle, perpendicular) – rules when sitting and standing at a desk. Importantly your desk, sitting chair, keyboard, mouse, computer screen need to be adjusted to your body size.
For example, if you are petite, you may need a step so your feet are elevated and resting flat against a ground– avoid dangling; your feet should be at a right angle to your lower legs, your knees perpendicular to your thighs.
- The back rest of your chair should be forward, snuggled against your back to avoid rocking your hips backward. If your chair is too large, a lumbar support or cushion is needed.
- Adequate padding of your chair is also important to avoid some condition like coccydynia which is excessive straining to your coccyx, the tailbone, during prolonged sitting time.
- Avoid slouching and sitting up straight is important. Imagine that you are preventing a book on your head from falling. This will avoid slouching. You may need to raise or lower the computer screen as it should be at your eye level and the screen distance should be of an arm length.
- Elbows should be resting at right angle to your body. Wrists are relaxed on the keyboard at a neutral position. A bit like playing the piano, your wrists need to be continuing on a straight line with your forearms. They should not bend upwards. Please note that keyboard and mouse are ideally positioned below the desk.
- The same rules apply for a taller person without needing of a foot rest or lumbar cushion.
- These rules apply to laptop users as well. If you use a laptop, a laptop riser stand is beneficial to maintain an ergonomic posture and at the eye level screen.
- If your environment permits, alternate sitting with using a standing desk particularly if you are vulnerable to lower back pain, disc prolapse, sciatica, gluteal and hip issues. Besides, working while standing is shown to burn more calories than sitting.
- Ensure regular breaks from your desk with regular walks, overall stretches and strengthening of your core muscles.
The illustration below provides a visual of the recommended posture.
If you do begin to feel neck strain, headaches, back ache, sore coccyx, wrist ache – pease don’t ignore the pain. Your body is telling you something. Medical issues like these tend to have better medical outcomes when we intervene early!