Proper “work from home” setup- Ask a physiotherapist



How you use your computer can be a major cause of back, neck, and shoulder pain. In times where a lot of us are working from home, it is important to have a proper home desk set up. Here are some simple tips on how to help prevent injuries when using your computer.

Get ready:

  1. Always sit in a good quality, adjustable, and comfortable office chair. Pull your chair close to the desk and adjust the seat height so that your elbows, hips, and knees are bent at approximately 90 degrees. Your forearms should be parallel to or sloping down toward the desktop. Your feet should rest flat on the floor—use a footrest if necessary.
  2. Adjust the backrest of your chair to support the curve in your lower back and to help keep you upright when typing. Use a back support cushion if necessary. Relax your shoulders.
  3. Get a large computer monitor to reduce the strain on the eyes and neck muscles.
  4. If you have a laptop, make sure you use a docking port and an additional keyboard when using your computer for a prolonged period. This allows you to sit with a better posture and reduce strain.

Get set:

  1. Sit up straight and position your computer screen at a comfortable viewing distance, generally at arm’s length. Keep the top of the screen below eye level and directly in front of you. Don’t use your screen positioned to one side.
  2. Don’t work from documents flat on the desk. Use a document holder set close to the screen at the same distance from your eyes, or prop your work on a folder between the keyboard and screen.
  3. Ensure your screen is easy to see. Eliminate reflections by adjusting and tilting the screen and ensure there is no light source directly behind it. Adjust the brightness control to suit. Use a larger typing font to reduce eye strain.

Go easy on yourself:

  1. Don’t use a notebook computer for extended periods. If this is unavoidable then check that the top of the screen is below eye level, and plug in a mouse and a normal size keyboard.
  2. Limit continuous computer use and take a break every 30 minutes to do some neck, wrist, and shoulder stretches. Focus on a distant point to give your eyes a break. Get up and walk around every hour. Change your tasks regularly to alter the load on your body.
  3. Learn to touch type so you don’t have to bend your head forward searching for the keys. Small up and down motions of the head can cause a repetitive stress injury to the neck. Alternate between mouse and keyboard by varying your inputting tasks. Learn the function keys and short cuts to reduce the amount of mouse use.
  4. Manage the stresses of work and study with a balance of exercise, relaxation, and other stress management approaches.
  5. Take notice of early warnings. If you feel an ache or discomfort in any part of your body, check your posture, take a break and, if the pain persists, see a physiotherapist.

What other things should I consider?

  • Use a quality contoured pillow to support your neck when sleeping. Choose one according to whether you are a back, side or stomach sleeper
  • Consider whether your bed is giving you enough support when you sleep
  • Try to lose weight if you are overweight to reduce the load on your spine and back muscles
  • Adjust your car mirrors so that your head does not have to come forward to see clearly
  • Increase your general fitness. Keep yourself strong, active and flexible. Stretch regularly to prevent joint stiffness and muscle tightness.
  • Be careful when lifting; make sure you maintain a good posture and make sure the load is    not too heavy or large. Get another person to help if necessary
  • Use a heat pack to help relax tight muscles
  • Get regular massages to reduce muscle tightness
  • Get a stand-up desk to help minimize the time spent sitting in one position during the day. A stand uo desk can be ordered online during these times and you can ask your physiotherapist for more guidance if needed

By Charlotte Anderson, MSc. PT, PhD
Physiotherapist Charlotte Anderson

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