by Dr. Shane Cherico, PT, DPT
Now that it has been roughly a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many of us still find ourselves working from home as businesses slowly start re-opening and having employees come back in to work.
For those of us working remotely, it’s important to continue to practice good workplace ergonomics as being in the comforts of home can make it very tempting and far too easy to sink into a squishy chair, couch, or even bed with our laptops on our thighs, phone close by, and something to eat/drink within arms reach. While this may sound like the perfect setup to maximize productivity, it can wreak havoc on our bodies.
Our steps per day are drastically reduced as we have lost the cumulative effect of the energy needed for getting ready for work, driving to/from the job, (which also may have a walk to get into the building) as well as the little breaks throughout the day to go to the bathroom/breakroom/printer, etc. Some of us may never even leave the house as our workstation is simply in another room!
Here are some tips to help save your bodies, spines, and health as we continue to strive toward “normalcy” amid the pandemic:
- STAND: By simply getting up and standing to complete your work, you are using muscles that are dormant when sitting. This requires energy, enhances your posture, and is considerably less stress on your spine than sitting, even if you are sitting with decent form.
- MOVE: If you do choose to sit and complete your work, it’s important to get up every 20-30 minutes and walk around. Take a couple laps around the house, go up and down the stairs, clean some dishes—anything to break up the strain of sitting for extended periods of time and get some blood flowing and lubricate your joints.
- GO BACKWARDS: Sitting (or standing) with poor posture will both take their toll on you necks, backs, and shoulders over time. It’s very easy to fall into a slouched posture with our low backs rounded, our heads and necks jutting toward the screen, and our shoulders sitting forward while working for hours on end. A good idea would be to move your neck, shoulders, and backs in the opposite direction to reduce the strain placed on them with poor posture. Stand and try this:
- Pull your shoulders back and squeeze shoulder blades together for proper shoulder alignment
- Draw your chin inwards towards your throat to reduce the strain on your upper back and neck
- Put your hands in the small of your back and bend backwards to decompress your spine from a rounded posture
- CONSULT A PHYSICAL THERAPIST: if you are currently dealing with pain, stiffness, headaches, or other symptoms that are interfering with your work and daily functions or stopping you from engaging in the active lifestyle you want outside of work, see a PT. In NYS, some insurance companies allow you to see a PT without the need for a prescription from a doctor. This is called Direct Access and is great way to help you get started sooner than later on addressing those ongoing aches and pains.