Health & Wellness

Body Strong While Working at Home

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by JEREMY DEACON

For some, the opportunity to work from home is the realisation of a long-held ambition that they hope will lead to a better work/life balance. The decision is taken well in advance, giving time to research and set up a properly equipped homeoffice.

However, with the onset of COVID-19 and sudden enforced work from home, people are making do. Patio tables, kitchen worktops, beds, and laps have become the new workstations, and none were designed for the task.

Not surprisingly, as people are forced to adapt to changes in work, it has led to increased incidences of prob- lems relating to poor posture and the incorrect placement of computer screens. The physiotherapists are busy. 

Staff at the Orthopaedic & Physiotherapy Associates (OPA) have experienced an uptick in work as they see more neck and back issues with their patients, something they put down to poor ergonomic workstation set-up on either the kitchen table, sofa, or someone’s lap. 

They said the most com- mon issues they see are the neck – typically referred to as ‘tech neck’ – and back pain with or without stiffness. The cause of these issues, they say, is poor posture, looking down for too long and seating that is too low and too deep, such as a sofa.

Interestingly, OPA is also seeing increased problems with shoulder, arm, and back pain due to people exercising at home. Due to gym closures, people are deconditioned and have a lack of appropriate resistance equipment. They have found that people tend to overdo it in intensity and the weights used without the instructor being present to guide them.

The staff at OPA is ad- vising their patients how to overcome these work-from- home issues with posture advice and how a good ergonomic workstation set- up will positively affect their issues, and how to set-up an ergonomic workstation at home which addresses the correct height of the com- puter, screen, and seating – possibly by getting their chair from work, using a wireless keyboard and not working from the sofa/bed.

They are also able to give specific exercises to prevent recurring pain such as simple steps like getting up and moving around the house in frequent intervals e.g., every 40-60 minutes, shoulder rolls, neck movements as well as arm and shoulder stretches.

Raina Steer-Pitcher, a phys- iotherapist with the Bermuda Physiotherapy Association, has also seen an increase in problems in people ranging in age from 20 to 60, as students and those used to working at a desk are less mobile when working from home.

The neck, mid and low back, and forearm issues are the main concerns, she said, caused by poor ergonomics at home, using one monitor when a person may be used to two or working from lap- top instead of a desktop with bad chairs, desk and lighting. Wrist problems and head- aches are also an issue.

“People would park and walk to work, and they would get up and walk around the office. We would walk into town, but at home there is not the same mobility.” In addition, she pointed to people taking on other responsibilities such as home schooling which reduced time for exercise.

The Association has produced two videos giving advice on its Facebook page on a range of issues such as ergonomics and bodywork.

Ergonomics:

• When you find a chair, what you ideally want is all joints at 90 degrees. You want to start at your ankles, your knees, your hips, and your elbows at 90 degrees, and have something to support you behind. You want to keep your elbows nice and relaxed, and hold a nice, easy shoulder position.

• With a laptop, tilt the screen back a little bit. In that way, you’re keeping your gaze the best you can for working on a laptop. If you have it too upright, you’re going to tend to look down and just crunch into the back of your neck. Ideally, get your monitor/screen at eye level.

• Remember, when you’re at your desk and you’re working, you really want to make sure that you take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes. Just get up and have a sip of water and try to get your eight glasses in a day. Take a washroom break, do a little bit of stretches.

Bodywork:

• A lot of us rely on body- work to control chronic pain, anxiety, and physical ailments. Some of us have regular work done so that we can continue a normal active daily life, whether that’s as simple as going for a walk or running seven miles. There’s a lot of evidence to show that meditation, body scans, and mindfulness can work really well to manage chronic pain and anxiety.

• You can reach out to your doctors and/or physiotherapists to organize online consultations, where they can guide you through these techniques. It’s a great time to explore and research meditations that work for you specifically because every single per- son is different.

Activity:

However, with the onset of COVID-19 and sudden enforced work from home, people are making do. Patio tables, kitchen worktops, beds, and laps have become the new workstations, and none were designed for the task.

Not surprisingly, as people are forced to adapt to changes in work, it has led to increased incidences of problems relating to poor posture and the incorrect placement of computer screens. The physiotherapists are busy.

Staff at the Orthopaedic & Physiotherapy Associates (OPA) have experienced an uptick in work as they see more neck and back issues with their patients, something they put down to poor ergonomic workstation set-up on either the kitchen table, sofa, or someone’s lap.

They said the most com- mon issues they see are the neck – typically referred to as ‘tech neck’ – and back pain with or without stiffness. The cause of these issues, they say, is poor posture, looking down for too long and seating that is too low and too deep, such as a sofa.

Interestingly, OPA is also seeing increased problems with shoulder, arm, and back pain due to people exercising at home. Due to gym closures, people are deconditioned and have a lack of appropriate resistance equipment. They have found that people tend to overdo it in intensity and the weights used without the instructor being present to guide them.

The staff at OPA is advising their patients how to overcome these work-from- home issues with posture advice and how a good ergonomic workstation set- up will positively affect their issues, and how to set-up an ergonomic workstation at home which addresses the correct height of the computer, screen, and seating – possibly by getting their chair from work, using a wireless keyboard and not working from the sofa/bed.

They are also able to give specific exercises to prevent recurring pain such as simple steps like getting up and moving around the house in frequent intervals e.g., every 40-60 minutes, shoulder rolls, neck movements as well as arm and shoulder stretches.

Ensure a safe and appropriate workstation set- up at home. Avoid sitting for too long. Get up in regular intervals and move your body (especially the neck, back and shoulders). Use guided exercises classes on zoom/ YouTube to avoid injuries. See a physiotherapist to get professional advice on how to manage your pains and assist in workstation set-up from home.

• Try to get up often. Get outside for a little walk every day, or even try putting an exercise mat on the floor and not just sitting on your couch. Get down on the ground, move your body, and challenge yourself! How many push-ups can you do? How many sit-ups can you do? How many squats can you do? Check-in with your body regularly.

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