The Ergonomic Home Office

The Ergonomic Home Office


Work-related neck and shoulder pain is a common reason many people find themselves seeking physical therapy or other medical interventions.  Neck and shoulder pain do occur in people with physically demanding jobs, but did you know that hours of sitting and working at your computer can also cause you to experience similar discomfort? 


With shelter-in-place orders and many businesses closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, many people are having to convert their homes into offices. Here is a quick checklist that you may want to consider for your home workspace in order to reduce your chances of developing or worsening neck and shoulder pain when working from home.

    1. Computer Screen:
      1. Your computer screen should be at eye-level to reduce strain on your vision.
      2. Your screen should also be an arm’s length away from your face to allow you to maintain a neutral spine and also reduce strain on your vision.
      3. Your screen should be directly in front of you. Screens that are slightly positioned to the right or left can cause you to develop unilateral discomfort and muscle imbalances from sitting in a rotated position.
    2. Chair Height:
      1. Your feet should rest flat on the floor, this will help you keep good spinal alignment.
      2. Your knees and hips should be bent 90 degrees. If you are too small for your home office chair, try putting a shoebox or step stool under your feet to enable you to achieve this position.
    3. Armrests
      1. Armrests should be a part of your home office whether they are part of your chair or you have to make them. You want your elbows to have a 90-degree bend to reduce upper trap tension from typing or writing. If you don’t have armrests on your home office chair, try placing pillows or towels under your forearms and elbows.
    4. Back Rest
      1. This should allow you to sit straight up with your back comfortable but relaxed, you can even try putting one of your decorative couch pillows to your lower back for support.
      2. No padding that pushes your head forward.
    5. Keyboard and Mouse
      1. Your wrists should be in "neutral," meaning they shouldn’t be hinged in the flexed (downward) or extended (upward) position. 
      2. Both your keyboard and mouse should be close enough where you do not have to reach out for it, this will reduce stress on shoulder and neck.

    Laptop Users: It is more challenging to accomplish the above list if you are strictly a laptop user. Investing in a wireless keyboard or mouse may be wise if you primarily use a laptop for your work. You can place your laptop on textbooks or any other elevated surface in order to get the screen to eye level. Using a wireless keyboard and mouse allows your shoulders to relax and keeps your wrists in a more neutral position. 


    Sitting Posture: Even if you have the perfect office chair and have your desk and computer at the correct height, you can still sit with poor posture. This alone can lead to work-related neck and shoulder pain. Although it is impossible to sit with proper posture all the time, sitting posture is something that can be corrected and improved. Try setting a timer for every 20 minutes to remind you to sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, and bring your chin back slightly (out of that forward head position). Better yet, when the time goes off, stand up and walk around to get your spine into good extension.


    Another thing to think about other than neck and shoulder position is what is going on with your legs and trunk. Do you always cross one leg over the other or find yourself propping on one elbow or leaning to the same side? This posture for small bouts of time is not “bad.” However, over time this can create muscle imbalances that often lead to pain. Try to switch up your postures. Cross your other leg, lean to the other side...counteract those postures you tend to hold for the longest amounts of time. 


    Movement: The last key to any workspace is the ability to get up and MOVE. Prolonged postures and poorly repeated movements lead to pain, stiffness, and even injury. If you have a desk job or sit for most of your workday, there are some specific postural exercises that can help to reduce your pain and stiffness. If you are interested in learning about these exercises and you think you may be a good candidate for them, let us know by sending us an email at [email protected] OR DM us directly! We will send you a complimentary postural strength program. For now, just remember to get up at least once every 1-2 hours and walk around, stretch, and enjoy being out of your chair. You just might find that you return to your workstation with an extra pep in your step!