Published On: May 19th, 2022Tags: , , ,

About the Author: Dr. Jamal Jackson, PT

Dr. Jamal Jackson is a physical therapist with MovementX in Maryland and the surrounding DMV metro area.
A female busy professional taking a stretching break from her desk at home while working from home

For many of us, work looks quite different these days.

As more and more Americans have transitioned to remotely working from home offices, not only may work look different, but it can certainly feel different as well.

Over the past few years, our nationwide team of mobile physical therapists at MovementX have seen an uptick in cases of work-related neck pain, lower back stiffness, plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and more.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of the top 5 tips to improve posture when working from home to minimize pain, correct your body position, and maximize your attention on the work in front of you.

What is the “Perfect” Posture?

First things first, let’s bust this myth. Some believe the perfect posture may be firm and rigid like a soldier at attention, whereas others think your body should be in a more reclined and relaxed position.

In actuality, there is no “perfect” posture. Our bodies were designed for movement—there is no single position that you should maintain throughout your workday.

So what is the best posture? Your next one. That brings us to our first tip…

Tip #1: Avoid Sustained Body Positions

Maintaining a static body position for prolonged periods tends to be problematic. For instance, sitting or standing in place for greater than one hour can lead to unintended changes in muscle length and decreased blood flow throughout the body.

This can not only affect how you feel while on the clock, but also lead to a decreased ability to enjoy the rest of your day once work ends. More than half of Americans who experience low back pain spend the majority of their day sitting.

To help, we recommend setting alarms on your phone, utilizing reminders to move on your smartwatch or fitness device, or taking intentional movement breaks at designated hours.

A great concept to utilize is the 30-minute rule. This states that for every 30 minutes spent working spend 20 minutes sitting, 8 minutes standing, and 2 minutes moving around or stretching.

Don’t let your family or neighbors wonder if that’s a statue sitting at your desk.

Tip #2: Be Mindful of Repetitive Tasks

Many work-related tasks are inherently repetitive. Take a second and think about how many times you perform the same work-related actions in day. How much time do your fingers spend typing on a keyboard? How often is your head turned in a certain direction? How involved are your shoulders, arms, lower back, and legs in repetitive lifting or reaching motions?

Once you have a general idea of what movement patterns your workdays often consist of, the next step is to think about mixing things up. Move your phone or secondary monitor to the other side of your desk, use voice-to-text dictation, or change up your workstation to optimize body mechanics (see next tip). This type of awareness may decrease the risk of developing certain overuse injuries over time such as carpal tunnel, neck or lower back pain, or cervicogenic headaches.

 

Female busy professional sitting at her desk while working from home with an ergonomic set up for posture optimization

Tip #3: Optimize Your Workstation

Research has shown that up to ⅓ of back injuries could be prevented through a better designed workspace. There are many ways to optimize your ergonomic set up, whether that’s at your desk, your backyard lounge chair, or dining room table.

Keeping the top of your monitor screen slightly above eye-level can reduce neck strain (this is often tough to achieve with laptops, however). Additionally, it’s best to keep your elbows, hips, knees, and ankles all near 90 degree angles, so adjust your chair, keyboard, and desk height accordingly.

You can also consider using lumbar supports, footrests, or elbow/forearm rests to spread out gravitational forces and minimize excessive pressures. To learn even more about how to correctly set up your workstation, check out this article by Dr. Fred Gilbert.

Tip #4: Train Like An Athlete

Our bodies must be strong and mobile to handle each day’s physical challenges. No matter your age, ability, or experience with exercise, you can start with a few essential strength and mobility movements to work-proof your body. The four components below can be a great start!
  1. Upper Trap Stretch (2 sets of 30sec holds on both sides)
  2. Wrist Extension Stretch (2 sets of 30sec holds on both sides)
  3. Scapular Retractions (2 sets of 20 repetitions)
  4. Standing Back Extensions (2 sets of 20 repetitions)
MovementX physical therapist and ergonomics specialist performing an examination on a patient with posture related pain

Tip #5: Work With An Expert

If the tips above aren’t leading to the outcomes you desire, working with a highly-trained movement health professional, a physical therapist, likely will.

We recommend working with a physical therapist who specializes in ergonomics and orthopedics, like many physical therapists at MovementX.

After you sign up and schedule an ergonomics evaluation at home, you’ll run through a detailed medical history, personalized workstation assessment, and a strength and mobility examination.

With a comprehensive treatment plan targeted specifically at your goals, you’ll be able to get rid of lingering pain and get back to working at your best.

 

About the Author

Dr. Jamal Jackson Physical Therapist with MovementX in Cheverly, MD

Dr. Jamal Jackson is a physical therapist with MovementX in Cheverly, MD. Dr. Jackson services the entire DMV metro area and treats a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions. He believes in putting his patients first and works to ensure care is effective and evidence-based. Above all, Dr. Jackson believes that a strong therapeutic relationship between a patient and their provider is the key to success.

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