Movement is Medicine: The Best Way to Keep Your Body Healthy Working from Home
The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all into a new “normal”, that for a lot of us includes working from home – a situation most Americans may have entertained for an hour here, a sick day there, but certainly not for weeks on end.
In fact, homebound employees in the U.S. are logging three hours more per day on the job than before city and state-wide lockdowns, according to data from NordVPN, which tracks when users connect and disconnect from its service.
In a scramble, many of us assembled desks, repurposed kitchen tables and took over any spare corner of our homes to create a makeshift working space in areas that aren’t designed to be used as an office. Unfortunately, these spaces lead to incorrect posture, stress on the body, more pain, etc.
According to our partners at Fit For Work, industry leaders in injury prevention, workplace safety, and experts in creating ‘ideal’ ergonomic workspaces, the number one injury we’re seeing from the masses moving to work from home is something called “static loading”. Also known as sitting in one position for too long. Sound familiar? Static Loading is an ergonomic issue because “the body is designed to move in order to keep blood flowing.” Staying in one position for too long – admit it – we’re all guilty (i.e. hunched over at the dining room table staring at a laptop) constricts blood flow and can reduce the blood’s ability supply the muscle with the oxygen needed. Static positions also restrict the blood from carrying other acids and toxins out of the blood – all of which can lead to fatigue or muscle damage.
“Many people ask, What is the best position to be in while working from home? My answer is the next position is the best position. Motion is lotion. Movement throughout the day is your best bet.” – Dr. James D. Rethaber, Ph.D., CPE – Board-Certified Professional Ergonomist.
Have you heard of ergonomics? Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their work environment. That’s why proper computer ergonomics is so important, especially during this time of uncertainty.
Physical Therapist Bryce Schuster, DPT, recommends using a 30-30 rule while working from home. For every 30-minutes you are sitting or standing in one position, take 30-seconds to move, adjust or change your position. By doing this, you can avoid the negative side effects of static loading.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration says that sitting with proper posture, along with periodic breaks to stretch and walk, will help promote physical well-being. That’s right – something as simple as standing up and taking a short walk will help prevent aches and pains. We’ll stop short of recommending a short walk to the fridge…
Here are some computer ergonomics tips to practice at home:
- Your head should be level, balanced, and in line with your torso.
- Make sure your eyes are 20-30” away from the middle of your computer screen. A good rule of thumb for this is your screen/monitor should be arms-length away.
- Your eyes should be slightly above the top of your monitor
- To prevent eye strain, practice the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you spend a significant amount of time reading a computer screen, consider investing in a pair of eye-strain reducing computer glasses.
- Keep your thighs supported, knees loose and bent at 90-110 degrees.
- Your feet should be flat on the floor or footrest, slightly in front of your knees.
- Your hands, wrists and forearms should be straight, in-line and roughly parallel to the floor.
Above all, don’t forget to move! The best move to combat stiffness and stress is simply moving your body. Take a walk during your lunch break or before dinner with the family – it’ll help more than you can imagine!
Nevertheless, if your current work situation is leaving you in pain, our physical therapists are here to help. You can see a licensed physical therapist for a consult to get your work area up to standards both in the clinic or by telehealth.
Our therapists can also give you some exercises to complete throughout your workday to keep your muscles from going static. If you are ready for an onsite clinic visit, we are here to not only treat your pain, but to help you prevent and manage it in the future.
If you’re interested in learning more, schedule with an expert Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist today.