By Dr. Matthew Alch (Chiropractor)
While working from home and remaining socially distant has been an important step in preventing the spread of Covid-19, a poor home-office setup can lead to other health concerns.
Whether you are slouched over the kitchen table, working from the lounge or staring at your smartphone while lying in bed, bad posture may impact your overall health and wellbeing. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released a set of physical activity guidelines and evidence-based public health recommendations. The aim is to encourage adults to get the required amount of physical activity to help reduce the health risks associated with increased sedentary behaviour.
Below is some information that may help you improve the ergonomics of your home office, which may help you take better care of your posture and musculoskeletal health.
More than four million Australians suffer from back pain, which is the most common musculoskeletal health condition an individual typically experiences. This may be more common among people who work remotely or have a home office, as a result of poor posture and ergonomics.
If ignored, bad posture may lead to lower back pain, muscular imbalances and can place increased stress and pressure on one’s spine and joints.
One step to improve your posture while working from home is to set up your monitor so it is at your natural-resting eye level. This may help prevent back and neck pain as you will maintain a correct neck posture, as well as cause you to sit upright. This helps you to not look down at a screen, which increases pressure on your neck while contributing to troublesome forward head posture.
It is recommended to keep your monitor at an arm’s length away from your eyes. Sitting too close to a monitor may cause your eyes to strain, but sitting too far away may lead you to lean forward and squint your eyes.
To maintain a good posture, sit in a position that keeps your ears, shoulders and hips in one vertical line.
Teachers are not the only ones who want you to sit up straight, sitting at a 90-degree angle is a good place to start when it comes to maintaining a good posture.
It is also important to avoid sitting with any unbalanced postures such as crossing your legs, leaning to one side, sitting sidewards or rolling your shoulders forward.
Good posture habits help to set up healthier habits overall, and assist in optimising your musculoskeletal health. To help with your posture, you should:
- Maintain a 90-120 degree bend in wrists
- Sit with the back up against the backrest
- Keep your feet rested flat on the ground
- Sit so your eyes are level with the top of the screen
- Increase the font size to reduce straining forward
- If using a laptop, avoid placing it on your lap and looking down
- If a laptop is the only option, consider getting a monitor raise
- Consider an ergonomic office chair with lumbar support
- Use footrests and portable lumbar back supports
- Use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse
If you don’t have an office chair or backrest, place a pillow in the lumbar region to help support the back. If your chair is too low, sit on a pillow so your forearms can rest on the table without the shoulders being pulled up.
Just like Taylor Swift says, sometimes you’ve got to just ‘Shake it Off!’.
Avoid sitting in the same spot for hours on end, get up, move around and change positions at least every hour. Avoid sitting in the same spot for hours on end, get up, move around and change positions at least every hour.
Good posture or not, sitting in the same position for a prolonged period can cause your muscles to tire which can lead to slouching and slumping. Even if you don’t feel any pain or discomfort, remember to get up and stretch every hour.
To help improve circulation, adults are encouraged to get a minimum of 30-minutes of exercise each day.
Throughout the week WHO recommends either:
- 150-300 minutes of aerobic physical activity at a average to moderate intensity
- 75-150 minutes of high intensity or vigorous aerobic physical activity
- An equivalent combination
‘Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits,’ WHO recommends.
Whether you are working from home or the office, taking care of your musculoskeletal health is important to your overall health and wellbeing. Investing in your home office setup with the above mentioned ergonomic tips is a good place to start. Get in contact with your health practitioner for additional advice on how to take care of your musculoskeletal health and improve your posture.
Dr. Matthew Alch (Chiropractor) has been practising chiropractic health at Sydney Spinal Care since late 2002. Dr. Alch graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Chiropractic Science and a Masters of Chiropractic. Matthew’s extensive experience and knowledge combined with his honest and caring nature to serve his patients’ healthcare needs in the best way possible. He is a member of the Australian Chiropractors Association.