Recently many of us have traded in the conference room for the dining room table, our cubicle for our bed, and the break room for whatever closet is farthest away from the kids. As a chiropractor for low back pain, I’ve seen first hand how these improvised workstations are causing lower back pain and neck pain that’s ultimately a death wish for productivity.
Employee of the month is still a thing right?
Work can be hard enough without adding a physical stress that makes just existing a pain in the neck. See what I did there?
Workplace ergonomics, or in this case work-from-home ergonomics, is about designing a space that is efficient and safe. While it works best to buy the right equipment, DIY never killed anyone. Someone should fact check that.
Workplace ergonomic best practices are all about maintaining a neutral spine. Fun fact: a neutral spine is not a straight one. A neutral spine has an S shape – curving towards the front in the neck, curving towards the back in the mid back, and back towards front in the lower back.
Believe it or not, it takes less work to maintain a healthy, neutral spine through good posture. Bad posture is so much harder on the muscles, overworking some and causing others to become too weak. It’s like how they say it takes more muscles to frown. It’s an annoying thing to say, but people do say it. Why are we working harder to do something that’s bad?
Here are some DOs and DON’Ts as we think about creating an ergonomically friendly workspace.
DON’T Hunch Over A Laptop
Some of us hunch over our laptops like if we type fast enough we’ll win a prize. Surprise! The prize is more work. Now, not all of us have access to a traditional desk, some of us are using dining room tables, counter tops, even our own laps. Whatever “desk” one uses, they should make sure it’s not causing posture problems.
- Knees should fit comfortably at 90º under the “desk”
- Keyboard and mouse should be at elbow height and within arms reach
- Eyes should be level with the address bar on the web browser
- Monitor should be an arms length away
If a magical adjustable desk is not available try using a box to raise the work surface up or use some old college textbooks that cost hundreds of dollars and were never read. It may also be helpful, if using a laptop, to buy a bluetooth keyboard to check all of the proverbial boxes on this list.
👆 I’m not a lawyer, but this must be a violation of child labor laws
DO a Posture Check
Posture is not just something that mothers critique as we place the corsage on our prom dates. It is responsible for so much of our general well-being.
- Movement – our spine is expertly designed to enable maximum efficiency in our movement, free from friction, pressure, or painful impact.
- Respiration – our lung capacity is reduced by 30% when we slouch. Good posture means more oxygen, more brain power, better concentration, and more energy. More oxygen is pretty non-controversial.
- Mental Health – good posture literally helps alleviate feelings of depression. It improves our own self-image and our image in the eyes of others.😏
Not to mention the lower back pain, soreness, spasms, and neurological dysfunction that 80% of Americans will experience at some point in their lives.
Try this Posture Test to see how you stand up: (oh my gosh I did it again, did you see?)
- Stand with the back of the head against a wall
- Place heels six inches from the wall
- Da booty and da shoulder blades should touch the wall
- There should be less than 2 inches between your neck or small of the back and the wall
- A large gap indicates bad posture
How’d we do?
DON’T Turn The Couch Into a Workstation
Tempting as it may be, a state of repose was never really the most productive place to get anything done. Unless that thing is binge watching, in which case it is a throne. Adjustable office chairs are great for lumbar and neck support, but they can also be expensive and take up room. There’s no need to cast aside another chair that’s been on the sideline, this is their time to shine.
- Putting a pillow or tightly folded towel under the bum will help raise the hips and support a more neutral spinal curve
- Feet should be flat on the floor as dangling produces pressure on the lower back
- Customizing the space is the best way to make sure that we don’t tire of constantly readjusting. That means it’s best not to share. So, that’s a doctor’s order not to share😉
DO Get Up and Move Around
Movement is life!
Scientists literally use it as a life defining characteristic when they’re doing their science stuff. This is an extra incentive not to wake up, go to work on the couch, go to happy hour on the couch, have dinner on the couch, and then enjoy a night cap on the couch. Sedentary life is not what we’re made for. Our muscles, joints, and ligaments should go through their full range of motion every day.
- Take a lunch break – stand up, walk around the kitchen, prepare a meal, and STAY HYDRATED
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule – for every 20 minutes of work, spend 20 seconds looking at something that is 20 feet away
There may come a point where no yoga stretch or specialty chair is providing sufficient lower back pain relief, that’s when it’s time to call in the big guns. We specialize in identifying the root cause of any spine related issue. Through a comprehensive consultation and exam we can fully understand each patient’s history and their lifestyle’s impact on their body. Our specific chiropractic care supplemented with custom therapeutic exercises, spinal decompression, massage therapy, and deep tissue laser, gives us multiple ways to help our patients find lower back pain relief whether it be from a bulged or herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, muscle strain, spinal stenosis, a subluxation or something else entirely.
That’s a lot of doctor-speak to tell you, we’ve got the tools to get you back to living the best life possible. So give us a call or schedule a time to speak with one of our doctors.