Work (Well) From Home

Example of how to work ergonomically at home and how to avoid upper-back pain from using the computer.

Work (Well) From Home

“The Rona” has changed our lives. Many are out of jobs, and the rest are getting used to some major changes. Hopefully things will get back to normal soon, but with the end still “to be determined,” it is time to start making sure we are doing all we can to make the most of this time. From making sure we don’t cause more pain to tackling the aches we’ve been putting off, I’ll give you a few tips to help you work well from home.

Step number 1: Don’t make things worse.

The kid from Jerry Maguire said it best, “The human head weighs 8 pounds”. Although it is true the average head weighs 8-12lbs when you are looking straight ahead, each 10 degrees you look down adds an additional 10lbs of strain to the neck muscles. That means when you are looking straight down at your phone as many of us do these days, the head can weigh as much as 50-60lbs! And instead of utilizing your strong bones to bear this weight, you begin using the muscles on the back of your neck and shoulders, which you can probably already feel paying the price.

Switching from desktops to laptops typically heightens this problem because it naturally brings your head further down to be closer to your hands. To mitigate this challenge, I recommend using a laptop stand. I like the one linked here that costs about $40 from Amazon, but if you don’t want to spend the money, a few big books can be helpful as well.

Keeping perfect posture throughout the day can be hard enough with ergonomic desks, let alone at your makeshift home-work station. Rather than stress about it, I usually recommend exercises and stretches to bring you back into the right position and strengthening the muscles that keep you there.

Step 2: Make things better by exercising hourly.

Getting up and moving hourly is something you should do regularly even in the office, but the lack of peeping, judgmental eyes at your home allows us to get a little creative with how we are moving. With the extra space and time we now have the opportunity to incorporate some of my favorite anti-sitting exercises:

  1. Cervical chair stretch. Simply use the chair you’re at to do the opposite of what you’re doing right now (looking down). Place one or both hands behind your head and look up to the ceiling stretching your upper back over your chair as far as it will go. Do this repetitively or hold for about 30 seconds.
  2. Hip flexor stretch. The psoas muscle can become shortened when sitting for prolonged periods and can contribute to tight hips and low back pain. We can stretch it out either standing or kneeling. To do so, place one leg forward, squeeze your glutes and core, and gently press your hips forward. To get even more of a stretch, reach your arm up and away from the leg that is back. As with all stretches, hold for 20-30seconds or 4-5 deep breaths. Also be sure to get your glute work in to strengthen the muscles on the opposite side of your hip.
  3. Prone T’s. This exercise helps fix rounded shoulders by strengthening your mid-back muscles. To perform, lay face down, tighten your core, lift your chest off the ground, squeeze your shoulder blades together and down, then slowly lift your arms up and down with the thumbs pointed up. Be sure to keep your neck in a neutral position by making a double chin.

There are dozens of additional exercises to combat prolonged sitting – these are just a few quick easy ones. If you have any questions or want to incorporate bands or weights, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Step 3: Stay healthy mentally and physically

All challenges can provide opportunity with the right mindset. Yes, things are hard and different right now, but there are plenty of positives.

  1. More home workouts than ever. Although switching up your workout routine can be uncomfortable, trying a new program can actually increase “the gainz” when you return. Try something different with free classes at @corepoweryogasb or @madfitness_sb on Instagram.
  2. More time to get outside. If you live in Santa Barbara, we are lucky enough to be living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. With hikes and beaches still open for now, why not get out and explore it? Red Rock and Cathedral Peak are a few of my favorites, but just getting out and exploring your neighborhood can have many benefits as well. Sunshine (especially between 10am-3pm) provides Vitamin D, which naturally boosts your immune system.
  3. More time to stay connected. This situation provides a great opportunity to check in on that friend you haven’t talked to in awhile. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. If you don’t have anyone to talk to and want to chat, feel free to call my cell (916) 838-6686.

I hope you are all finding your own ways to make it through these unusual times. If you found any of these tips helpful, or would like to share any of your own I would love to hear about it. Also, if you would like to me to evaluate your at-home workspace or show you specific exercises based on your unique history, I am doing online consultations, which are covered by most insurances. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions and stay safe out there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: