Tips to improve your workspace and posture at home, by Dr Cristina Padilla, Chiropractor, Owner at Thrive Family Chiropractic, a house call chiropractic practice serving the NE Florida region.
Are you one of the thousands of employees or business owners who has been forced to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic? Chances are, you never thought this would be a long-term practice you needed to adapt and prepare for, right? I certainly wasn’t.
Most of us don’t have a dedicated office in our homes, because we never had to work from home for longer than a few hours here and there or maybe just to meet a deadline or project occasionally. Personally, I have been spending a lot of extra hours on Zoom calls and meetings as well as helping patients virtually. And my back and neck are feeling it. The irony of being a Chiropractor …? I can’t adjust myself!
The most common complaints I have been getting from practice members these last few weeks have been: increase in headaches, neck and low back pain and stiffness. Why? They are working out of their couch, bed, dining room table, kitchen counter. They don’t have their nice and comfortable desk chairs and their workstations at home are less than ideal. Not only is this physically a problem, but ask your significant other to take a photo of what you look like while “in the zone”, working from home? Chances are you are hunched forward, your chair doesn’t have any back support and you are looking down way more than you should.
Not only is posture affected by these “new workspaces” but these changes in ergonomics can also lead to increase in headaches, trouble focusing and decrease in physical activity, all damaging to your body and health.
So here are a few tips to help improve your workstation and relieve some of the tension in your spine. As always, a visit to the Chiropractor (virtual if you would like) is highly encouraged to provide you with a long term plan to improve posture and overall health.
- Couches are for slouchers. Yes. I know. But someone had to tell you! Couches are made for comfort, not with good posture in mind. Most of them are soft and deep and they do nothing good for your spine when you are on episode 4 of Tiger King or at the Monday morning team meeting (wearing sweatpants …isn’t it wonderful!?)
In the absence of a desk chair, the ideal would be an inflatable exercise ball (this is the one I got, with a base and even workout bands! *non paid advertising* https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CTLNYVV/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 )
Another option is a sturdy chair, like a dining room chair, that has padding for you to sit on. For this, you may want to use a decorative pillow to support your low back or order a lumbar support pillow online. These are pretty inexpensive.
The bed and couch are the worst options because not only do they not provide good support, you have no way of keeping your workstation at eye level (more on this below) unless you have a portable desk that props up to keep your screen and devices at eye level as well as your keyboard and/or mouse as close to your body as possible.
- Movement is life. Movement is important to increase bloodflow to your arms, legs and to get your heart rate up throughout the day. While there are a number of gyms and personal trainers providing free or inexpensive online workouts (North Jax Crossfit is my go to!), a lot of people may not be as inclined to exercise at home, because they don’t have equipment, they get lazy, they don’t have a partner to workout with … you name it, I’ve done it.
Two things that have worked well for me:
First, set up a simple workout station in an area that I tend to walk by a lot. I recently decided to put a yoga mat in my bedroom and I have been following a challenge in April of doing 50 burpees a day (I’m gonna be super honest…it’s not happening every day. But it’s happening a lot more than before – and it only really takes a few minutes! If you try it, post on social media and tag me @jaxmobilechiropractor )
Secondly, set up a timer for 5 minutes an hour of stretching and movement. Whether it is walking a few laps around the house, doing a few Sun Salutations (great stretch and easy to do!) or to do a few squats and jumping jacks – there is a lot of research supporting these can help boost your energy and give you focus!
- Water challenge. While you are up, go get a water refill. I try to use the largest glass or tumbler I have and every time I complete a task, a video call or the end of the hour, I make a point to finish my water and pour some more. Remember, you should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water a day – more if you are an avid coffee drinker like me. For every cup of coffee, add one cup of water! Make your water fun – berries, lime, lemons, oranges, cucumbers are refreshing ways to make water fun!!! I am currently obsessed with Arbonne’s Hydration tea (chamomile and other herbs, no caffeine!). Email me if you would like some samples!
I hope these tips are easy for you to implement to your daily routine. I have created a short exercise and stretching program specific to reverse the long hours of sitting at a desk, along with an article from Physitrack that exapands on how to evaluate if your workspace is ideal for you and your posture.
If you would like a digital copy of these or to schedule a complimentary ergonomic evaluation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via Facebook or Instagram at @jaxmobilechiropractor . Let’s Thrive!