Many people find it uncomfortable to sit working for long hours and are now feeling worse while working from home. Here’s a few simple adjustments you might try to fix those often unnoticed ergonomic factors that may be causing your symptoms.
1. Check your bifocals… are they causing ‘turtle neck’?
The combination of seat, bifocal glasses and monitor height might not be right for you.
The lower lens portion of a bifocal is designed for close objects such as reading papers on a desk. Unfortunately, computer monitors are often set too high and to look through the “reading lens” raises your chin and tilts your head back.
Hours spent in the ‘turtle neck’ posture, can tighten neck and shoulder muscles, jamb the small spinal joints together, and cause pain.
A quick solution is to lower your computer screen; some workplaces have monitors integrated into the desktop. Or change the font on the screen and push the monitor further away or ask your optometrist for a lens prescription specific for your workplace.
2. Look here… does that sound right?
Poor eyesight or hearing can intensify neck pain.
Some people mistakenly believe that their postural pain is caused by getting older. This usually isn’t the case and the discomfort may be sparked by other age-related changes such as straining to hear or to see more clearly.
For example, you may have seen a receptionist turn, tilt their neck and then lean forward to better hear their customer. The head is heavy relative to the size of their neck, so constantly and unevenly loading the spinal joints may eventually cause pain.
Working in better light, reducing background noise and wearing appropriate glasses and hearing aids can reduce and even remove painful movement triggers.
3. Mouses… to your left!
Constant computer mouse use has been linked to arm, shoulder, and spinal problems. Swapping the mouse side can reduce the pain.
Researchers have found that people using the mouse in the left hand have fewer injuries. Why? Possibly because the standard keyboard with a numeric pad has more keys on the right side so you hold that arm further away from your body making the load greater. If you want to swap sides allow a few weeks of practice for the change to become easy. Or try a keyboard without a numeric pad. Whatever option you choose try to vary the workload so it is better shared across your body.
4. Breath low & slow to ‘de-stress’
Physical stress and tension can make you more pain-sensitive. Breathing exercises can quieten your nervous system and trigger a relaxation response.
- Begin by slowing your breathing rate and focusing on drawing air down low into your belly.
- Empty your lungs by breathing slowly out through your nose. Without becoming uncomfortable try to take twice as long as usual to exhale.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds and then slowly breathe in through your nose.
Concentrate on using your ‘diaphragm’ muscle so your breathing slows and drops down into your lower belly. Let your belly gently expand and your lower ribs move sideways. Allow your collarbones to rise and fall slightly while keeping the shoulders relaxed.
Repeat the routine. Complete a slow count of 10 or 20 breathing cycles whenever you feel tension building. There are useful smartphone apps i.e. Breathe2Relax to take yours through this exercise. The PosturePole is an effective way of triggering the breathing relaxation response to ease neck, shoulder, and upper back tension.
5. Your wallets a no-parking zone!
Sitting unevenly can make your back feel sore.
Sitting with your wallet in the back pocket props you up on one cheek. Your spine curves with uneven muscle tension which gradually becomes uncomfortable.
The wallet can also press into the buttock muscle. Keep the pressure on for long enough and you may irritate your sciatic nerve and develop a sore bottom and a nagging ache and numbness traveling down your leg!
The solution; move your wallet to your front pocket.
6. Use a footrest… don’t leave your legs swinging!
Any chair can become uncomfortable if your legs don’t touch the ground.
With no leg support, it becomes difficult to sit all the way back in your chair and take some of the stress and strain off your spine. The weight of ‘dangling legs’ can pull your pelvis forward, make the supporting muscles work harder, and compress nerves and blood vessels in the legs. A footrest can be helpful for people who have lower limb arthritis, varicose veins, and gout as well as those small in statue.
When choosing a footrest select one that is stable, has a non-slip surface, and is height adjustable.