As we settle into week seven of social-isolation and working from home, the shift in routine and workstations is starting to manifest into cranky areas in our bodies. As a physiotherapist, I have seen a rise in the amount of “workplace” injuries in the past two weeks; an ironic twist when everyone is in the comfort of their own home.
A large percentage of my virtual appointments have been coaching patients on how to design a much more ergonomic workstation from home and how to utilize the advantages of being at home to move and stretch in ways they might not feel completely comfortable doing at the office.
For my desk set-up, I purposely chose a table and chair that are not ideal for a workstation, but what is likely a similar set-up for many and modifying it to make it much more agreeable. Here are some easy tweeks you may want to consider. Meg in the Evolution Tank (her fav!) and the Lounge Pant
- Adjusting your screen height. This is incredibly important to save your neck. Ideally, you want your eyes to align with the top ⅓ of your screen. Mine could still go a little higher, but you can see this height keeps my head and neck in a nice, neutral alignment.
- Keep your elbows into the side of your body and your body very close to your desk. I prefer this to arm rests, as often an arm rest will cause your shoulders to hike up and create neck tension.
- This is my favourite modification, as chairs are built for the masses, not for your specific body measurements. It might be difficult to see, but under the back of my pelvis is a rolled up towel. This props up the back of my pelvis to keep it in a neutral position, which in turn gives a much better foundation for my spine. I highly encourage you to give this a try and you will feel immediately more supported.
- Feet should be able to relax flat on the floor. Place a book or footstool under the desk if they don’t quite reach
Remember, your next position is always your best position, so frequent breaks to stand, stretch or walk to the kitchen will benefit your body most.
One huge advantage of working from home is the freedom to move in ways that otherwise would illicit some questionable looks from across the office. Use this time to get into some great habits of moving your body throughout the day. You can also ditch the constrictive work attire and get comfortable in your favorite Knix that begs your body to move freely. Here are a handful of my favorite stretches to incorporate into your day to counteract the gravitational pull of your desk.
Stretching in The Catalyst has never looked better
- Find a wall or a door frame to lean into.
- Start by rolling your chin into your chest as you round your shoulders forward.
- Continue to keep rolling up the wall and forward, moving one vertebrae at a time.
- When you reach the area between your shoulder blades, slowly reverse the movement - stacking one vertebrae at a time and ending with your head.
- It feels soooo good!
- Find a space on the wall and make sure your tailbone, mid-back and back of your head are all touching (this alone can be challenging). Move your feet out from the wall as far as needed to achieve the position.
- From here, place your arms on the wall with palms pointing out without your back arching.
- Slowly slide the arms up the wall. If you back arches or your head pops forward, then back the arms down.
- Play around with how high you can get your arms without losing the contact points of your spine on the wall.
- This is brilliant after a long, focused session hovered over your computer.
- Find a place on the floor and bend the knees.
- Take a few deep breaths and then on an exhale slowly start to tuck your tailbone, tilting your pelvis and rounding your low-back.
- Continue to keep rolling up your spine, one vertebrae at a time.
- When you meet the bottom of your rib cage, take a big breath at the top and then roll yourself back down, one vertebrae at a time.
- The focus is to move slowly, one segment at a time.
- Your low-back will love this so much you might consider putting a yoga mat beside your desk!
wrists / hips / knees / ankles feeling achy?
- This single movement hits all the spots, but is not always accessible from the first go, it can take some practice to get into, but it is a wonderful way to flush out your joints
- Use your elbows to give some gentle pressure into your knees to push them back to open the hips.
- Keep the palms together and lower the hands together to stretch through the wrists.
- Shift your weight side-to-side to sink deeper into the hips, knees, ankles. Stop if you get any sharp or pinching pain - it should just feel like a good, deep stretch.
- Lift up slowly and feel the warmth fill your legs.