This is truly a historic time.
We find ourselves in the middle of a global phenomenon that has focused our awareness in an exceptional way. We have all likely developed an enhanced recognition that tomorrow has a very real possibility of being dramatically different than today, and many of the things we took for granted are no longer possible for an unknown amount of time.
For many of us, change can be a major challenge to our health. As we adapt to the physical, emotional, and financial challenges that have been brought about, a new and perhaps unusual working environment might very well cause us physical pain.
Working from home is a pain in the neck!
All of the clinicians at Vital Posture have engaged in post-graduate studies with ergonomist Diane Stinson; Diane ran a workplace injury company called HealthWorks for decades and provided her expertise on ergonomics and injury prevention to many companies in Calgary and across Canada. Now retired, she’s a ‘twitcher’ and travels the world as a birdwatcher collecting sightings of rare birds, but before this, she left us with some excellent lessons to share with you regarding basic work-place ergonomics.
Understanding the Rule of 90s…
Step one is to ensure that your ankles, knees, hips, and elbows are all at a 90-degree angle while you’re working at a desk, even if it’s your laptop balanced on an overturned laundry basket. One of the most important factors is your chair – make sure it fits you properly and has adjustable armrests, and the previously stated laundry basket should be raised to an appropriate height.
Another concept is that your elbows should be supported at your side, and 90 percent of the work you do is done with what you can reach without lifting your arms. This is known as your primary sweep zone, and it is the friend of a happy and healthy neck and shoulders. The time spent in your primary sweep zone is crucial; if you can’t reach most things without lifting your elbows from your armrests, you know your workstation is creating too much stress.
Your secondary sweep zone is what you can reach without leaning forward. As Diane Stinson knows, perching is for the birds! Be sure to keep your backside fully planted in your chair; as you shift forward in your seat, the rest of your body mal-positions and stress increases.
Next, and especially at home, monitors are often positioned too low. Ideally, the top of your monitor should be approximately at the height of your eyebrows which allows your eyes to naturally drift slightly downwards to centre on the screen.
Patients who have made these simple changes in the past few months have reported back that it’s made an incredible difference; whether you’re working from home or not, try it yourself - your spinal muscles will thank you for taking the time to make this right!
Don't be creepy!
Perhaps one of the most crucial things to understand is creep. Generally, it’s better to not be creepy, but when it comes to your physiology this is especially true! Creep happens to your soft tissue and fascia if you stay in any position for too long, and it is the major cause of your muscles needing to work harder than they should. Without getting too much into the science of it, your fascia is your friend, and sitting incorrectly or having postural asymmetry over a period of time creates fascial creep. Your muscles need to work harder than necessary which causes fatigue and pain – ouch! To avoid this, try to sit for a maximum of 20 minutes at a time before getting up and moving around for a while. Grabbing a glass of water or doing some light stretches every so often will leave you feeling better at the end of your (modified) workday. Also, engaging in a slight, gentle motion while sitting is a wonderful gift to support you feeling your best at the end of a workday - so turn on some music when you can, and work on your chair dancing moves!
If you’re struggling with the physical issues arising from working from home, be sure to inquire during an appointment, or reach out to us via email. With the technology available today, and our new telehealth capability, our clinicians would be pleased to spend some time in your house, virtually, to give you some ideas of the best way to set up your work environments.
The world is changing; be present, be grateful, and be kind to yourself and others.
Dr. Jeff Scholten
The Vital Posture™ Clinic