Work From Home Woes
If you’re like many office workers, you may have found yourself suddenly working from home on a semi-permanent basis, completely unprepared for the long-term ramifications.
Unlike most corporate offices, your home arrangements may not include an ergonomic chair, separate keyboard tray, or even a desk in the traditional sense. If you’ve spent all or part of the past year working at your dining room table, managing spreadsheets on a tiny laptop screen from the couch, or worse, attempting to conduct business from a smartphone, some of these WFH ailments may feel very familiar to you:
Text neck – This repeated stress injury is caused by excessive watching or texting on handheld devices over a sustained period of time. If you’ve increased your tiny screen time to include both work and social use, you may be experiencing some or all of these symptoms:
● Pain in the neck, upper back, and/or shoulder
● Forward head posture and rounded shoulders
● Reduced mobility
● Increased pain when bending your neck
Carpal tunnel syndrome – Changes in your work location have probably created new patterns of hand use, including a different desk height, new keyboard, or chair. The changes, along with wrist anatomy and possible underlying health conditions, can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. You’ll notice symptoms including numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand due to pressure on your median nerve, which runs the length of your arm and goes through a passage in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. Treatment options may range from rest and ice to wrist splints, cortisone injections, or even surgery.
Postural syndrome – If you’ve been sitting on a dining room chair, couch, or recliner rather than a traditional desk chair, you may be experiencing some muscle imbalance which causes some muscles to contract while others are relaxed. Possible outcomes include tension type headaches and sacroiliac dysfunction in the lower back, which can cause shooting pain and numbness down one leg.
How to avoid injury
You can reduce your risk of pain and injury by making sure you are working in a comfortable position that doesn’t pinch, twist, or cramp your body—particularly your neck and shoulders. You should also be mindful of the placement of your monitor. Here are a few specific tips to keep your body working at its best:
● Consider investing in a desk and chair specially designed for work, particularly if you are tied to your desk for long periods at a time.
● Keep your lower back pressed against the chair to avoid slouching.
● Avoid sitting with your legs crossed, since the shift in balance may create sciatica issues.
● Make sure your monitor is at least 20 inches from your face, with the top third of the monitor level with your eyes and tilted slightly upward.
● Use your arm rests, positioned high enough to rest your elbows at 90-degree angles. Avoid too much pressure on your forearms, which could lead to cubital tunnel syndrome, or too little support, which could cause mouse shoulder.
In addition to taking these steps while you’re working, it’s also important to get up and move between meetings or long work sessions to stretch your back and legs. You may also consider incorporating some exercises into your routine:
● Resisted finger extensions
● Weighted wrist extensions
● Weighted wrist curls
● Supinated front raises
If you think you may already be suffering from the effects of your work-from-home situation, it’s important for you to visit an orthopaedic specialist for guidance. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend a course of treatment ranging from physical therapy to possible surgery. Working with a specialized practice like DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Decatur, you can take advantage of the expertise of ten providers as part of our multidisciplinary musculoskeletal practice.
Since 1972, DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine has been committed to providing exceptional orthopaedic care through innovative techniques, quality services, patient communication and education. With specialties ranging from general orthopaedics and physical therapy to sports medicine, joint replacement and more, the doctors at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can provide local expert care for any orthopaedic disorder or injury and help put your life back in motion.