The Working-From-Home Epidemic

We are facing a new epidemic of pain. Why? It’s simple. Poor ergonomics of home work environments are causing injury—and we suddenly have a lot of people working from home.

Whether you’re talking about an actual home office, your dining room table, or favourite armchair-turned-virtual office space, the average desk jockey has a make-shift work setup.

Poor ergonomics = injury?

Cumulative trauma[1] refers to the ‘excessive wear and tear on tendons, muscles, and sensitive nerve tissue caused by continuous use over an extended period of time.’

Most people know something about repetitive motion injuries and cumulative trauma—think carpel tunnel syndrome.  Carpel tunnel occurs when we endlessly repeat a motion, causing irritation, followed by scarring in the soft tissues.

Improper work positioning, repetition, or force, can also result in other disorders—think of the neck and back pain after hunching over your computer station for hours, or hand pain from typing on a laptop. In short, unsuitable work environments put unnecessary strain on our joints and muscles, resulting in injury.

Poor ergonomics = poor performance

Overuse injuries can be hard to identify; symptoms often appear well after the damage is done. In an athletic environment, as well as a home office situation, we continue to train and work, experiencing decreased performance and increasing healing time, adding to further injury. [2]

Repetitive Motion: The Wrong Reps!

We go to the gym and our reps build muscle. But, only good reps lead to good results while poor reps reap poor results and injury. Poor ergonomics are essentially one long and very bad rep!

Repetitive motion injury[3] (RMI) is a soft tissue strain resulting from over-repeated movements.

Before 2020, RMIs made up over 50% of athletic-related injuries[4] and cost the US approximately $20 billion per year in workers compensation alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, technology is a key contributor to poor ergonomics and resulting RMIs. With laptops replacing monitors, we can often be found hunching over our screens (laptop as well as smart device), working from the couch, and trashing our posture.

Screens aren’t the only culprit!

Our chairs, desks, mouse, and keyboard set-up can also contribute to poor posture and alignment, causing strain and tension and ultimately pain and injury.

But, all is not lost!

Solutions – Tech, Tools, and Toys

There are plenty of ways to improve your ergonomics.

Start by fixing your passive environmental issues.[5]

  • Desk and chair

Ensure both adhere to the 90/90/90 rule, allowing your elbows, hips, and knees to bend at 90-degrees, with adequate back support.

Popular options which are designed to help improve posture and reduce back pain.[6]

 

Standing desks: Improve posture and allow for increased movement.

Autonomous makes desks and chairs that are actually affordable, robust, and attractive.

Mats: Use a standing cushion or a Naboso proprioceptive standing mat to fix your feet while you work.

  • Keyboard and mouse support

Position your mouse at the same height and distance from the screen as your keyboard and avoid flared elbows, cocked wrists, or overstretched arms. My favourite option, which my patients love, is the touchpad.

  • Monitor height

Try to maintain 25 inches distance from the screen and adjust glare and height to avoid hunching. Use, books, blocks, shelves, or find monitor arms to get it right!

Active Solutions

 Active solutions help to improve existing symptoms or avoid injury altogether. This is a win-win!

  • Take a break

Try to factor in regular breaks and incorporate movements such as pelvis tilts, spine rotations, cervical glides, and wrist circles.

(Video) https://www.icloud.com/iclouddrive/0uK4N8VjXt-luM7O2wamWeUAw#T-Nation_Article

  • Stretch

Useful stretches to relieve tension and tightness, during a work break, include the Levator Scapulae, Trapezius, and Rhomboid muscles, as well as your forearms.

  • Heat and ice

Heat helps to improve tightness and pain and relieve stiff joints, while application of ice reduces inflammation and swelling. [7]

Other great techniques include vibration, myofascial release, trigger point compression, and PNF stretching.

Our peak athletic performance is driven by our ability to look after our bodies holistically, always striving for optimal health.

See if you can incorporate some environmental and active solutions into your working from home day, avoiding a trip to the Chiropractor.  Remember, you only get one body!

For more information, access my Webinar.

[1] (2013 June 1.) Cumulative Trauma Disorder. Retrieved from Safety and Health <https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/cumulative-trauma-disorder>

[2] 2021, February 20.) Overuse Injuries in Sport, retrieved: < https://www.physio-pedia.com/Overuse_Injuries_in_Sport.

[3] Helliwell PS, Taylor WJ. Repetitive strain injury. Postgrad Med J. 2004;80(946):438-443. doi:10.1136/pgmj.2003.012591

[4] Samuel J Haraldson, MD. (2021 February 19.) Repetitive Motion injuries, retrieved from <https://www.emedicinehealth.com/repetitive_motion_injuries/article_em.htm – repetitive_motion_injuries_facts>

[5] (2020, May 24.) Keep your workday free of ergo issues. Retrieved from <https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/19888-keep-your-workday-free-of-ergo-issues>

[6] Finch LE, Tomiyama AJ, Ward A. Taking a Stand: The Effects of Standing Desks on Task Performance and Engagement. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017;14(8):939. Published 2017 Aug 21. doi:10.3390/ijerph14080939

[7] (2021 February 20.)  Ice vs Heat for Injuries, Retrieved from  <https://www.orthobethesda.com/blog/ice-vs-heat-for-injuries/#:~:text=If%20you%20have%20an%20overuse,area%20after%20the%20physical%20activity.>