The clinic has been featured on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Look North and BBC Radio Newcastle talking about the problems that face home workers, and some tips to solve them. You can listen the 5 Live interview by clicking here and going to the 2.27.40 mark.

Speaking to patients in clinic, it is clear that working from home is having a massive effect on our physical health. Please book an appointment or contact us if you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort. We can advise you on your next steps and prevent further injury.

In the swift response to the first coronavirus lockdown, we scrambled to set up makeshift home offices that could be used immediately, with little thought of the consequences of poor ergonomics.

A person’s home office can have a huge impact on the way their body moves. Most dining tables are the wrong height to work from in relation to their dining chairs. We are all trying to make the best of our surroundings to allow us to work from home (coffee tables, kitchen islands, deckchair at a dressing table, pile of books on the lap to raise a laptop). Then on top of that, people are sitting and not moving as much as normal. You may think you are moving around in the house, but are you actually standing up properly to move from the living room into the kitchen?

The human body is made to move; it functions best when it moves regularly. If it doesn’t move, then muscles quickly weaken, others will shorten to accommodate the postures the body is most commonly held in. In short, if you snooze, you lose. Sitting hunched over a Zoom call on a laptop, or sending emails from a tablet often causes craning of the neck and rounding of the shoulders. The muscles which draw your shoulders back don’t get used, so get weaker, and your pectoral muscles which draw your shoulders forwards will get shorter, maintaining this poor posture. You may start to get neck and shoulder pain as the muscles overwork to support the weight of your head and shoulders while the joints between your neck vertebrae are held in a flexed (bent forward) position, which puts further strain on the neck. So what can you do about it?

It is now clear that the home working situation is to continue for at the very least a few months more, if not indefinitely. It’s not too late to act. Small changes can make a huge difference. We’ve outlined some of the steps you can take below, but if you can feel a niggle beginning or you’ve been coping with pain for months, please get in touch immediately. Early treatment and intervention can prevent lasting damage.  

Simple Stretches

Think about consciously increasing your daily step count. Try and plan for/incorporate a walk into your day, maybe at lunchtime. If this isn’t possible, you could walk around the house when on a call, or stand for a video meeting.

When you get up for your next cup of tea or coffee, move purposefully, try getting out of the chair without using your hands, stand up tall, draw your shoulders back and down, swing your arms.

Whilst you wait for the kettle to boil, do these simple exercises:

  1. Pull your shoulder blades back and down and hold for 5 seconds
  2. Contract your buttocks and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times
  3. Sit on a stool or chair, bring your knees together, arms folded and rotate your chest to twist your spine to the right, then to the left, repeat five times on each side

These three simple exercises can make a positive difference and can easily be repeated throughout the day, but are clearly not exhaustive. Our team are on hand to provide plenty more stretching and exercise advice, should you need it, or if you need treatment with a more complicated issue.

Your Desk Setup  

There are lots of things to consider when thinking about DSE (display screen equipment) and ergonomic desk setup, but here are some of the important things to consider:

Your Chair

  • The height of your chair should be high enough in relation to your desk that you can sit with your shoulders relaxed and forearms resting on the desk, with no less than a 90 degree angle at your knees, hips and elbows. If you can’t get your feet on the ground in this position, you need a foot rest.
  • You should be able to get your chair close enough under the desk so that you can sit upright with your back supported without having to lean forward on the desk.
  • If you can’t adjust your chair to get yourself into a suitable position, or are feeling like your back is unsupported and you’re struggling to get comfortable, it may be worth investing in a suitable office chair that you can adjust to your size and shape. If you don’t know what you need, we can advise you, and we have an established relationship with a local office furniture supplier, offering fully customised chairs at competitive prices. Call or email us to find out more.

Desktop vs Laptop vs Tablet

  • The Important thing to consider is the height of the screen in relation to your eyeline; if you’re a touch typist you want the middle of the screen at your eyeline, if you’re a ‘hunt and peck’ typist (looking down at the keys), the top of the screen should be at your eye level; this is to avoid bending your neck to see the screen
  • Desktop computers are the gold standard, as the separate screen can easily be raised to an appropriate height to, the lower screens of laptops or tablets cause you to look down, which promotes the bent neck rounded shoulder posture that we are trying to avoid. If you’re using a laptop (or tablet) for hours at a time, then it is worth investing in an external (or Bluetooth) keyboard and mouse, which allows you to place the screen in a better position.

Keyboard and Mouse

  • Place your keyboard and mouse close enough to you so that you don’t have to reach for them to make it as easy as possible to maintain a good upright posture.

Your employer has a legal obligation to provide you with appropriate equipment to allow you to work in an environment that is safe for you, whether this is at home, or in the office. If you are unsure of whether you are set up adequately, you should ask your employer if they can provide a DSE (display screen equipment) or workplace assessment. If they can’t, we can. Our highly trained team at Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic have been carrying out workplace assessments for local businesses for many years now. With our expert knowledge in injury prevention and treatment, we are able to provide immediate tangible solutions and plans to help you address the cause of your problem and hence resolve your symptoms and allow you to live a healthier life. Contact us for more information on our workplace assessments.

You can find even more information on home working in our blog.

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