Has quarantine turned your kitchen table, bed, or couch into your office? Do you find yourself hunching forward over the computer or slipping down into a low slouch while working? With many of us shifting the dial of our work-life balance to the at-home-full-time setting, it can be hard to keep good posture at our new “workstations.” Check out some of our tips below on how to keep your body happy during quarantine.
How to Set Up Your Work Desk Ergonomically
Wherever you decide to work, make sure your furniture is as comfortable and supportive as possible. Making your body comfortable is essential to optimal productivity, so don’t be afraid to grab extra pillows or props to support yourself. Pay special attention to the following key areas:
Slipping an extra pillow or cushion behind your low back will help you sit up straight, which will lengthen and relieve tension from your neck. While reading this, try straightening and then slouching your low back (moving from concave to convex for you geometry-loving folks) and notice what that does to your neck. Notice how slouching your low back (concave shape) tilts your neck and shoulders forward? This is what we want to avoid!
Neck and Shoulders
Think “ears over shoulders.” This will help pull your neck up and align your head and back. You can also think about lifting through your collar bones to raise your head and further support a natural lumbar curve.
To avoid hunching your shoulders or causing strain on your wrists, keep your desk at the appropriate height. Ideally, your desk should be high (or low) enough that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Tilting your keyboard at a slight angle or placing a rolled dish towel under your wrists can further reduce strain.
Our bodies are engineered to look straight ahead, not down, for extended periods of time. Try to keep your monitor at eye level or slightly below to keep your neck straight. If you’re working from a laptop, you might want to set your laptop on books and purchase a wireless mouse and keyboard to keep your arm position on track.
Take Breaks and Stretch
Holding a static position for too long creates tension in our muscles. Many of us will sit in the same spot for hours while trying to tackle a new project. Break up your routine by taking a small walk around the room and doing a couple stretches. This is a nice way to relax your body, as well as renew your mental focus. Try not to sit for more than 45 minutes without moving, and try some of the stretches listed below.
For Your Pecs
Place your inner forearm at chest height along a door frame. Rotate your torso away from the door frame, stretching your chest muscles. Hold or rock for 15 seconds.
Alternatively, lie down on a foam roller (or tightly rolled-up towel) with the length along your spine. Drape your arms out wide and allow gravity to gently stretch your chest.
For Your Low Back
Keeping your back straight, bend forward, and reach towards your toes. Only go as far as you can, and not to pain. Gently hold the position for a few seconds before slowly raising back to neutral. Balance this motion by putting your hands on the small of your back and gently lean back as far as you are comfortable.
Alternatively, you can do several slow hip circles, rotating both clockwise and counterclockwise for 30 seconds each way.
Another great stretch you can do while sitting is what Elyse calls “the figure 4 stretch.” Cross your leg over the opposite knee so that your legs like a number 4 and then slowly lean in, holding for a couple of minutes. This will stretch your low back, hips, and sacrum. Do this with each leg.
For Your Neck
Rotate your neck in small circles, both clockwise and counterclockwise, 5 times in each direction. Continue by looking up and down, then left and right for 5 times in each direction. Finish by bringing your left ear to your left shoulder, and right ear to right shoulder, you guessed it, 5 times each way.
For Your Wrists
Clasp your hands together, keeping your wrists, forearms, and elbows touching each other. Gently rotate your hands in clockwise and then counterclockwise circles, keeping your arms together. Repeat 5 times in each direction.
Don’t Forget About Your Eyes!
Our eyes are a part of our body we often overlook, and one that fatigues if we spend too much time in front of a screen. When you take a break from work, remember to give your eyes a break from screens too, and try not to go straight for your phone. Below are some strategies to help further support your eyes.
Blue Light Filters
Extended exposure to blue light is harmful to your eyes, but can be prevented in several ways. You can purchase glasses with blue light filter lenses, opt for an eye-friendly monitor with your next upgrade, or install a free program, like f.lux, that will automatically adjust your monitor to match the time of day.
Adapted from Chinese Qi Gong practices, you can do these several times a day: Briskly rub your hands together until they feel hot. Lightly press your palms over your eyes, and hold them there for the length of three slow breaths. Repeat 3-5 times in a row. This feels amazing and is a great stress reliever too!
Try facial gua sha to relieve stress, headaches, and eye strain. This video is a great way to get started with gua sha self-care.
Remember, Movement Is Key
Exercise is very important to prevent stiffness and to lift your mood. If you know you have a 4-hour Zoom meeting coming up, go ahead and walk, bike, or run before and after your meeting. This can be a great way to get your mind and body ready for the meeting and whatever follow-up work is required after.
Try Cupping to Help Relieve Tech Neck
As many already know, cupping is the bee’s knees of therapies for chronic or acute tech neck. Just one session will increase blood flow to your muscles, leaving them fluid and relaxed as we head into the busy fall season. Be sure to schedule your next cupping appointment to keep your neck feeling great.
Let’s Work on Taking Care of You
Return to your workstation, take a deep breath, smile, and continue conquering your day. If you need a little help, our acupuncturists know how to offer guidance on ergonomic WFH set-ups. We’re here for you to help you feel better and, of course, any questions you may have. If you’re heading back to the office, make sure your bag isn’t too heavy.
To get started, head to our booking page and schedule your first appointment. If you’d like us to check your insurance benefits, we’d be happy to take care of that for you. We are in-network with CareFirst/BlueCross, Aetna, and the VA Community Choice Network.