Dr. Jess is wearing our March look, Viper Vibe.
Working from home has had plenty of benefits — more focus and productivity, less time on the roads, in our cars, in traffic, and better quality of life, in many ways — but with all of the time we spend in our sometimes makeshift work spaces, there can also be some costs. Holistic Chiropractor Dr. Jess shares some of the best practices for good work-from-home posture. She gives us practical and proven ways to avoid pain, soreness, and sedentary habits, so you can thrive, even more, during your day-to-day workday.
Working from home has many benefits — flexible hours, no commute, happy pets, the list goes on. However, improved posture and spinal health has not been on that list. Many are finding more aches and pains than ever before, most notably of the neck and lower back.
While pants may not be required for your 9 AM zoom meeting, proper posture should be! As a chiropractor, I have found many patients choosing a barstool at their kitchen island, a seat at their dining room table, or their couch as their new work-from-home station. I understand it may be tempting to cozy up for your work day, but your posture is guaranteed to suffer while you hunch over your laptop for hours on end. Prolonged sitting is shown to decrease blood flow to the brain and weakens the muscular structure designed to hold you upright.
The good news is a few minor changes to your WFH routine can make a major and lasting impact on your overall health and longevity. Healthy posture habits lead to better breathing, improved circulation, increased oxygen to the brain, less mental fatigue, and elimination of aches and pains.
FAQ: Which is better? Seated or Standing Desk?
Both! There are many new desk options that inexpensively take your seated workstation and raise it up to standing level. Whichever option you choose, the key is to make sure your ergonomics and postures are proper. Standing has many more benefits, but if you are standing in a compromised position (looking down at your screen with tension on your neck, hunched shoulders, leaning to one side, etc.) you will lose all of the benefits.
Screen at Eye Level
If you are working from a laptop I recommend using a stack of books to boost your laptop screen up to eye level. All you will need is a separate keyboard and an ergonomic mouse (many inexpensive options available on Amazon). This will save your neck from strain by allowing you to avoid tilting your head up or down for hours on end, AKA experiencing “tech neck.”
Keyboard and Mouse Positioning
You want to ensure your keyboard and mouse are in such a position that your elbows are at 90 degrees. If it is too high or too low, it will cause tension in the shoulders and hands.
A proper ergonomic desk chair is ideal. For those who are using makeshift desk chairs, I highly recommend getting a lumbar support pillow to add to your low back for extra support. Sit with your legs uncrossed, feet planted on the floor, and with your knees at the same height or slightly lower than the hips. Ensure your shoulders are rolled back, down, and relaxed with your chin slightly tucked inward. Avoid sinking into your chair. If you feel your posture beginning to slip, a trick is to scoot to the edge of your chair and hold an upright alert position for a few minutes to increase body awareness.
Standing desks have many benefits, but require the rules regarding screens at eye level and keyboard positioning. One key to a great standing desk experience is to use an anti-fatigue mat under the feet, with proper shoe support for long work days.
FAQ: What Are Things I Can Do or Purchase to Improve My WFH Station? Here are a few basic products to enhance your work station:
- Blue light-blocking glasses are phenomenal for preventing fatigue and headaches caused from excessive screen time.
- Ergonomic desk chair (not a backless barstool from your kitchen) is key. A lumbar support pillow is a bonus and can be added to any traditional desk chair for added support. I often advise patients to use these on long car trips or seminars that require hours of seating, as well.
- Stand-up desk raising option with an anti-fatigue mat.
- Ergonomic mouse to improve hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder joint health.
- Headphones for work calls to avoid leaning your ear to your shoulder and kinking your neck.
Additional Tips & Tricks
- Plan out your day with plenty of stretching, movement, water, and breaks built in. Sticking to a schedule will remind you to keep the intentions you have set for the day. Without structure, we tend to get lost in our work, and hours go by without proper hydration, movement, or fuel. Set an alert on your device for every 30 minutes to get up and move. At the very least, it will remind you to posture check.
- Use a mirror during home workouts to routinely check posture and positioning. Building muscle on an improper foundation can lead to a lifetime of compensated muscle patterns and poor spinal health.
- Make sure you are not sleeping on your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach is incredibly poor for your spinal health, leading to neck and low back pain most notably. The ideal sleeping position is to sleep on your side with a body pillow between your knees (great for recovering stomach sleepers) or on your back with a king size pillow under your knees.
Stretches to Improve Spinal Health and Combat WFH Postures:
Here are some helpful ways to stretch out throughout the day.
Figure 4 Hip Stretch
- Sit toward the edge of your desk chair with both feet flat on the floor.
- Place the right ankle on the left knee with the right foot flexed.
- Gently push the right knee down toward the floor, maintaining equal weight on the right and left sides.
- Hold for 45 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Do this 3x on each side.
Low Back Opener
- Lay on the floor with your bottom lined up with the base of the seat of your chair.
- Allow your knees, ankles, and hips to get to 90 degrees.
- Rest here to open up your low back.
- Bonus: One hand on the abdomen and the other on the heart. Practice diaphragmatic breathing. Deep breaths in through the nose. As you breathe in, focus on allowing your abdomen to rise, instead of your chest.
Standing Chest Opener
- Stand tall with shoulders down and back.
- Bring both hands behind the back, clasping hands together.
- Slightly lift your clasped hands up and back, opening up the chest and shoulders.
- Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 3x.
- Sit upright and look straight ahead with the ears directly over the shoulders.
- Place a finger on the chin.
- Without moving the finger, pull the chin and head straight back until a good stretch is felt at the base of the head and top of the neck. There should now be some separation between the chin and finger.
- Hold for 5 seconds, if possible.
- Bring the chin forward, again, to the finger.
- Repeat for a total of 10 times, or as tolerated.
Proper stretching will not only improve your aches and pains, it will also improve your detoxification, mobility, and stress levels throughout the work day. Working from home has become what many companies are gravitating toward, permanently. It is of extreme importance to make your sure WFH routine benefits your health and overall vitality.
These tips for proper posture, while working from home, were contributed exclusively to Ellie by Dr. Jess, Holistic Chiropractor. Instagram: @drjessbohlke