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How to avoid neck and back pain while working from home

Niall Marshall-Manifold, chiropractor and director of the Wimbledon Chiropractic & Sports Injury Clinic, explains how to set up your home workspace to avoid neck and back pain


Working from home for long periods without an effective workplace setup can lead to headaches, neck pain, lower back pain and even pain in the wrists.

The solution to the problem lies chiefly in ergonomics, meaning the optimising of equipment and environments to create stress-free working.

Here I’ll explain the art of using your laptop, work surfaces and equipment at home as well as how body positioning can help you to avoid experiencing pain when working from home.

Choose the best working-from-home setup you can

We have designed our dwellings to be homely, unlike most offices, but with this amount of time spent working from home due to coronavirus lockdown, we have to hack our makeshift workstation to make it more “office-like”.

Your office or travel agency wouldn’t normally have a sofa or a coffee table for people to work on, and it wouldn’t have a bed and pillow to work on either. That’s for good reason: because working in these environments long-term isn’t good ergonomics and invites pain.

If you are working from your lounge or your sleep zones when you’re working from home, this will cause the body stress in as little as 30 minutes.

With that said, it is not always possible to avoid these detrimental spaces or zones. If you are in a home share or if your partner has taken the house’s only table to work on, you will have to be inventive. Buying a folding table can cost as little as £30, and is well worth investing in.

Once you’ve moved away from working from a bed or sofa, here are two areas to focus on to avoid back and neck pain.

1. Equipment hacks for better home ergonomics

  • Invest in a laptop stand. My favourites are the Nexstand (around £30) and the Roost Laptop stand (around £70). These can both be folded up so that once your working day is over, the laptop and its stand can be popped away into a draw or out of sight.
  • Use a separate mouse and keyboard. My favourite is the Bluetooth Logitech keyboard and mouse, which work well with both Apple and Windows laptops and can be stored away easily after work.

2. Body positioning

  • Arms and wrists: Your upper arm should hang next to your body rather than being outstretched and your wrists should be hovering above your fingers. Do not rest your wrists on the table – this will contort your wrist and add further RSI problems.
  • Stomach: The belly button should sit less than two inches away from the work surface but not lower or higher. You may need to use a cushion to achieve this. For vertically challenged individuals, you may need a makeshift footstool (an upturned cooking pot or bucket may work here).
  • Eye height: Make sure the screen is eye height but only when the head is lifted and the chin is tucked. Note that eyes and ears are at the same levels when observing from your side profile.
  • Keyboard distance: To stay in the right position, keep the keyboard close to the edge of the table. Do not place a notebook or papers between you and the keyboard.
  • Mouse positioning: The mouse should sit to the side of the keyboard and be moved around no more than the circumference of a small record vinyl.

If you get no remedy from these tips, seek help from a statutory regulated professional specialist such as a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist.

The Wimbledon Chiropractic & Sports Injury Clinic is offering a free voucher for a Sit Screen Analysis and digital report. Click here for more info.

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