How to work from home without hurting yourself

How to work from home without hurting yourself

Trevor Petrie - Chief Medical Officer
5 minute read

I am seeing in my clinical practice a huge uptick of people coming in with various repetitive strain injuries or just radiating pains, and they all seem to have started some time in the last couple of months. Generally speaking, it's because people started working from home, and so I'm giving you some tips for how to work from your home office without creating pain in your arms and your hands.

Take breaks, get out of the static posture

The biggest thing that you need to remember when you're working from home is that you're going to be most likely more prone to working for a longer period of time without taking any breaks.

Those of you that have heard me or seen me talk on these in the past, know that I'm a big fan of mini breaks – taking a little me time during your day, making sure things are stretched up, making sure things are moving, and generally just getting out of any static posture that you might be in.

Being at home doesn't mean that you should be working for hours on end without taking any breaks. A lot of you who used to be at the office and now work from home, you would have breaks built in naturally. People will come in, ask you to a question and ask you if you want to go get lunch with them, things like that. All of those different kinds of things might have been happening before now that you're at home, you don't get those built-in distractions.

So that above anything else, take a break. Stand up, walk a circle, do some stretches. Do anything that gets you out of you static posture. You don't want to be crouched down in front of your computer for a prolonged period of time.


Review your Home office setup

The other thing that I noticed that a lot of these people have in common that are coming into my clinic lately, are that their home office set up leaves something to be desired.

Personally, I think ergonomics is a great addendum to other things to make sure that you're taking care of yourself, take care of your body.

Again, moving around, stretching, challenging your posture, challenging those muscles and those soft tissue structures is by far the most important thing to me, but if you have just a horrendous ergonomic set up, you're not doing yourself any favors.

I've had people come in telling me that they were just sitting in bed with their laptop on their lap for eight hours. Maybe they got up to go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat randomly throughout the day, but that's where they were. Your body is not going to like that and it's going to let you know.

Pain and nerve irritation is your body's way of saying ‘Hey, wait a second! We have to change something up here, something is not working for us!’. It's our body's way of getting our attention basically.

So take a look at your setup.

  • You want to make sure that you have the space that you need, somewhere where you can be sitting up.

  • The top of the monitor should be about right around eye-height. If you've got multiple monitors, make sure the one that you are using the majority of the time is a little bit more in front of you so you are not tilting your head too much.

  • If you've got a telephone that you use, make sure it's not way off to the side. You want it to be pretty accessible right in the little workspace in front of you.

  • You don't want to have an ergonomic setup where you have the hills of your palms resting up against anything, especially something hard like the edge of a desk or the edge of a keyboard. You want to have them in a fairly neutral position as you’re typing, and same thing with the mouse. You want it to be accessible, you want to be able to use your whole arm as you're moving at mouse around.

If you are an artist or you do crafts, the same principles tend to apply. You just want to make sure things are accessible in a fairly easy area that you can get to without too much of a strain and stress throughout the day.

Listen to your body

I always say that stress is good but pain is bad. The problem with doing a functional task at a work space is we don't always control that stress. We can over-stress very easily by doing something over and over and over again. And if we're in the middle of a project or we have something we just need to get done, we're not always reading our body’s signs that say 'Hey, we're doing too much in this range over here!' until it's too late.

Just listen to your body, if it says that it needs a break and it's getting sore, take a breather. Make sure you build those available times in during the course of your day, so you don't have to just power through something. Make sure you won't end up coming to see someone like me a month later because you're having all kinds of radiating symptoms.

This content is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be seen as any kind of health, nutritional, medical or legal advice. You should consult a licensed medical practitioner if you are experiencing pain and/or discomfort or have a medical issue or suspect that you have a medical issue. If you choose to rely on the information presented in the Grace & Able LLC website, blog or social media posts, you do so at your own risk.

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