With work from home becoming the new reality for many of us, it’s key that we keep updated on the best ways to combat muscle fatigue and stiffness. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to help you to avoid falling into bad habits and to adjust to your new work setting.
Motion is lotion Take short and frequent breaks; ideally, you should aim for at least every 30 minutes. Go for a short walk around the block, stretch while on the clock or even do a quick flight of stairs. Engaging in regular movement brings blood flow and lubrication to sore muscles and joints, helping to prevent stiffness and pain, reduce further aches and even boost work performance. Some great apps to download that will remind you to get up and take a break include Break Time and StandUp!
Invest in your workstation I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Those of us who sit eight-plus hours a day at our desk need to ensure our workstation is best serving us. This includes having a chair with adequate back support, arm rests and space for your legs to rest under your desk, either crossed or uncrossed. Ideally, you should be sitting with your feet flat on the ground with your knee and hip angles at 90 degrees while maintaining a neutral spine. This position will allow for the relaxation of your back and neck muscles while you work and is a critical way to prevent end-of-day soreness. Wrist position is also key – make sure your arm rests are level with your desk to ensure a neutral wrist position, thus avoiding carpal tunnel compression. Lastly, a laptop stand or a light shining on or near your screen will help to ensure your eyes are gazing at the top third of your monitor – this will help focus your gaze in a less strenuous position, avoiding prolonged forward bending of the neck.
Mix it up Engaging in repetitive tasks throughout the workday increases your susceptibility to muscle fatigue and subsequent injury. Switch tasks frequently; for example, take a break from the computer desk to make phone calls, a task that can be done while standing. This allows for a more dynamic work environment, activating different muscles and allowing those that are tired a chance to rest and recharge.
Stress less and take care of yourself Studies show that muscle tension is almost always a reflex reaction to stress. When our stress levels are high, our brain sends a protective signal to our muscles to tighten. This reaction increases lactic acid production in the muscles which ultimately causes soreness. Stress has also been directly linked to the development of headaches and chronic pain. Keeping these key associations in mind, it is important to incorporate some stress reduction techniques into your daily work routine. Diaphragmatic breathing, meditation and stretching can all be easily practised at your desk and are proven stress-reduction methods. As well, it is important to schedule time in your day to relax, hydrate and nourish your body with healthy foods.
Consider a visit to your neighbourhood chiropractor A chiropractic assessment can include a detailed work up of your workstation to address any aches and pains stemming from an inadequate work-from-home set up. From improving your ergonomics to advising specific stretches, your chiropractor can help create a healthier work environment.
Remi Pearl is a doctor of chiropractic who is currently building her practice at Glebe Physiotherapy and Sport Medicine in Lansdowne and Restore Health and Wellness in Hintonburg.