How Not To Wreck Your Body When Working From Home

How Not To Wreck Your Body When Working From Home

As the pandemic began to change everything in 2020, I began seeing some new and different things in my office. We started to see a lot more neck pain, a lot more upper back pain a lot more headaches, and even some weird symptoms like dizziness and tingling into the hands and fingers. And what was all that coming from? Well, it’s because we all suddenly started working at home. And guess what? It’s two years later and some of us are still in the same boat, curled up on our couches with a laptop and trying to work.

We’re seeing a lot of patients who are spending their days in hunched-over postures, either on their couch or at their tables, looking at their laptops for eight or 10 hours. And then what’s happening is they’re getting stuck like that. As we’ve said before, our goal is to keep you OUT of the office by helping you stay in optimal health. So what can we do to keep working from home from destroying your body?

Flexion Posture is Bad For You

First, let’s talk about why that flexion posture is so bad for you. It’s called forward head posture when your head starts to move all the way forward like that. When you’re in that forward head posture, you’re actually moving into a sympathetic nervous system response. Your nervous system is flipping over from being calm and at peace and it’s going towards you being ready to fight a tiger or run away from a tiger.

It increases your blood pressure and your heart rate when you go into that forward flex posture. That’s no way to a be for hours and hours at a time! It’s also not doing anything good mechanically for your neck and back and posture.

When you’re in that posture for too long, it starts as neck pain and upper back pain. It transitions into headaches, which then can potentially cause dizziness. And then as the nerves are compressed in your neck, it’ll cause numbness, tingling that goes all the way down into your hands and fingers.

So, what are we going to do to untangle this mess?

We’re going to talk about a couple of different things that you can do right now to kind of untangle that. First, we’re going to do some pec stretches. You’re going to get in a doorway, your arms up, you’re going to stretch forward so that it opens up all of your pec muscles.

We’re going to do some chin tucks. While sitting, take your finger and push it straight back, and your chin will move backward. It’s going to help to reinforce the way that your neck is supposed to be aligned with your upper back.

My favorite neck stretch is one that helps to open up the sternocleidomastoids. You have a muscle that goes from behind your ear, and it comes down and connects to your sternum and to your collarbone and it gets really tight. That reinforces the forward head posture. You’re going to take and tip your head to the side. You’re going to hold it right there. You’re going to take your opposite hand with the palm facing out, and you’re going to try and reach towards the floor. Alter the stretch by looking up or down, so you’re not yanking on your head. You’re using the opposite hand to do that stretch. I recommend doing that a few times throughout the day if you’re going to be using your laptop.

Fix your home office setup

At the beginning of 2020, we all thought that working from home would be a short-term thing, but it’s becoming a long-term reality for many of us. If you have not yet created an ergonomic workspace for your home office, now is the time! First, we want to get your laptop up. If you get an external keyboard and mouse, you can type without looking down as much.  An external monitor or two can help you position your screen so you’re not looking down. And consider a standing desk to keep you from sitting all day long. My goal is to keep you healthy with your daily habits, so you don’t get injured and have to come in for serious treatment. So take the time today to get your home office optimized!

About Dr. Merrill

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Dr. Andrew Merrill is a passionate active clinician and owner of Nightlight Chiropractic Orlando where him and his team treat hundreds of patients each month. With a strong background in exercise science from Stetson University, clinical skills from Palmer College of Chiropractic, and continued postdoctoral training in spinal disc injuries and clinical nutrition, Dr. Merrill is very well versed in the healthcare landscape. With topics ranging from "what to do for common ailments" to "why the medical system is failing you" Dr. Merrill and this blog in particular aim to keep readers up to date on what the research shows and how you can put it into practice NOW to keep yourself healthy for a lifetime.