By: Kerry Gustafson, LAT, ATC, LMT — Superfeet Wellness Panel Member. Kerry Gustafson is the owner and visionary of Prime Sports Institute, a multi-displinary sports medicine clinic focused on helping individuals maintain healthy, active lifestyles through a comprehensive approach to wellness. An athletic trainer for more than 19 years, Kerry's specialties include the evaluation and rehab of injuries, running gait analysis and screenings to identify imbalances, mobility and movement dysfunctions.
The at-home workforce expanded instantaneously as millions around the globe are now working remotely that otherwise didn't prior to COVID-19.
The most common WFH (Work From Home) complaints we treat at Prime Sports Institute are neck and shoulder stiffness, wrist and forearm pain and tightness with some tingling into the hand and fingers, plus low back pain.
With the uncertainty of how long we will be working from home it is more important than ever to set up a healthy workstation and implement habits to mitigate repetitive stress injuries caused by overload to our joints and tissues.
Techniques for standing
There isn't one best way to stand. Just like poor technique in sports can lead to injury, standing incorrectly (sub optimally) can lead to the body compensating and breaking down. If you have a standing work station, I encourage you to shift positions frequently. It can be easy to get into flow state of work and not pay attention to shifting your weight onto one leg only and stay there for an extended period of time. I like to have people bring a short foam roller or small box over and rest their foot on it (think Captain Morgan's famous pose). It works because it takes the extension out of the low back. It's like the foot rest rail at a bar.
Set a timer to alert you to check in with your form. When the alert goes off, shift to the opposite foot and do the same.
I also like people to activate their glutes when standing, so I give them the cue of screwing their feet into the earth. Your feet won't actually pivot out, but if you create enough tension to pivot off the heel and smear the ball of the foot outward across the floor, your outer hips will engage, your transverse abdominis (lower anterior core muscle) will activate, and the inner thighs (adductors) will lift. Doing this periodically engages muscles so you don't passively hang on your ligaments.
Set your computer station up like an ergonomic specialist
Neck tension can be another big problem of your new WFH life. For every inch your head moves forward you increase 10 pounds of force to the cervical and upper thoracic spine. To reduce the risk of neck tension and arm/shoulder pain, your computer monitor position should be raised or lowered so you can clearly see the whole screen without tilting your neck up or down. Place the keyboard and mouse close to each other on the same level with the homerow of keys easy to reach with your elbows positioned to 90 degrees. As you type your wrists should be straight. If you're a laptop user, place a box under the laptop and try using a wireless keyboard and mouse.
Movement is key
Change positions frequently. A combination of standing and sitting is preferable. When standing, ensure your hips and knees are both bent to 90 degrees, respectively. Every 20 minutes take a 15-30 second break. Take a few longer breaks during the day. Move the printer and other office supplies across the room to get extra movement in. And lastly, if able, conduct some of your meetings to walking meetings if you can while maintaining social distancing. A change of scenery and fresh air can boost your mental clarity, increase circulation, and improve joint mobility.