Career & Money

How To Nail Your WFH Set Up According To A Chiropractor

By Jessica Best
4th May 2020

young blonde man studying in baby pink room on emerald green couch with copper Microsoft laptop resting on a stool

Here’s the thing. Working from home can be bittersweet. Sure, you may be able to pop the alarm on snooze more times than usual and “business up the top, PJs on the bottom” attire may be an absolute plus for Zoom meetings but there’s actually quite a bit of skill required to make your WFH space well, you know, good for you. 

If the word “ergonomic” freaks you out a bit and gives you flashbacks of your Dad at Officeworks losing his mind over a standing table, we hear you. The good news is, nailing your WFH set up isn’t all about fancy gadgets (you can keep your non-standing desk as is) but more so about getting into a couple of good habits and understandably, listening to your damn body.

On top of this, everyone is different (we know, very cute) so what might be a good set-up for one person, might not be great for the next. To help your working-from-home souls out, we decided to pick the incredible brain of Dr. Jason Wersland, who’s an actual chiropractor (and also the founder behind the holy handheld massager Theragun), to find out the things you need to be mindful of with your WFH set up. The result? He spilled all the beans on the best tips for anyone who gets a spot of neck soreness or even lower back pain and what you can do in the long term to prevent these aches too. We know — not all heroes wear capes.

Here’s how to absolutely nail your WFH set up according to an actual chiropractor.

what can people do if they generally get a lot of neck or shoulder pain?

So, the neck and shoulders are constantly getting shortened while we work. Most of us are hunching over our computer screens for extended periods of time, so it’s important to open up those muscles to maintain blood flow. 

For the neck, an easy and effective stretch is to stand up and tilt your neck back and diagonally over your shoulder. Try this for 30 seconds on both sides. This will help open up your SCM (a muscle located at the base of your skull on either side of your neck and behind your ears) which is constantly being shortened from hunching. 

Sitting in front of a screen means having our arms tucked in tight as we type on a keyboard. The danger of doing this for long periods of time means your pectoral muscles shorten and pull your shoulders forward which can cause you to hunch even further. 

A great way to keep your body from doing that is to stretch your pectoral muscles by standing up, fully extending your arm out pointing your thumbs backward behind you. The further you pull your arm behind your body, the more you’ll feel the stretch.  

back of girl studying at window desk with headphones on

HOW CAN YOU SWITCH UP YOUR WFH SET UP TO COMBAT THIS?

Any position that we consistently put our bodies in will eventually change the structure of your body, intentionally or not. If you're constantly sitting in a position with your shoulders rolled forward and your chin in your chest, you're going to have damage and pain. 

With that said, my long term advice is to make sure your screen is set correctly. As a rule of thumb, you should be 50cm away from your screen. Adjust the height of your screen so that your eyes are in line with a point on the screen that is about 5-10 cm below the top edge of the monitor. These two simple adjustments will stop the shoulders hunching and neck straining forward. 

for the people out there with sore wrists, how they can relieve any pain around here? 

Your hands perform a variety of tasks every day, from holding your phone, gripping door handles to typing on a keyboard. These repetitive motions can create weakness and stiffness in your wrists and fingers, which is why it’s essential to stretch out these muscle groups constantly to avoid injuries like carpal tunnel. 

I find the best way to effectively stretch the sore muscles in your wrist is to extend your arm with your palm facing up toward the ceiling. Use your other hand to push your four fingers down towards the ground. Flip your hand over and do the exact same stretch on the other side of your arm.  

young woman's hands decorated with rings typing on Mac laptop

HOW CAN YOU SWITCH UP YOUR WFH SET UP TO COMBAT THIS?

It seems simple, but making sure your mouse and keyboard are directly in line with your monitor. If you use dual screens, line your keyboard up with your main monitor, rather than in between the two. Also, make sure that your keyboard isn’t running away from you. Keeping it close, about 5cm from the front of your desk, ensures you maintain a nice 90-degree angle in your elbows.  

if people generally get sore hips when they work from home, what’s the best thing to do? 

Sore hips are often a sign that you’ve been sitting down for too long. A great way to help relieve pain and reinvigorate blood flow in the region is to stretch out your hip flexors. To do that you can lunge forward with one leg, then in that lunge position rotate your hips forward. You should feel the stretch start underneath the top of your inner quad running upwards inside your hip bone and deep to your abdomen.  

Our muscles never work alone. Every muscle has a team and when you’re treating one muscle you also need to treat the team. So when you’re treating your hip flexors, you also treat the muscle group surrounding it. All of these muscles work together and treating them all will make such a big difference after sitting for long periods of time, especially in strange, awkward spaces and positions.

man sitting at desk wearing beige cap and typing

HOW CAN YOU SWITCH UP YOUR WFH SET UP TO COMBAT THIS?

It's very important to keep your hips mobile and loose every day.  The best way to do this is to set a timer and get up from your chair every 30 minutes for 2-5 minutes. You can also get a stand-up desk, which opens up the hips and rids the joints of constricted blood flow.  If you don’t have a standing desk, sitting up straight in your chair and keeping your back from leaning against the chair is the next best thing. This will make you use your core to sit up straight. 

Saving the biggest issue for last — lower back pain. What’s your advice for this one?

The lower back is influenced by many muscles that attach to the pelvis and lower torso. The hamstrings are actually one of those groups of muscles. A portion of the hamstring muscles originates at the lower pelvis and extends down the back of the leg, to the knee, so when we sit for extended periods of time our hamstrings shorten which can cause tension and increase back pain. 

A great way to stretch your hamstrings is to stand up, spread your legs just beyond shoulder-width apart. Then with both hands reach down toward one foot, make sure to keep your knees very slightly bent. Hold that stretch for 30 seconds before sweeping your hands across to your other foot and holding there for 30 seconds. 

man studying in dark room on computer, wearing a cap

HOW CAN YOU SWITCH UP YOUR WFH SET UP TO COMBAT THIS?

The very best long term tip I have is to start today by having a quick morning and evening core strengthening routine (planks, Russian twist, bicycle crunches etc.).  2-5 minutes twice a day can really make a difference.  This habit is the ounce of prevention that will save you the pound of cure.  

Second, sit properly. Be mindful of how you hold yourself in your chair or while you're standing.  

Finally, any general pointers we can take with us when working from home?

  • When you’re sitting down make sure your feet are flat on the ground, everything should be at 90-degree angles. Never cross your legs, it cuts off blood flow and can cause sciatica.
  • Invest in a good chair. Something that is comfortable but allows you to maintain the correct posture.  
  • Keep moving, but maintaining a work area. Don’t be tempted to work from the couch or your bed. Instead, try to take a 2-5min break every 30min to stretch, stand up and get the blood flowing back through the muscles that have been restricted while sitting.   
  • My best tip for a long term fix is to listen to your body. If you feel tension or muscle soreness be mindful of the position you were in that may have caused that feeling. Connect with where the tension lies and what movement may have been the cause. Then, treat that area. Taking care of those little signs from your body will keep you from having a big problem. 

Dr. Jason Wersland is a certified chiropractor and founder of Theragun.

And here's everything you need to pimp your WFH space like a pro.

Image credit: Surface, Charles Deluvio, Christine Hume, Surface, Jed Villego

 


 


 

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

Get our top stories direct to your inbox.

You May Also Like