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5 Ways to Avoid Neck and Shoulder Pain When Working from Home

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Posted by Temple Health

These days, more people than ever are working from home, either temporarily due to social distancing (also called physical distancing), or permanently as a remote professional. If you’ve found yourself and your laptop at the kitchen table or at a makeshift desk, do what you can to make your workspace as supportive and comfortable as it can be. After all, you don’t want working from home to be a pain in the neck — or shoulders.

Position Yourself for Success

How you sit while working makes a difference. While your home may not be the best work environment long-term, do the best you can to safeguard your joints and muscles. It might be a good idea to check your home for props, such as stacks of books to raise your monitor and to get yourself and your equipment positioned the right way.

If you can, work from a firm chair positioned at a desk or table. A soft couch isn’t your friend for hours on end. Sit right, and don’t forget to get up and shake it out to avoid aches and pains.

Tip 1: Feet firmly on the ground

Keep your feet flat on the floor and slightly ahead of your knees, which are bent at a 90- to 120-degree angle. Use a lumbar support cushion or if one is not available, grab a small throw pillow to alleviate back pain.

Tip 2: Shoulders relaxed and natural

Shoulders are relaxed, upper arms fall normally at your sides, elbows are close to your body. Head is generally in line with your body — not thrust forward — and the middle of your computer monitor is at eye level.

Tip 3: "Arm" yourself for success

Hands and forearms are parallel to the floor. The ideal keyboard position is slightly below the height of your elbows and sloped slightly away from you. This position allows your upper body to relax and keeps circulation from being cut off in your lower arms and hands.

Tip 4: Neck-free when talking

Use earbuds, a headset or speakerphone so that you don’t have to tilt your head and hold the phone between your neck and shoulder.

Tip 5: Keep moving

Even with the best posture, you can get aches and pains from sitting in one position for too long.

Set a timer to remind yourself to get up once an hour to:

  • Stretch and walk around
  • Bend over and touch your toes
  • Do some jumping jacks
  • Run in place
  • Roll your shoulders slowly
  • Do arm circles to get your blood flowing

These activities won’t just help your body, they will also help your mind and concentration. If you use a lumbar support cushion, change its position on your chair. If you can, do some of your work, such as phone meetings, while standing or even walking.

Other Ways to Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain

If you do develop neck and shoulder pain that you can’t manage from your home office:

  • Take a hot bath with magnesium sulfate
  • Alternate ice, then heat on the affected area
  • Have your family member give you a massage

Talk to Your Doctor if Having Ongoing Pain

If your pain is ongoing, consider talking to a physical therapist or orthopaedic surgeon, or schedule an appointment with your doctor. In some cases, telehealth may be an option. Many therapies are available to help you overcome neck and shoulder pain due to prolonged sitting or staying in one place for too long.

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