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not so comfortable work from home

The Not-So-Comfortable Home Office

by Erik Krol, MOT, OTR/LLeave a Comment

Over the last several months the opportunities to Work from Home (WFH) have kept a large majority of the population safe and healthy. Yet, WFH may not always be as comfortable as it sounds. Many workers have needed to trade in their rolling chair and dual computer monitors for the family room couch and laptop. Small changes to someone’s work environment may be on-setting large differences in the way our bodies are used to moving. These changes may also result in new feelings of soreness and pain. It is important to be mindful of the things we can do in order to combat the challenges of WFH to minimize the potential aches and pains of home office life.

Common orthopedic syndromes to be mindful of that can be associated with repetitive use, poor posture, and/or soft tissue tightness as a result of WFH include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: An injury to the median nerve caused by squeezing of the nerve as it travels through a small space near one’s wrist known as the carpal tunnel. Changes in that space due to prolonged positioning like typing and writing can have an effect on the nerve resulting in numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in any combination.
  • Shoulder Impingement: Pain at the shoulder typically caused by tendons getting pinched and irritated between bony structures. Weakness of muscles between the shoulder blades and poor body awareness (proprioception) of rotator cuff muscles can contribute to symptoms.
  • Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: Compression of the ulnar nerve at the level of the elbow joint resulting in hand/ forearm numbness and tingling. Some examples of work-related causes include leaning on a hard surface or repetitive/sustained elbow flexion, such as the elbow being bent when talking on a phone.

While the work force continues to remain productive during our country’s continually changing times, there are several things that can be done to lessen the forces placed on our bodies in less than ideal work spaces.

  • Consider setting a timer to take standing breaks; these breaks can minimize repetitive and overuse performance patterns of the hands.
  • Posture, posture and more posture! If working in a seated position, consider setting up your environment with your feet flat on the floor, back supported, screen at eye level with hands below shoulder/chest height.
  • Incorporate simple stretches and upper body exercises before and after work to stretch and strengthen your shoulder and back muscles.
  • Consider the use of fabricated padding on hard surfaces where you might be placing your wrist and elbows for extended period or times. Also, if using a laptop, consider how you are sitting/or laying and avoid extended time propped up on your forearm.
  • Use speaker phone, headphones, or video calls when possible to minimize the time you have to hold a phone to your ear in order to prevent prolonged elbow bending.

These strategies can be helpful as WFH continues to be the norm. Furthermore, many of these strategies can be helpful even after transitioning back into the staff room to prevent and minimize the daily effects the office can have on our bodies.

If you’re experiencing pain or soreness, schedule a free assessment with an Athletico clinician. Assessments are available both in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

Cooper, Cynthia. Fundamentals of Hand Therapy: Clinical Reasoning and Treatment Guidelines for Common Diagnoses of the Upper Extremity. Elsevier Mosby, 2014.

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About the Author:
Erik J. Krol is a Hand Therapist/Occupational Therapist, father of two, runner, and former college athlete. Erik uses his background education in kinesiology and professional training in hand therapy to provide recommendations on preventing injuries during daily roles and routines. Follow Erik's work and interests in remaining healthy and, more importantly, functional to achieve family, work, and personal goals while combating the environmental and aging challenges.

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