Are you suddenly working from home because of COVID-19? If so, you’re not alone. If you find yourself finishing your work day with a sore neck or tense muscles, it may be a sign that your screen isn’t properly positioned or that the kitchen chair you’re sitting on is causing tension in your neck.
As occupational therapists (OT), we can complete ergonomic assessments to ensure that a workstation is comfortable and properly set up. These ergonomic assessments can be conducted in person or remotely using Virtual Care and video conference technology. In the long run, these adjustments can make a big difference on your health and well-being.
Here are a few tips to help you adjust your screens to avoid increasing neck strain and/or tense muscles. While these tips don’t replace a complete ergonomic assessment, they can get you on the right track.
Reconfiguring your work environment
We all know what “not to do” when sitting down to get some work done. For example, we know that we shouldn't slouch, cross our legs, sit in our chairs all day, etc.
However, knowing what “to do” and putting it into practice is easier said than done. On average, it takes approximately two months for a new behavior to become automatic, so remember to be kind to yourself while you learn new healthy work habits.
Start by asking yourself the following questions when looking at the position of your computer, laptop or tablet screen:
Do I have one or two monitors? If I have one monitor, I need to place it directly in front of me. If I have two monitors and I use them equally (50/50), I need to place the monitors next to each other at a slight angle (V shape), and where they meet should be directly in front of me. If I have two monitors and I use one more than the other (80/20), I need to position the primary monitor directly in front of me, with the second one positioned to the side at about a 30-degree angle to the primary monitor.
When I look at my screen(s), is the top third of the screen(s) in my direct line of vision? The monitor height should allow the neck to be neutrally positioned when looking at the top row of text on the screen.
Is/are my screen(s) approximately an arm’s distance away from me?
Is/are my screen(s) positioned to avoid glare (i.e. perpendicular to a window)?
By answering those four questions, you should be able to adjust your monitors independently with the ultimate goal of reducing unnecessary neck strain and/or tense muscles.
Developing repetitive stress injuries
Computers have completely changed the way work is done. Since most of the physical work has been eliminated, people now sit for long periods of time in static positions, which increases the risk of developing repetitive strain injuries or musculoskeletal disorders.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:
Aches or pain
Loss of strength
Redness or swelling of area
Numbness or tingling sensations
Especially in your lower back, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, head or eyes, it may be time to consult a healthcare professional. A Lifemark occupational therapist can perform a full assessment of your work environment and identify potential improvements to keep you safe.
For more information about Virtual Care, check out the Virtual Care section on Lifemark.ca or call us at 1-855-485-1344.