Be that as it may working from home or returning to the office, the pandemic made us see the importance of a safe, comfortable work space. For many of us forced to do our jobs where we lived, it meant creating an improvised station outside of any space or supplies were available. Dining tables become desks, sofas transformed into seats, and computers replace in-person interactions. Ergonomic mistakes have led to discomfort and a myriad of common injuries.
This past school year, I taught science to 133 8th graders on Zoom. I started a healthy 29 year old who ate well, exercised three times a week, meditated, and saw friends over the weekend. Although I have a history of depression, I have found ways to manage it. After nine months of distance learning, I had back and neck pain, chronic stomach pains, elevated anxiety levels, and, worst of all, agony in my shoulder that woke me up at night.
Seeing orthopedic surgeon Louis Peter Re, he noticed that my left shoulder was visibly lowered. He asked about my home setup. I told him my laptop was full of books, so every time I typed, I reached up to the keyboard with my elbows flared at the sides. He gave me a lecture on ergonomics 101, diagnosed me with tendonitis, and offered me a shot of cortisone at the same place I had been vaccinated two months earlier. Before the school year, I would search as seen well on Zoom to be a more demanding teacher. The articles I had read recommended stacking books under my laptop until the camera was at eye level to avoid the unattractive upward angle. Shaking his head, Re said he wanted people to be more concerned about staying healthy than waiting well for the room.
Along with the physiotherapy exercises he recommended, I adjusted my work configuration and interviewed experts. As companies and individuals they are increasingly adopting the distance working model, there are important regulations you can make that will alleviate and prevent various injuries.
And Laptop Issue
Laptops are great for their portability but not so good when used as a permanent solution. With small computers, the screen is significantly below eye level, which means you are more prone to bending. The keyboard is not placed on the edge of the desk, where it should ideally be. According to Re, this causes a “closed posture, and you may end up with tension on your neck, back and shoulders.”
In my case, the screen was on display after I placed my laptop on the books, but I was still bent over when I was typing. My sprained elbows put tension on the front of my shoulders and caused painful tendonitis.
One solution is one external keyboard. “To correct this,” says Re, “I usually recommend getting a separate full-size keyboard that’s both wired and Bluetooth.” Having the external keyboard allows you to lift your laptop without having to reach up to the type. You can lift your laptop by filling out books or buying one laptop support. The top of your laptop (or monitor) should be slightly above eye level. This installation will help you prevent them from bending over.
Find the right chair
After using a folding chair for too long, I did he pulled a muscle in my spine. Physiotherapist Melanie Karol said her husband was also injured using a folding chair, which led to a pinch in his leg. In our interview, Karol made it clear that it is not just about choosing the right chair but about using it correctly.
An ergonomic desk chair has an adjustable height. Both Karol and Dr. Re emphasize the importance of keeping your chair at the right height, where your forearms, wrists and hands are level with your desk and keyboard. Otherwise, strain your shoulders, neck and back. The ideal ergonomic chair has an adjustable lumbar support.