Work up that muscle

Avoid repetitive strain injury with the right posture

By Dr Fazela Hozefa

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Published: Thu 26 Aug 2021, 12:00 AM

Work from Home is the new normal.

We have turned our sofas/ couches to office chairs, dining area/kitchen countertops to our workstations, our beds as school chairs, our mobile phones as desktops, all these changes to adapt ourselves into the new home office and online schooling scenario. In one way, the new normal is protecting us from the Covid-19, reducing our commuting time, the dressing time etc. but at the same time, it is increasing our risks of having repetitive strain injury (RSI) due to the incorrect static postures that we are working in.

Not only the adults but kids and teens are also facing issues of posture/neck-back pain /wrist pain, headaches, eye strain, anger, and all this leading to reduction of productivity. The impact of wrong postures is not only limited to neck pains and lower back pains but also poor breathing and eventually reduction in the lung capacity, headaches, dizziness, poor eyesight, poor digestion, lack of concentration, compromised circulation in the legs causing to varicose veins, sleep disturbances and so on.

So, what we can use in our home to make an Ergonomic Workstation? How should the chair be arranged, what can be used for a standing desk?

A well-lighted area for making your workstation as light plays a crucial role in influencing mood and alertness plus it doesn’t strain in your eyes.

Ergonomic Chair: While using the chairs available at home, make sure that if its hard surface put a cushion/foam to make the seat firm. Place a cushion or a towel roll to make a curved back rest. If the height of the chair is high, then keep a foot stool or boxes to support your feet. While seated, the thighs should be parallel to the ground. An ideal ergonomic chair should look like this. The gym ball variation of the chair is a brilliant switch to the traditional chairs plus it helps in strengthening the core as well.

Work station: The basic rule is to sit or stand at one hand distance from the screen that you are using and making sure that the screen is at your eye level (this rule applies to sitting as well as standing desks). Place boxes or books to get the laptop at the eye level. If there is a need for using two screens, then keep it side by side. Attach an external keyboard to the laptop. Do not forget to use a wrist pad so that the wrist stays in neutral position. A big No to smartphones for studying as you will land up in a wrong posture. A standing workstation can be made by stacking books on the dining table or using an iron board on the bed, but make sure that the elbows should be at 90 degrees bent as shown in the pic.

Frequent Breaks: Our body is made to move so even if we sit correctly and have an absolutely well designed workstation, we will start hunching after 30-45 mins so its recommended to stand up and move around or switch from sitting to standing desks after every hour.

Daily dose of Exercise: Make time for 30-60 mins of exercises at least five times a week. Make it a family affair. Involve kids, take up your favourite sports and get the daily quota of movement.

Walk and Talk: A great way to include some movement while working from home is while on phone use a headphone and walk and talk or do 10 squats with or without chair support whenever you are talking. For kids, after every class make them jump for 10 times or ask them go around the house, get some water and sit again for the next class. Just be creative in moving.

— Dr Fazela Hozefa is Senior Physiotherapist at Sheikh Manaa Bin Hasher Al Maktoum Polyclinic, Dubai.

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