Since the middle of March our lives have been affected in countless ways due to the coronavirus. Our church family is no exception and is facing the same obstacles as the rest of the world when it comes to working in different environments due to shelter in place protocols and social distance measures. Many of us have adapted to the recent changes by expanding the use of technology to help us continue to teach, meet, engage with others, and for me, even treat patients in Physical Therapy. The use of technology has been a blessing as it has allowed us the opportunity to work outside of our normal work environment and to maintain contact with the outside world. However, this increased use of technology has the potential to create some physical challenges to our bodies as our bodies were meant to be dynamic and moving not to stay static and still. Personally, my job has changed dramatically from being very active (on my feet) as I treat patients, to a situation where I am treating patients through an online medium while I sit in front of a computer screen. This experience has been challenging for my back and shoulders and has led me to incorporate several principles that I recommend for my patients that sit all day. I wanted to share some of these tips with you that I am now having to follow myself!
1. Evaluate your workstations/environments
Make sure you are sitting on a firm, yet comfortable surface. Your chair/sitting surface needs to be at a height where both feet rest comfortably on the floor (if you are short use a footstool or textbook) and your knees should be even with your hips. Feel both sit bones on the seat and allow your back to rest against the chair for support (may have to add a pillow if the chair is deep). This will place the pelvis in a good supportive position.
We are asked about standing desks very often, and I would say people can stand in a poor position as well as sit in a poor position, so it is not a must. However, if you could sit some and stand some, it would be beneficial due to your body changing positions.
When standing, try not to increase the arch in your back and attempt to stand on your left leg as much as you do your right leg.
Screens of any kind should be in front of your eyes. Your eyes should be level with the top of the computer screen. This is also true when using your phone or small screens. Our tendency is to look down while holding the devices in our hands, which can increase neck and shoulder tension and stress. Also, try not to lean in toward your screens by resting on your elbows or tilt your head to the sides as this will increase tension in your shoulders and neck.
2. Change positions frequently
There is no one position in sitting that can solve or avoid all our musculoskeletal problems. Sitting is static and our bodies need to be moving so if you are mostly sitting, then try to stand during a conference call, meeting, lecture, etc. to change the stress to your body.
While we are sitting and using technology, we tend to use our shoulders and necks to help us breathe, and we usually breathe in a very shallow manner. Every hour try to breathe and relax the tension in your body. Scoot to the edge of your chair and relax your arms beside you or place them in your lap. Take a breath of air in through your nose slowly (2 seconds) and then blow out the breath through pursed lips (pucker your lips as if you’re giving a kiss) over a period of about 4-5 seconds. After you exhale, pause briefly before taking in your next breath. Try to do this for 1-2 minutes while on your breaks.
4. Take Breaks
If possible, every hour get up and move. It doesn’t have to be a long break, but our bodies need to move. Get up and get a drink of water, walk to the bathroom, walk up and down some stairs, walk outside, do your favorite stretch, hug a family member, play with your pets, march in place…anything to get you moving.
Also, when possible get outside and take a walk. This is beneficial for your mind and body in numerous ways. Stay healthy, safe (social distancing), and stay moving!
Tips on your walk
- Look up and out whenever you can
- Notice what’s in your peripheral vision
- Breath through your nose
- Make sure your arms are swinging
- Feel the ground underneath you
- Wear good shoes