12 Jun 2020

Looking After Joints While Working From Home

Looking After Joints While Working From Home

We are all adjusting to challenges thrown up by life in lockdown. For some, that means having to do our jobs from home. 

Many of us are not accustomed to working from home, and the change in structure can prove challenging. With this in mind we’ve come up with some top tips to keep your limbs limber, and your mind frames positive during these extraordinary times.

Posture is everything

Offices are built for work, our homes are built for comfort. Working from home it can be tempting to put one’s feet up and kick back on the sofa. 

However, Clare Jacklin, Chief Executive of the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), notes that in order to maintain good posture and avoid back pains and other niggles, our workstations should be set up as they are in the office.

Working at a desk you should sit up straight with your back at a 90-100 degree angle to your legs, your elbows resting at 90-degrees by your sides, and your knees at 90-degrees, with feet flat on the floor beneath your chair. This helps maintain good posture and limit the toll deskwork can take on your body. 

Switch it up

If you are struggling to replicate your office environment why not try changing it up?

Osteopath David Vaux, Therapies Manager and Exercise Lead at Arthritis Action, recommends setting up a standing desk.

The potential benefits of standing desks, by comparison to sitting, include reducing back pain, and weight gain, and lowering blood sugar levels. Standing-desks have also been linked to increased productivity.

“We are moving beings,” notes Vaux, “Try propping your PC/laptop on a box or books and standing for an hour.”

Take regular breaks

We can all find ourselves glued to our computer screens trying to finish off pesky deadlines before the end of play. While such commitment and endeavour are admirable and sometimes necessary, it's also important to take regular breaks. 

Doing so can actually make us more productive.

“Set goals, and targets in time, and always get up at the allotted time,” says Vaux.

Desk-based exercise

When work commitments make it difficult to step away from the laptop screen 

chair-based stretches can provide relief to aches and pains, stretching a variety of muscles and body parts. 

Arthritis Action has compiled a selection that includes moves such as the Shoulder Roll (for spinal and shoulder mobility), the Pendulum (hip mobility), and the Cossack (hip, knee, and core mobility).

Vaux notes that stretching is the single most important activity to alleviate soft tissue shortening, leading to joint stiffness so the importance of these stretches should not be underestimated.

Two key-stretches to alleviate work-related pain

Sometimes, even if we are taking breaks, maintaining good posture, eating healthily and generally keeping clued into work-related life hacks; aches and pains can creep upon us. Alas!

However, fear not! Two particular stretches that can alleviate pain associated with working on a computer.

Neck Stretch

Sit upright and firmly hold the underside of your chair with your right arm, explains Vaux. Then gently lean away from your left side, with your head facing right. Feel the stretch on that side of the neck. Hold it for 20 deep breaths, and switch to the right.

 Chest stretch

Standing, place your hand against the wall behind you. Step forward with the same side leg as arm and feel the stretch across your arm, chest and shoulder. Hold for 20 deep breaths. Stretch both sides. The chest stretch aims to open out the chest and shoulders that have moved forward to work at a computer and can prevent the buildup of tension affecting posture in the long-run.

A great time to get in shape

Life in lockdown provides us with a lot of free time usually taken up by work and social commitments. What better to do with this time than get in shape?

Whether you are a seasoned gym-buff or someone who has to google “Burpee”, any little helps. 

“Perhaps try to do some exercise during your micro breaks,” says Vaux, “No matter what level of conditioning you are starting at there is always something you can do to improve, even at home.”

At a time when we are physically distant from our colleagues and friends keeping a diary of our daily exercise routines and sharing our achievements can help incentivise, and build camaraderie. 

In addition to alleviating mental and physical stress, regular exercise can also help boost our immune systems.

“Recent research suggests that keeping our skeletal muscles strong and healthy, may give us a more efficient immune response in the event of an infection,” says Vaux.

“So, if we ever needed a reason to stay strong and active, the current outbreak is a big one!”