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Optimize Your Workstation

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a home office, that doesn’t guarantee you’re set up for ergonomic success. “We’re sitting in positions that aren’t necessarily the correct position, and for longer,” says Jessica Dorrington, PT, MPT, OCS, CMPT, PRPC, CSCS, director of physical therapy at Therapeutic Associates Bethany Physical Therapy in Portland, Oregon. “So we’re starting to see more neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand pain — things that could easily be solved by just changing what our computer station looks like.”

Start with your computer

Place your laptop (or monitor) on a riser or a stack of books so that it’s at eyebrow level and then pair an external mouse and keyboard to it — ideally one without the 10-key on the right-hand side so you don’t have to reach as far to use your mouse (if you’re right handed). The keyboard should lay flat (not higher in the back). And try to avoid letting your fingers hover above the mouse, which can strain elbow and hand muscles.

Choose your chair wisely

What you sit on can have a big impact on how you feel. When workers were given an ergonomic office chair and taught how to properly use it, they reported less musculoskeletal pain immediately afterward, according to a 2012 systematic review.

Take frequent breaks

If you have the ability to switch between a seated and standing desk throughout the day, do it. In a 2011 study, workers who reduced their sitting time by 66 minutes a day experienced less upper back and neck pain and improved moods. “Our body doesn’t like to be in any position more than 30 minutes,” says Dorrington. “So moving from sit to stand and stand to sit every 30 minutes is a great suggestion” even if it’s just to walk around your house.