Can Telehealth Help My Ergonomics At Home?

by Joel Paul, MSPT, April 6, 2020

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Telehealth is a growing trend with many different ways to reach out to health care providers.  Due to technology there are now apps and websites that patients can visit to contact their providers.  This is now allowing patients to continue to have guidance during this time of need.  One question we are receiving more frequently is, “Can we use telehealth to help with my ergonomic set up at my house now that I’m working from home?”.  The answer is YES!

Providers and at home workers need to be aware that increased computer time has implications to consider.  In consideration of increased sitting time at a computer I would be amiss if we do not explore ergonomics and some important and sometimes often over looked issues to consider.

While maintaining proper posture in utilizing your new home set-up for work, focus on pinching your shoulder blades together to keep your shoulders upright and back as opposed to rolled forward and down.  With regards to your neck, focus on keeping your ears over your shoulders. As we get tired from being in one spot too long, or have not had proper posture for an extended period of your life, we tend to notice people having a forward head, or looking like they are always on their phone without ever having a phone in their hand.  These 2 postural adjustments will definitely help cue you for improved posture and can be used as some easy exercises to help get stronger and maintain better posture longer.

Whether you have physical limitations or symptoms, one recommendation that can work for anyone is to not stay in 1 position for too long.  Even in this current climate, being a couch potato is no way to stay pain free and have the best mobility. Now add in a neck/shoulder/mid-back issue, and staying in one spot too long will definitely have an impact on your health.  Even if you have to be on your computer at home for work, it is still a good idea to get up and move around once every hour. This will give your neck and shoulders time to relax from trying to maintain improved posture while working.

One of the most popular services we are currently offering through telehealth, are E-Visits to check our patients work station set up.  Through the use of your phone or tablet we can assess the position of your chair, desk, and monitor or laptop.  This allows us to make considerable modifications and improvement to your static work from home set up.

4 Tips for Proper Ergonomics at Your Home Office:

  1. For your monitor position, you want it to be around eye level so you do not have to significantly look down at it.
  2. With your keyboard/chair height, you want to be able to keep your elbows bent around 90 degrees and arms in a relaxed position by your side.
  3. If your desk/keyboard cannot change height, adjusting your chair height will work too.
  4. Adjust your chair height to make sure your feet still reach the floor.  If they do not reach the floor use a container/ object to help provide support.

With lighting around your work station there are a couple of key factors to keep in mind. Try to avoid having any light at or near your desk shine directly into your face, but also make sure it is not creating a glare on your computer screen by being too bright or shining right on it.  Some computer monitors have brightness/blue light settings to help modify or correct this specific issue.   If lighting is not correct you may find yourself leaning forward putting unnecessary strain on your neck and back.

With all these factors to consider please remember to take your time and understand the importance of your posture.  Please utilize these tips to help maintain a pain free lifestyle as you work from home.  Currently we are providing telehealth services and many times patient’s do not realize the importance of a postural assessment to establish needs especially if your job is transitioning to more sitting activities.  I have had several patients in which a postural assessment was performed through a virtual format and patients had a reduction in their symptoms.  Many times this is due to micro trauma from poor posture. If you feel that you are spending more time at a computer than telehealth with a trained Physical Therapist may be an option for you.

Joel Paul, MSPT, CEASJoel Paul, MSPT is a licensed physical therapist and graduate of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. He is an active member of the APTA, as well as meeting the requirements to be a Certified Ergonomic Assessment Specialist. Joel has extensive experience in manual techniques and developing multilevel back school programs. He has special interests in Parkinsonism, as well as a desire to establish strength and conditioning programs for local high school and college teams.