Posture Ergonomics | Preventing Back, Neck and Wrist Pain at Home

A recent report released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics found that a surprising 42.9% of adult employees in the UK are currently working from home. The pandemic has forced many changes to our daily lives, including our work environments.

With the extreme change to our workstation set-ups, the need to follow the correct ergonomics has dramatically increased.

In this article, we’ll break down all you need to know about good posture ergonomics, and how you can prevent any injury while working from home.

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The key health risks of maintaining poor posture.

Read the meaning of posture ergonomics and why it is important.

Tips on sitting correctly when homeworking.

Common posture mistakes made when homeworking.

Read our product suggestions for working from home ergonomically.

Health Risks of Poor Posture

Sitting in unnatural positions that don’t support your body will likely cause discomfort in our neck, shoulder, back, and spine.

Here are a few other reasons how poor ergonomics can have a negative impact on our health…

Repetitive strain injury

Repetitive strain injury (RSI), often called “musculoskeletal disorder”, refers to injuries or pain that may affect the musculoskeletal system. This includes structures that support limbs, neck, and back, as well as joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerves.

Likely causes of RSI:

  • Sudden, repeated rapid movements
  • Forceful exertion of muscle movement
  • Poor posture
  • A work area that isn’t ergonomically sound
  • Consistently holding the same posture for a prolonged period

Neck, wrist and back pain

Having poor posture can cause muscles to tighten up and shorten. Neck, wrist and back pain are common issues caused by poor posture.

Neck Pain

Neck strain is often caused by constantly looking down at our laptop, poor monitor positioning, or poor sitting posture.

Constantly craning your neck to match the positioning of your screen also causes muscle tension and pain over time. Stiff necks are a common consequence, often accompanying headaches.

woman with neck pain

Wrist Pain

Poor posture can sometimes cause the shoulders to roll forward, which sets off a chain reaction that shortens your shoulder and neck muscles. Subsequently, it causes pain to the wrists. Wrist pain can also be caused by straining your wrists to reach a keyboard.

Back Pain

Slouching forces your muscles to work harder in keeping the spine stabilised and protected. A bad sitting posture causes the spinal tendons to stretch past their healthy limit and strains the disks in your spinal column.

This may cause fatigue and tightness, resulting in sore muscles in the lower back region.

Other long-term health risks of bad posture

  • Poor circulation and impaired lung function (source)
  • Misaligned spine
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue

What does posture ergonomics mean?

Ergonomics aims to improve the efficiency and productivity of an individual’s performance while reducing overall discomfort. Posture ergonomics utilises multiple human anatomy data to improve a product’s design and assist in bettering an individual’s experience. It focuses largely on maintaining good posture to reduce risk of posture-related injuries.

How to sit when working from home

To maintain our work efficiency and comfortability while working, here are some tips sitting at home:

Maintain in a neutral position

Maintaining a neutral posture can preventing injuries before they occur, and mitigates the dangers for positions and postures.

Regardless of whether you’re sitting or standing, the following can ensure you remain in a neutral position:

  • Keep your feet laying easily on the floor or a footstool.
  • Your thighs should be completely supported by the seat, with your hips at a 90 to 110-degree edge.
  • The backrest of your seat should support the characteristic bend of your back.
  • Your upper arms must sit loosely next to you, with elbow height at a 90 to 100-degree edge. Your chair and desk height should support this position.
  • Don’t lean forward in your seat to abstain from putting a strain on the neck and back.

correct sitting position

Resist the urge to slouch

Slouching can cause shooting pain in the neck and back. It can also cause issues such as migraines, constipation and can have negative effects on circulation. Your body can also get used to hunching over, causing chronic slouching.

Are items on your desk causing you to slouch? Read our home desk organisation tips.

Keep your hip far back in the chair

The back of the chair ought to be leaned back at around a 100 to 110-degree point, with your bottom pressed against the back of your chair. A cushioned chair is advisable to minimise the load on your back.

Keep your elbows by the side of your body

Keep your elbows by the side of your body, so your arm forms an L-shape at the elbow joint.

Adjust your chair height so you can use the keyboard and mouse with your wrists and lower arms straight and level with the floor.

Make use of simple objects

Use simple objects found around your home to improve or help with your posture.

This includes books acting as makeshift stands, putting a pad/cushion on your seat, or a rolled towel for lumbar support.

Work in a chair with back support

Working in a chair with back support reduces the danger of back pain. Look for a chair that can be easily adjusted so you can change its height and backrest position. You can also utilise a footrest if needed for increased comfort.

Here are some dos and don’ts for sitting in a chair at home:

Dos Don’ts
Keep your hip far back in the chair Sit in a chair without back support
Ensure your thighs are supported by the seat Sit in a chair that is the wrong height
Sit in a chair with armrests
Ensure your chair has comfortable padding, particularly if you are sitting in it for long hours Sit an uncomfortable chair without the help of a pillow or back support
Sit up straight and avoid slouching Lean forward
Keep your forearms straight and level with the floor Cross your legs for a long period of time while working
Keep your feet flat on the floor

You can read our full guide to ensuring your home office chair is ergonomic here.

Working from home: common posture mistakes

Here are some of the most common posture mistakes while working from home:

  • Slouching from a low desk or chair
  • Hunching your shoulders
  • Looking downwards for too long
  • Keeping the elbows and wrists bent for too long
  • Forgetting to stretch
  • Working without back support
  • Using your lap as a workstation

It’s likely that you’ve done the above once or twice, consciously or not. So here are some tips on improving your posture in situations that are less than ideal:

Working on the bed

It is best to avoid working on the bed, as we are likely to slouch towards the laptop monitor with our necks bent too sharply.

However, if you are working on the bed due to lack of space elsewhere – here are some suggestions that may help:

  • Adjust your screen to be just below eye level, no more than 15 degrees
  • Use a lumbar pillow to work as a posture corrector
  • Place additional pillows under your legs to keep your muscles straight

Working from a laptop

The following tips can help prevent awkward positions while working on a laptop:

  • Place the laptop on a stable surface
  • Use a comfortable chair that supports an upright position
  • Ensure that your neck is aligned with your spine when sitting
  • Relax your back and support it using a cushioned chair
  • Avoid hunched or rounded shoulders

You can read our full guide to working from a laptop ergonomically here.

Working from a kitchen or dining table

Kitchen and dining tables are often un-adjustable and can be lower or higher than work desks. If you’re sitting in a hard wooden chair, put a small pillow behind you at your waist to provide easy lumbar support.

If your table is too high, sit on a pillow, so you are raised higher towards the table. Use a bean bag for leg and foot support, so your legs aren’t uncomfortable.

If you find your table is too low, try placing your laptop on some books or another stable object, so you aren’t looking down at it. You can invest in a laptop or monitor stand if you are interested in using a professional product.

Read our guide to adjusting your desk and laptop height when working from home.

Additional tips to prevent posture

Neck, back and wrist exercises

Move your neck, back and wrists frequently to prevent muscle tension. This can be done by moving your neck from side to side, moving your shoulders up and down and stretching the wrists.

Use heat and ice

For injuries like muscle spasms, heat is frequently the cure. The heat helps loosen tight muscles, thus reducing soreness and promoting faster recovery (source).

Ice, on the other hand, works by reducing blood flow to the inflamed area. This allows a significant reduction of inflammation and swelling, which subsequently reduces pain.

applying ice to the shoulder

Take frequent breaks

Try to incorporate walks as much as you can every couple of hours to avoid muscle tension and pain. If you can afford one, sit-stand desks like the Active Electric Sit-Stand Workstation can be a good investment to encourage you to move your legs.

Ergonomic equipment that can help

As well as using free items around your home, ergonomic products that can be found in the market are also sufficient:

Laptop and monitor arms

Monitor arms preventing you from straining or hunching over your monitor. The Vision monitor arm can be adjusted into a wide range of positions and angles, with single or dual screen options. It supports monitors weighing up to 6kg and provides laptop support when used alongside Vision laptop support.

Footrests

If you struggle with uncomfortable legs and want a long-term professional solution, a footrest can keep your legs and feet supported while you work. You can find footrests for under £20 on Amazon.

Ergonomic kneeling chairs

If you are finding it hard to find a comfortable ergonomic position, kneeling chairs position you with an open hip angle with your bottom and thighs supported by one pad, and your knees and shins supported by another. This encourages a more upright posture to better align your back, shoulders and neck. They generally cost between £50 and £100.

You can view our full range of homeworking products here.