Mike Powell, a chiropractor at Powell Chiropractic in Cedar Rapids.
CEDAR RAPIDS — When office employees were first sent home in March 2020, many workers across the state thought it was a temporary scenario. They set up laptops at dining room tables, or even opted for the couch or the back patio.
More than a year and a half later, work from home is a permanent reality for many employees across Eastern Iowa — and so are the physical problems related to poor ergonomics.
A nationwide survey found 92 percent of chiropractors polled by the American Chiropractic Association reported an increase in patients with neck pain, back pain and other musculoskeletal issues since more employees began working from home.
Mike Powell, a chiropractor at Powell Chiropractic in Cedar Rapids, discusses the trend locally and how people can prevent injury while working from home:
Q: Did you see any increase in patients reporting problems after they began working from home?
A: We saw a lot early on, the same type of back and neck complaints because of poor ergonomics at their workplace. When so much work is done at home, pretty much everyone has poor ergonomics, so we saw an awful lot of neck strain and poor posture. People can tolerate it for an hour at a time, but an eight-hour day doesn’t work too well for people.
A lot of people have set up much better workstations at home over the course of this year as it’s become obvious they’ll likely be working from home permanently.
Q: What typically caused those problems?
A: A lot of people using a kitchen chair or desk chair at home they didn’t use anywhere near the hours they would use at work, and their seated posture would be poor. A good desk chair would have your tailbone back and put you in a posture you can tolerate. Their screen or keyboard setup was also poor. You want the screen at eye level, but the keyboard should be much lower. That won’t happen with a laptop in your lap.
The other big thing is that, at least for a lot of the past year and a half, people were more sedentary. Typically people were working out after work or doing something over lunch like taking a walk, but now they’re staying more in the house. They’re not getting up and moving around.
Q: What are the long-term concerns of poor posture?
A: Repeated bad posture issues tend to accelerate arthritis and put you more at risk for injury.
Q: What solutions are there for individuals experiencing pain from repeated bad posture?
A: Chiropractic care can be helpful — that’s bread and butter in chiropractic clinics. In terms of physical exercise, there’s a couple simple stretches, such as the bird dog stretch or cat and camel stretch. Some folks have done well with yoga, including chair yoga.
The other recommendations are ergonomics things. Make sure the screen is at your eye level and the keyboard is lower, so your hands are a little below your elbow and angled a little more than 90 degrees. Standing desks at home have been helpful for some people.
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