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Working from home advice

Since lockdown, working from home has become more common. As a Chiropractor in Ipswich, I have seen more and more people with issues caused by working at home. As a result of this, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some advice for anyone working from home. This advice is to help to avoid or relieve back and neck pain and even reduce headaches.

These days most people have a laptop at home instead of a desktop. These were designed as temporary computers whilst we were travelling to our main computer and therefore the main focus was not ergonomics in the design. It was portability and size. Now, we have millions of people using laptops for hours on end with poor ergonomics. The following advice is mainly tailored towards laptop use at home.

Don’t work on the sofa or in bed!

A man using his laptop on the sofa with a rounded posture.
Working on the sofa

Working on the sofa

This is an easy win. One of the biggest issues is people adopting awful postures due to where they decide to work. Sofas are not designed for working on, they are designed for lounging on. As a result, poor posture, and lack of support leads to an increase in neck pain, low back pain and headaches as well as shoulder pain and hip pain. Best thing to do would be to not work from the sofa.

If you were to decide to work from the sofa, then you want to cast your screen to your tv; have your low back well supported by cushions; and have your laptop on a tray so that you can rest your arms.

Working in bed

This is common and, mostly, poorly executed. We tend to sit with our laptop on our lap and our whole spine rounded. This can be improved but supporting your back more with cushions and bending your knees up. This is certainly still not ideal and not a position we would want to adopt for too long, in my opinion, 20-30 minutes max.

Where should you work?

Dedicated desk space

This would be the ideal if you have enough space. This allows you to set everything up perfectly for you and you don’t have to pack everything down to then use the space for something different. This is also better for your mental health as it gives you a better opportunity to switch off. With a dedicated space you still want to make sure that all is set-up as well as possible (keep reading for ‘ideal set-up’).

Dining room table or similar

A dining room table is the next best thing after a designated desk space. They are generally at a suitable height and can be set-up well. The biggest issue with working at a table like this is the chair. Most dining room chairs are not great for prolonged sitting. Some are OK or can be slightly adapted to be decent, but some are never going to work, and you will need to get a separate chair for work (keep reading for ’chair set-up’).

Ideal set-up

Laptop set-up

For a laptop to be set-up correctly you really need a separate keyboard or screen, and mouse. If you do not have a separate keyboard or screen, then you are going to have a problem. Either your laptop screen is going to be way too low, or the laptop keyboard is going to be way to high. A separate screen or keyboard allows you to separate the two elements.

The screen should be at eye level. The advice tends to be for the top of the screen to be in line with your eyes. Based on my experience analysing postures over the years, this is still a bit too low, and people will still find themselves drooping forwards towards the screen. Raising it up an extra inch or two can really help prevent this.

The keyboard should be just below your arm rests (we’ll talk about this in chair set-up). This will allow your wrists to stay straight to prevent repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. A wrist rest can be useful for prevention too.

A man in two pictures next to each other sitting working at a dining room table. One on a laptop rounded over, the other using a laptop stand and separate keyboard and mouse allowing him to maintain good posture.
Poor ergonomics compared to good ergonomics when working at the dining room table

Chair set-up

Having a dedicated chair is always the best thing to do. A chair can be incredibly expensive but you can also adapt cheaper chairs so they can work almost as well or buy second hand.

In Ipswich, there are a few office clearance companies that get good quality chairs and sell them at reasonable prices. I personally have used 484 Office Furniture on Woodbridge Road; you can search there website here ( The main things to consider with a chair is low back support and arm rests.

Lower back support

Most people’s postures get poor during work because their low back is allowed to flatten. A flattened low back facilitates the whole rounding of your upper back. Keeping your low back supported and maintaining the arch is crucial to keeping good posture. This can be provided by a built-in support in your chair or an external lumbar cushion. For this to be effective, you need to keep your bottom close to the back to the chair and not let it drift towards the front of the seat.

Arm rests

A desk worker with his lower back supported by a cushion and arms by arm rests to help to maintain good posture.
Good chair set-up

For me this is the most underutilised part of an office chair. So often people have arm rests on their chair and don’t use them. Arm rests are fundamental in allowing your upper back and shoulders to stay relaxed. If we don’t use our arm rests, we always find ourselves either slumping down to rest our arms or leaning forwards and resting them on the desk. Using arm rests correctly will stop this need and again allow you to maintain a good posture. These will really need to be on the chair and ideally height adjustable, so it is right for you. The arm rests should sit inline or just above the height of you keyboard. For some people this will mean that their feet no longer touch the ground. In these cases, a foot rest would be needed to pop your feet on.

Take a break and get up!

Regular breaks are important. It is easy to get carried away with work and not leave our desk at all. Standing up and doing some simple movements can be invaluable in keeping your body working well. Take advantage of going to make a drink or popping to the toilet. If you’re on a zoom meeting or telephone call, can you move around while you do this? Do you usually eat your lunch at your desk? Take the opportunity to move around, there are lots of walks in Suffolk and you might have one right by your home. Changing location for lunch can also be useful to help you switch off briefly and can help you work more efficiently for the afternoon.

Implementing some of these changes can make such a fundamental difference in the short term but also in the long term. The best time to make these changes is when you have no symptoms at all, but it is never too late.

Yours in health,

Mykel Mason DC LRCC MChiro

Ipswich Chiropractor

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