Working from home? Helpful Tips for Maintaining Good Posture

by Lisa Mulligan, DPT

woman sitting on a grey couch working from home on a laptop.

While working from home may have its benefits, it can take a heavy toll on your posture. Among the many major adjustments we’ve all had to make during this time of COVID-19, there has been a big shift in daily routines to an at-home work climate. More active jobs have turned into stationary hours in front of the computer, frequent video conference calls, cramped work space, and “breaks” to check your phone and the onslaught of news that we just can’t stop reading.

How is your posture doing with all of this extra sitting and screen time?

Our guess is not so good. Poor posture can cause muscular imbalances and increased stress on the spine, leading to pain and musculoskeletal dysfunction. Neck pain, back pain, headaches, shoulder pain are just a few manifestations of poor posture that we see and treat in the clinic. But your posture can also affect how your vital organs are functioning as well as your stress levels. As your shoulders are rounded forward and your head shifts in front of the spine, the rib cage becomes tight and does not expand appropriately, decreasing your body’s oxygen intake. Prolonged poor posture may also cause heartburn, slowed digestion, constipation, poor circulation, fatigue to name a few.

So here are a few helpful tips to get started on the road to better posture and alignment:

1. Check your home work station ergonomics!

While your work situation may not be permanent, do yourself a favor and make your current workspace as ergonomic as possible. A few guidelines:

  • The height of your monitor should be even with your eyes to reduce the incidence of forward head posture. Be creative, find something in the house that can lift up your laptop to eye level.
  • Your arms should be parallel with the floor, and your keyboard at the same height as elbows and arms.
  • If sitting, hips should be at 90 degrees with your feet flat on the floor. Lumbar support in your chair would be ideal.
  • Consider sitting on a yoga ball for part of your day to activate core muscles while you work. Or consider a standing desk station to reduce hours sitting.

2. Change your position!

Little adjustments throughout your day can make a difference and interrupt the effect of sustained pressure on your spine and and weakening of muscles.

  • Set an alarm to take breaks from sitting and stand up, walk around, refill your coffee, and reduce the pressure on your spine.
  • Every so often, thinking about “resetting” your core. Take a deep breath into your diaphragm, exhale, and slowly pull your belly button in toward your spine, while lengthening the crown of your head toward the sky.
  • After every hour, take a minute to draw your shoulder blades back and down, slightly pinching them together, thinking about lengthening your spine.
woman wearing black exercise clothes doing a plank in a empty white room

3. Home exercise program

In order to maintain good posture for the long run, it is important to strengthen the muscles that become elongated and weak from a poor sitting posture, and stretch what becomes tight.

Focus on:

  • Strengthening exercises for the upper and middle back
  • Strengthening your spinal extensors and glutes
  • Exercises for core activation
  • Stretching tight pecs and anterior shoulder muscles
  • Self-mobilization for a stiff thoracic spine

Stay tuned for a video post with simple exercises to improve posture!

Reverse Order for the Return Trip – Point 5 of 5 of the 5 Point Travel System

Introduction to the 5 Point Travel System

The 5 point travel system is an important set of orientation skills for people who are blind and visually impaired to become good independent travelers. For an introduction to the 5 point travel system, you can check out my Introduction blog post here.

Now we come to the fifth and final point of the 5 point travel system, reversing the order for the return trip. This fifth point is the culmination of the four previous points. Once the first four points are mastered this fifth point can be added to truly make someone an independent traveler.

Signs with arrow directions pointing different ways to different towns.
Signs with arrow directions

If you missed any of the previous four points or need a review you can click on links below.

Why is Reversing Order for the Return Trip Important?

Simply, to become a good independent traveler it is important to not only arrive at a destination but be able to make the return trip back to that the original starting destination. The last thing a person wants it to be able to get to their destination but not be able to find the way back. In order to accomplish the task of returning to the original destination a person needs to have the ability to reverse all the steps that got them to their destination in the first place. This can be challenging for some people because now everything has to be reversed.

Before setting off on the return trip it is a good practice to spend some time considering the reverse route and how it is different than the original route before proceeding. For example, if you turned right and headed east at an intersection you will now have to head west and turn left at that same intersection to return to the original destination. It is also important to consider the different landmarks that will be used as well as hallway or street names along the way. Trying to do this while in the midst of traveling can become confusing and disorienting.

Woman wearing blue jeans with grey sweater, walking while carrying black handbag.
Woman walking with black handbag

Conclusion

Spending time to develop and learn all five points of the 5 point travel system is important to become a truly independent traveler. These skills should be utilized every time someone is traveling independently and incorporated in some fashion into all route planning orientation and mobility lessons.

If you want to learn more about the five-point travel system I highly recommend talking with an Orientation and Mobility Specialist in your area. Having one on one instruction is very helpful and valuable. If you live in New Hampshire please reach out to Future in Sight to speak with an instructor.

Small earth globe sitting in a persons hand with mountain scenery in the background.
Small earth globe sitting in a persons hand

Please stay tuned for several demonstration videos on all five of the points being implemented for different types of travel routes.

Thank you for reading. I hope this article was helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at blindonthemove@gmail.com with any questions or comments.

Have a wonderful day!

Tip of the Day #16 – Never Do This When Using A White Cane

Never Do This When Using A White Cane

In today’s tip of the day, I will be sharing with you something you should never do while using a folding white cane. This is a very easy tip but I have found many people instinctively do this which can be a serious safety hazard. And my tip is you should never use the looped elastic cord at the top of the cane as a wrist strap.  The elastic cord is not designed to be worn around the wrist as a way of preventing the cane from dropping to the floor. Rather, it is designed to hold together the cane when folded or to hang up the cane on a hook.

Red Stop Sign
Red Stop Sign

The reason this tip is so important is the last thing you want is to be attached to your cane if something happens to it. Let me give you a real-life example that happened. A gentleman was using his white cane and was in the process of getting on a public bus. Unfortunately, the driver didn’t see him and accidentally closed the door on the man’s cane and began to pull away. The man had his wrist in the elastic loop and started to get pulled by the bus. Fortunately, he was able to free his wrist in time before he got seriously hurt. This is just one example of many of why using the elastic cord loop as a wrist strap is a very bad idea.

I hope this tip of the day was helpful, please share this tip with other white cane users to help spread the awareness of how dangerous using the elastic cord as a wrist strap can be.

For another tip on something you should never do click here

I would love to hear from you if you have any other tips that you think would be good to share with the world. Please feel free to comment or email me at blindonthemove@gmail.com

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