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Ergonomics and working from home: PT professor shares tips

June 15, 2020

NIU faculty, staff and students are getting adjusted to working from home which means many hours will be spent in front of a laptop or desktop computer. This will inevitably result in neck and back or even hand and wrist pain. Research has shown an ergonomically designed workstation is instrumental in allowing you to effectively accomplish work while preventing work-related injuries due to strain and overuse. Research has also shown that workstation stretches and strengthening reduce pain in these areas when performed consistently.

Clinical Assistant Professor Dawn Brown from NIU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.

We asked Dawn Brown, clinical assistant professor for NIU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program and certified ergonomist assessment specialist, to share some tips to reduce pain in these areas:

Computer Workstation

  • Chairs should have:
    • 5 wheels.
    • Back support.
    • Allow your feet should be flat on floor.
  • Computers should have:
    • Monitors centered slightly above eye level and an arm’s length away from face.
    • Keyboards positioned so elbows are 90 degrees and shoulders perpendicular to the floor.
    • Ability to slide your knees under keyboard tray or desk.
    • If you are using a laptop, consider a laptop stand and extended keyboard.

Stretches and Strengthening:

  • Take 30 second stretch breaks after every 30 minutes of computer work.
  • Roll shoulders backwards.
  • Turn your head side to side.
  • Stretch out your forearms and legs.
  • Do standing back extensions.
  • Do shoulder blade squeezes.

Additional workplace wellness tips can be found at the American Physical Therapy website.

If you have additional questions, comments, or concerns regarding these recommendations, or would like to make an appointment to be examined by a physical therapist at the NIU PT Clinic, please contact Brown at [email protected].