Anyone working at home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic needs to make sure that their home working space is comfortable and appropriate for doing their job, so that their health is not compromised. It might be tempting to work at your kitchen counter on a bar stool or hunched over your laptop on a soft sofa, but this could cause long-term problems with posture and aches and pains for anyone, whether they have MS or not. However, people with MS may already be experiencing symptoms which compound this such as:
Muscle spasms, stiffness and weakness
It’s worth taking extra care, because poor posture due to sitting in an incorrect position for a long period of time, or not being well balanced or supported, can lead to a range of further issues over time for those with MS, including:
Pressure ulcers (sores)
Swallowing, talking and breathing problems (a bad sitting position can result in your chest being slumped and unable to expand)
Difficulty in keeping your head upright (if your back is excessively curved in the chair it may be more difficult to lift your head up)
Additional spasms or spasticity
Loss of balance (if you are unsupported in your chair)
Fortunately, there are some inexpensive ways in which you can make your home working space more ergonomic. The purpose of any ergonomic design is to increase your comfort, avoid musculoskeletal disorders, prevent repetitive strain and reduce fatigue.
Adapt your laptop if you don’t have a desktop computer
Laptops have bad ergonomics, so you shouldn’t use them long term. If you have to use a laptop, make sure that you use a laptop riser and plug in an external keyboard and wireless mouse. You should invest in a keyboard tray so that your keyboard sits below the desktop and you can angle it at a negative tilt. If your eyesight is compromised then your computer screen should be at least 17 inches wide. Some computer programs also allow you to change the amount of pressure you need to put on the keys.
Top tip: use a pile of big books if you don't have a laptop riser
Adjust how you sit
Your pelvis needs to be in a neutral position, with weight spread equally through both your buttocks. Keep your hips, knees and ankles at 90° with your kneecaps facing forwards and a little apart. Use a foot stool if you are short.
Change your posture frequently
If your job is busy, then it’s easy for the hours to fly by without moving your position which can lead to neck, shoulder and back pain. Consciously change your posture and position at your desk when you can.
Add a rolled towel for lumbar support
If you get lower back pain, roll a towel and place it between your chair and lower back.
Put your feet up
Putting your feet up while you work will increase circulation and stretch your legs — something you can do much more easily at home!
Try a standing desk
Your legs can get sore and stiff if you are sitting for long periods of time. Try using a desk that can rise to a standing position when you need it, giving you the flexibility to work sitting or standing.
Top tip: some people use their ironing board as a standing desk or a kitchen counter. Or you can get a raiser to covert your table or desk.
Take regular breaks
If you are in an office, you might naturally take more breaks — making rounds of teas and coffees for your work mates and walking to various meetings. At home, it can be easier to forget to take a break, or you might feel more self-conscious taking a break out of sight if a colleague can’t get hold of you when you step away from the screen for a moment.
Set an alarm on your mobile phone or smarth speaker to go off every 30 minutes to take a break for 3 to 5 minutes. Do some stretches, walk to the kitchen to get some more water to drink, take a few breaths of fresh air – these things will help keep your body healthy.
Use your lunch break wisely! If you are at home you will have the opportunity to exercise and take a quick shower in your lunch hour. Follow the guidance set by your government during the coronavirus crisis. If allowed, you can exercise outside by going for a walk during your lunch break. If you need to stay inside you can take a look at the OMS stretches as part of our recovery plan — you can do some of them in your desk chair!
Use an exercise ball
Our final tip is to replace your desk chair with an exercise ball for part of the day, if you are able. As you sit on the exercise ball, you will be actively balancing, so that your body forms the correct posture naturally, relieving any back strain you may have been experiencing.
With today’s technology, there is no reason why you can’t continue to work from home and enjoy the benefits that working from home can bring!