These unprecedented times have meant more of us are working from home. Having to make do with kitchen tables, dining room chairs and without our usual office-based workstation set up leads to a potential for work related wrist and forearm pain.
Long periods of time in less than ideal postures can lead to compression and stretch of muscles and nerves. This can lead to forearm muscle aching and tightness and later sharp pain, swelling, tingling and numbness.
To prevent these problems, we need to maintain our bodies in a neutral posture and prevent awkward positions (fig. 1). Small changes to your workstation such as adjusting the height of your chair or monitor, moving your keyboard closer to your body, or using a foot stool can have a big effect on your pain.
Regular breaks away from your desk help to decrease eye strain and muscle tension and allow muscles that have been active in computer use to rest and recover. There is evidence to suggest that more frequent but shorter breaks are more beneficial, so even a quick break to get a glass of water is helpful. If you do need to remain at your desk for long periods, take micro breaks and get into the habit of running through a few quick forearm and wrist stretches.
Try and vary your tasks during the day and space out periods of focused computer use. For example, you could type a few letters at a time before collecting these from the printer across the room. You could walk to the local post box to post them and repeat this process later in the day.
If you are already noticing symptoms your Hand Therapist can advise you further on how to manage these. Heat, massage, stretches and strengthening can all be helpful, and we can provide splints which may be custom made or off the shelf. We are currently open for face to face appointments, adhering to our COVID-19 Safe Plan. We also offer Telehealth reviews which can be a great opportunity for ergonomic advice specific to your home environment – your therapist can help you with your workstation set up using what you already have at home or suggest other equipment if this is required.