The more time I spend writing and working in my home office, the more my physical surroundings affect my body and well-being. This article shares some things that help me feel better and lessen aches and pains as I write.
First, a quick caveat:
I’m not an occupational therapist or other health professional. Below are products that help me, but you should do your own research, and consult with a professional if you need to, to figure out what works best for you.
Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through this site, but that doesn’t add any cost to you. And I don’t recommend anything I don’t personally like or find useful.
An Adjustable Chair
A few months ago I started having a lot of lower back pain.
That was partly due to an injury, but as I worked through it in physical therapy and my back improved, I started noticing that I had the most problems after I wrote for long stretches.
That really shouldn’t have been a surprise, because I was using an old wood dining chair at my desk instead of an office chair. The dining chair wasn’t tall enough for my keyboard. (Generally, articles I’ve read on ergonomics state that your hands should be roughly even with your elbows when you're typing.) It also was completely stationary, so when I moved it didn't move with me. Instead, I was twisting my back.
After a lot of research, I settled on this black mesh office chair from The Container Store for $199.
I found it a bit challenging to put together but not too bad. No special tools needed.
One thing I really liked about assembling it myself is that I was able to leave the arms off of it. I like to be able to sit close to my desk and chair arms usually get in the way.
The height is adjustable using a lever at the chair's base. That’s the most important feature for me. There’s also a feature for tilting the chair forward and back.
The one drawback is that the back of the chair is not quite right for my lower back, which is why I use a pillow with it. My low back pain, however, has almost completely disappeared since using the chair, so I think it was a good choice for me.
I recommend trying out any chair before you buy it. Though I ordered this one from The Container Store online, I sat in it several times in the store near me first.
A Separate Monitor
The other thing I was doing that was not at all good for my neck was typing on my laptop without a separate monitor.
That meant I was looking down all the time.
I realized that my neck was bothering me more than it had when I was practicing law full time. The major difference was that at my law office, I had a separate monitor and in my home office I didn't.
The height of the HP monitor I bought for about $120 (with tax) is easily adjustable by placing my hands on either side of the monitor and sliding it up and down. This makes a big difference because I easily set it so that what I’m writing or viewing is at eye level.
I don’t need to look up or down.
Because the screen is wider than my laptop's, the print is large enough that I don't tend to push my head forward to read.
The sound of the monitor is a bit tinny, something that a couple reviews of it warned me about. That doesn’t matter to me, though, because the sound quality of my laptop is good, so I just use that. Also I bought the monitor for word processing, using spreadsheets, and working online, not for gaming or anything else that requires excellent sound or graphics.
In my view, buying the monitor saved me money because I need fewer massages and fewer chiropractic visits to stay out of pain.
A Foam Roller In Your Home Office
I discovered foam rollers when I was in physical therapy years ago for my neck stiffness and pain. It felt so good to lie on the roller the long way with my arms out and to do other exercises with it that I bought one of my own.
I got mine at Athletico Physical Therapy. I take breaks every 35 minutes or so when I write, and I use the foam roller once or twice a day during a break to stretch.
Here’s a video showing some of the stretches I do. I do the first and the third shown on the foam roller. (Again, remember, this is not medical advice.)
You can also find foam rollers on Amazon or other websites.
Separate Keyboard And Mouse
Many people also find it helpful to have a separate keyboard from their laptops or an ergonomic keyboard for whatever computer they are using.
This is my Microsoft Natural Keyboard:
When I type on it, my elbows are out away from my sides. My hands also are angled rather than being straight out in front of me. I’ve read that this position is far more natural for our bodies.
It takes a bit of practice to get used to where the keys are and how to hold your arms. Once I did, though, I found this keyboard so much more comfortable than a regular one.
I also use a Kensington ergonomic mouse with a track ball. Sometimes I switch it from one side to the other to vary my hand position.
These are just a few ideas you can try to improve your home office set up. The key is experimenting and paying attention to how your body feels.
That’s all for today. Until next Friday when I'll talk about creating a Series Bible —