As millions of American workers have shifted to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, physical therapists are noticing a new class of injuries associated with long hours in the makeshift home office.
“I’m seeing a lot of injuries just from people being in – too static or being in one position for a long period of time,” physical therapist Amanda Scharen told KIRO7.
As director of Therapeutic Associates in Seattle, Scharen’s clinics have seen the rate of work-from-home injuries double in some categories.
“A lot of neck and back pain and associated things such as pinched nerves or pain running down the arm or running down the leg. I’m also seeing a lot of shoulder injuries,” she said.
Just like at-work injuries, those sustained from the home office may be covered through the state’s workers’ compensation program.
Your doctor can help determine whether you’re covered, according to Vickie Kennedy, Assistant Director of Insurance Services with Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries, which administers workers’ comp claims.
“I think all of us have gone to the doctor and been asked, well did you get hurt at work? And that’s for them to help trigger helping that worker file a claim,” Kennedy told KIRO7.
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Beyond avoiding working from the couch or bed, Brad Defenbaugh at IRG Physical and Hand Therapy made the following recommendations for making your home office ergonomically sound.
- Laptop stand – adjustable so that you are looking straight ahead, not up or down. A stack of books works too.
- Wireless keyboard and mouse – allowing your arms to sit at a relaxed, 90-degree angle to type.
- Adjustable chairs – you don’t need to break the bank. But if you buy something, make sure it can go up or down to adjust to whatever desk height you have.
- Adjustable computer monitors – if you’re using a monitor and can’t move the desk, make sure you can move the screen up or down so you aren’t hunched over craning your neck up.
Scharen, the physical therapist, recommends setting a timer every half hour or so to move around and stretch your muscles.
“Do some stretches and move your body – it’s really going to pay off and help you make it through the pandemic without so many aches and pains,” she said.