Add a standing desk, under-the-table bike and high-end ergonomic chair to your online shopping cart, and the total will likely shock you. But you don't need to invest a ton of money on high-end office equipment to optimize your work space.
In fact, you don't need to spend any money to start improving your posture and relieving that nagging neck pain. Instead of breaking the bank, try these five healthy work space tweaks, courtesy of Sam Becourtney, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York.
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1. Adjust Your Monitor
While the exact monitor height will vary person-to-person, you'll generally want to elevate your it enough to avoid slouching over your keyboard, Becourtney says. Hunching over your computer for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your posture, potentially causing pain your back, neck or shoulders.
That means you'll want your monitor at about eye level, Becourtney says. This will enable you to keep your neck in a neutral position and your shoulders back. If you don't have a monitor riser at home, stack a few books under your computer to get the screen to the right height.
You'll also want to move your monitor closer to your face to avoid craning your neck forward, according to Becourtney. "Typically, this will mean 20 to 30 inches from your face," he says. "But this will vary depending on the size of the screen, the quality of the image and the size of the text."
2. Use an External Keyboard and Mouse
If you're working on a laptop, you should consider investing in an external keyboard and mouse, Becourtney says. Although elevating your screen will help improve your neck and shoulder posture, it throws your hands and arms position out of whack.
You want your keyboard to be at about elbow height so that your arms can rest comfortably on your desk, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your elbows should be bent, resting comfortably at the sides of your ribcage. This will prevent shoulder pain and fatigue.
"It can be tricky to accomplish [proper posture] with a laptop without having your arms/elbows too high, which is why an external monitor, keyboard and mouse are a great option, especially if you know you will be working from home for a prolonged period of time," Becourtney says.
3. Adjust Your Chair Height
The next thing you'll want to adjust in your home workspace is the height of your chair. Sitting with your chair too high or too low can cause hip flexor pain or tightness over time, which can hinder your other day-to-day activities.
While you're sitting, you should be able to place both feet flat on the floor with your knees bent at 90 degrees, according to Becourtney. If you can't raise or lower your desk chair, place a box under your feet or pillow under your butt and adjust until you get the right angle.
4. Add a Pillow Behind Your Lower Back
Another quick and free tweak you can make to your workspace is adding a pillow to your lower back, Becourtney says. This simple fix can help you sit up taller and avoid hunching or bending across your lower and mid-back.
You could also consider buying a lumbar support pillow. Although they may not seem so different from a regular cushion, a small July 2013 study published in Chiropractic and Manual Therapies found lumbar pillows were more effective in promoting a healthy neutral-spine posture than a regular chair.
5. Constantly Check In
The best thing you can do for your posture and overall wellbeing while working is getting up from your desk as often as possible. Even getting up to perform simple tasks can serve as chance to check in with your posture, Becourtney recommends.
"Every time you refill your water bottle in the kitchen, use that as an opportunity to reset your posture. Every time you take a social media break to scroll through Instagram, use that as an opportunity to reset your posture," he says. "Constantly check your posture, stay active and take frequent breaks to move around, reset yourself and find whatever that 'next, best posture' might be."
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.