Students: Don’t let working at home become a pain in the neck (or back)
As students prepare to head back to school this fall, whether all-remote or on a hybrid schedule, they are going to need workstations set up at home. But doing it properly is the key to avoiding back and neck strains.
Kids should first designate an area in the home as a workstation, Stirling-based chiropractor Dr. Jeannine Baer said. Kids should sit at a desk, a kitchen table or counter, she said. But never sit on the couch or a bed to do schoolwork, Baer said: Those soft spaces will contribute to creating poor posture situations that students could be in for very long periods of time.
Baer, a board member of the Association of New Jersey Chiropractors, also said supportive seating is also very critical. A regular chair with a back is recommended. It can be adjustable with arm rests, but it needs to have a back so kids can sit all the way back into the chair and let the chair support their bodies.
It's also a good idea to vary one's posture. Baer said that's achieved by sitting a little and then standing a little. Teachers may be posting videos that kids need to watch for extended periods of time. So, the kitchen counter is a great place to stand while watching a video or a live teaching session. Even an ironing board makes a great sitting or even elevated work station.
Once a student's body is positioned correctly with the proper desk and chair, Baer said, the next thing to take a look at is computer placement. Many kids will work on laptops. Baer said the monitor or screen should be an arm's length away from the student, just at or below eye height. It should also be straight in front of the child and not on an angle where the student need to turn and twist his or her back.
If it's possible, she also suggested taking micro breaks every 20 to 30 minutes. If a child is participating in a live teaching session, that may not be possible to do until after the lesson wraps up, but once it does, it's important to get up, walk around and stretch.
Baer said proper posture is so important to prevent unnecessary strain on the back, neck and shoulders.