Hybrid work can lead to body pain

A hybrid work model that blends in-office and remote work could increase your risk of occupational overuse injury.

Jaclyn Schon, OT, an occupational therapist at Northwestern Medicine Warrenville, says an improper workstation can cause physical strain on your upper extremities, back and neck, leading to pain, swelling, muscle weakness and numbness.

“Previously we would see tennis elbow mostly in those with a strenuous job, but now we are seeing more cases among desk workers who are deconditioned or have poor body mechanics while working,” Schon said. “If you are working a hybrid schedule, try to create some consistency between your office and at-home workstations.”

While at a desk, Schon recommends keeping the computer screen at eye level. Keep your feet flat on the floor with ankles and knees at 90-degree angles. Try to keep arms at your sides and bent at a 90-degree angle.

“Make sure your mouse pad isn’t too far away as an extended arm can lead to injuries like tennis elbow or tendinitis,” Schon said.

Focus on good posture and keep shoulders relaxed throughout the day. Take frequent breaks. Try to get up every hour and move around or take a few minutes and complete the following stretches.


• Scapular retraction — Squeeze shoulder blades together toward the spine without moving up toward the ears.

• Wall slides — With your back against a wall, move arms as if making snow angels.

• Forearm stretches — Flatten palms against an imaginary wall. Switch directions and point fingertips down.

• Doorway stretch — Stand in an open doorway with each arm bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly walk forward to stretch chest muscles.

When not at work, Schon said build up your core for good posture with plank exercises. Complete light resistance exercises and try yoga to build strength, balance and flexibility. For more information on occupational therapy at Northwestern Medicine, visit nm.org.


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