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Stretches for At-Home Workers During COVID-19 and Beyond

In March 2020, millions of Canadians transitioned to working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic but most people do not have access to ‘ergonomic’ (i.e. comfortable and efficient) office equipment in their homes. Many individuals, including people with arthritis, have been working from their bed, couch or kitchen table and have experienced additional joint pain and aches as a result. Fortunately, there are certain stretches and exercises that can tend to these pains and help prevent additional musculoskeletal issues down the road!

Woman in bed working on her laptop

In a recent article from the New York Times, Dr. Nancy Black, specialist in ergonomics from Université de Moncton in New Brunswick recommended the following for people working from home:

  • Microbreaks for movement every 40 minutes. Dr. Black emphasizes that even just 20 to 30 seconds of moving around can make a difference, such as walking to your kitchen, the bathroom or even just standing up from your desk and stretching where you are.
  • Stretch for back and chest. “Clasping your hands behind your head, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this squeeze for 5-6 seconds. Take a breath, then repeat one more time.”
  • The shoulder shrug. “Shrug your shoulders by bringing them up toward your ears and holding for 3-5 seconds. Release and repeat 3-5 times.”
  • Wrist Flexor and Extensor Stretches*.  “Stand with one arm out in front of you and your palm facing the ground. With your other hand, gently pull your fingers of the outstretched arm back. You should feel the stretch in the underside of your wrist. Hold for a moment or two, then release. Next, keeping your arm straight, use your other hand to push your fingers and palm down and toward your body. Hold a few seconds, then release. Repeat with your other arm.” *This last stretch may be difficult for some people with arthritis. If it feels painful, please stop the stretch and see below for other stretches.

Michelle Bridge, occupational therapist at Arthritis Society was recently interviewed by Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) for their #ArthritisAtHome program. Like Dr. Black, Michelle also underlined the importance of frequent movement and regular stretching during the workday. Michelle recommended that viewers implement stretches featured on Arthritis Society’s ‘Top 10 Exercises infographic’. Many of these can even be done while sitting at your desk.

Have you been asked to return to the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic?

If you have questions about your rights and obligations for returning to work, or want to know about measures you can take to protect yourself from COVID-19 in the workplace, watch the most recent episode of #ArthritisAtHome with Dr. Diane Lacaille, Associate Scientific Director of Arthritis Research Canada on returning to work and health concerns for people with arthritis.