Gamers spend hours in front of their computer screens. These are their best tips for creating a work from home set-up that won't destroy your back — even if you're working from your couch.

Gamers spend hours in front of their computer screens. These are their best tips for creating a work from home set-up that won't destroy your back — even if you're working from your couch.
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  • As we settle in for long-term remote work, our backs and bodies may be feeling the strain.
  • One small discomfort could have a major impact on your whole body.
  • We can take pointers from people who sit in front of a screen for hours comfortably: gamers.
  • And that goes beyond gaming chairs: they need to be in an ergonomic set-up.
  • Keyboard and mouse placement can also be key in eliminating pain.

It seems like we could be working from home for longer than we initially anticipated — and many may be feeling the back pain and long-term effects.

Even if you left your standing desk and widescreen monitors at the office, an equally ergonomic set-up at home is still achievable. For some pointers, we can look to the experts at sitting at home in front of a screen for hours a day: gamers.
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According to a survey from Gallup, the percentage of Americans working from home doubled between mid-March and the beginning of April, increasing from 31% of the workforce to 62%. Additionally, Global Workplace Analytics reports that 67% of people in the US now working from home have never done so before.
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With more people working from home the past few months, Dr. Shelby Simon has seen an increase in patients coming into The Well Manhattan chiropractic office with neck pain, possibly due to new home desk set-ups.

A non-ergonomic set up can not only be uncomfortable, but also dangerous. Simon explains that it's only a matter of time before a small discomfort ultimately affects the rest of the body. Because the nerves in your spine connect to your organs, your lower back pain can cause gastrointestinal issues and hormonal imbalances. Something seemingly small like incorrect monitor placement can throw your C1 vertebra out of alignment, directly impacting your autonomic nervous system.

You shouldn't wait until your body is in agony. There are preventative measures that we can learn from gamers and implement in our workspaces.
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Desk and gaming chairs

One of the key components to a healthy at-home desk space is your chair. Deborah Read of ErgoFit Consulting says the biggest mistake she sees among her clients is having a non-adjustable chair. Dr. Caitlin McGee of 1-Hp, a team of physical therapists who specialize in e-sports health, adds, "the more adjustable your setup is, the more likely it will allow you to maintain multiple comfortable, neutral, non-straining postures."

Gamers spend hours in front of their computer screens. These are their best tips for creating a work from home set-up that won't destroy your back — even if you're working from your couch.
Dr. McGee's home workstation.Courtesy of Dr. McGee
Youtuber and Twitch Streamer Kandyrew says he has created his ideal set-up for gaming, but he admits when he first started streaming, he did not have the most comfortable chair. "I bought a $50 office chair off Amazon and I noticed I would have tailbone pain after long hours at the desk," he says. Once he got the Herman Miller Mirra 2, an adjustable ergonomic chair, he says he never experienced the same pain again.
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Gamers spend hours in front of their computer screens. These are their best tips for creating a work from home set-up that won't destroy your back — even if you're working from your couch.
@kandyrew's gaming set-up.kandyrew

Most would think that gaming chairs, aimed towards people who typically sit for long periods of time, would be the best option. However, most experts and gamers agree that gaming chairs are mostly for the aesthetic. The design of the chair prioritizes the overall flashy look over the ergonomic benefit.

Dr. Nikki Weiner, lead ergonomic specialist of "The Rising Workplace," says that there are plenty of products marketed towards gamers or labeled ergonomic. But "the product alone cannot be ergonomic," she said, "you have to put it into practice." She points out where some gamers and marketed chairs have it right is the ability to recline back, leading to less hunched over positions.
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If you do end up having to work from the couch, there are ways to make it more comfortable. Woolie Madden, aka @woolieversus on Twitch, typically games from his couch. Not only does the couch affect his back, but he also runs into wrist pain. To fix this, he got the CouchMaster lap desk, and now can use his mouse without pain.

No matter where you are sitting, Darcie Jaremey of "Ergonomics Help" recommends that everyone working from home should cycle through different desk positions. "ErgoGirl" Deborah Read advises to avoid sitting for more than 58 minutes at a time. "So, at minute 58, get up and move. Or every 30 minutes is even better."

This movement can spark creativity as it forces you to take a short break and move your body so that you can come back to your work refreshed.
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Keyboards

Gamers spend hours in front of their computer screens. These are their best tips for creating a work from home set-up that won't destroy your back — even if you're working from your couch.
@graylish's colorful keyboard.graylish

If you have been struggling with shoulder pain from working from home, Jaremey said it could be from your keyboard and mouse arrangement. Twitch streamer and writer Leighton Gray (@graylish) used to suffer from shoulder and wrist strain while gaming and now swears by her new keyboard.

"I recently switched from a 60% layout to an ortholinear split keyboard called an Ergodox to reduce wrist/shoulder strain and I never want to go back," Gray said. "It took a month to get back up to my regular typing speed, but it was so worth it."
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While your home-office does not necessarily have to be pretty, Gray says she also works on the aesthetic of it all to boost her mood.

"Everything needs to be pink so my brain will give me the precious droplets of serotonin." But like the current global situation, expert Jaremey says that with working from home, "nothing is going to be ideal, and nothing is going to be optimal." Dr. Weiner adds "we just have to make the best of what we have."
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