The past year has brought a lot of change. Some of it seems here to stay…
In fact, working from home has become the “new normal” for many people who transitioned to home offices during the pandemic.
And according to Upwork, even with the pandemic behind us, about 42 percent of Americans are still working remotely, and many may never return to an office building.
Not having to leave for the office each morning and getting to spend more time in the place you call home certainly has some perks…
Less mileage on the car, no more rush hour commute, less money spent on gas and eating out for lunch… and who doesn’t love taking those Zoom meetings in a nice blouse and pajama bottoms? Yes, please!
Yet, working from home can also come with some downsides — like back and neck pain if your home office setup isn’t supporting you properly, or if you like to slouch on the couch and do your work.
So how can you keep your spine healthy when working from home?
Here’s what I tell my patients…
#1 – Set yourself up for success
First, it’s important to remember that while it may seem like a luxury to be able to work from bed, your bed is for sleeping only.
In fact, the more time you spend slouched on your pillow, the more likely you are to end up with back and neck pain and even headaches.
So instead of relaxing back with your laptop on your lap, set up a defined office area, including a desk and an ergonomic chair where you can work.
Consider a thin pillow to make your chair more comfortable, a rolled towel for lumbar support and put something under your feet if necessary to achieve a 90-degree angle for your hips and thighs.
You may also need to elevate your laptop so that when you are using the keyboard, your arms are also at a 90-degree angle.
#2 – Stand more
Even with an ergonomic chair, you can still experience that dreaded muscles stiffness and shooting pain in your lower back, neck and shoulders.
That’s why I love using a standing desk.
I have one that pops right on top of my existing desk, where I can place my laptop to work on. This means that I can transition from standing to sitting throughout the day to keep my muscles active and loose.
If you don’t have a standing desk, take standing breaks, but also don’t forget to stretch and move…
#3 – Take movement breaks
Working from home means you’re likely moving a lot less. At the office, you may have taken morning and afternoon breaks — maybe just to get away from your desk to clear your head. But some studies have found that people working from home are more productive and spend more time on their computers.
That makes exercise and stretching key to keeping back and neck pain at bay when working from home. Take a walk at lunchtime and after work or set a time to remind yourself to simply walk around the house every 30 minutes.
Raise your arms and stretch out your legs several times a day.
All of this ensures that blood is flowing to your muscles so that they don’t get locked into that pain cycle you may be all too familiar with.
#4 – Use a headset or speaker
If you’ve found yourself cradling your phone between your ear and shoulder, you know how much damage it does to your neck.
That’s why switching to a headset or simply using the speaker function on your phone can be a spine-saver!
#5 – Adjust your screen
Whether sitting or standing to work, you should not have to look either up or down at your computer screen. Instead, the center of your screen should be set at eye level to prevent strain on your neck and back muscles.
In my practice, I’ve found that most people set their monitor too low, forcing them to bend their head forward throughout the day. So as a start, try raising your laptop or your monitor by 5 to 10 inches.
#6 – Do a posture check
In addition to adjusting your screen, adjusting your posture is a valuable tool in pain prevention. Take time throughout your day to check your posture.
Is your spine straight, shoulders over your hips?
Are your knees bent at 90 degrees, with your feet flat on the floor, when you’re sitting?
Small adjustments can help support your muscles and ligaments and eliminate muscular fatigue.
#7 – See a chiropractor
Finally, if these fixes aren’t enough to keep you feeling your best, get help from a chiropractor.
Chiropractors are specialists and diagnosing and treating neuromuscular disorders. They can adjust or manipulate your spine to reduce issues and fix misalignment that leads to back and neck pain, sciatica and even problems with your wrists and elbows brought on by typing.
For more pain relief from working from home, try these:
- Proven pain relief tips without a prescription.
- Five exercises to your daily routine to strengthen your core muscles and keep your back strong and pain-free.
- Two exercises for tech neck.
- Carpal tunnel relief.
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