Has working from home left you with a bad back?

Isha. July 19, 2022

At some time during the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 2 years, almost all office workers have had a stint of working from home (WFH). In the same time period, as a treating Physiotherapist in our Physiotherapy Clinics in Sittingbourne and Maidstone, I have seen a sharp rise in people coming to see me for neck and lower back ache. Due to WFH, people have actually been doing more hours as they cut out their commute and have actually reduced the amount of physical activity that they have been doing. Previously workers were able to add in steps and move around, but it seems that WFH has meant that generally there is less of that being done now. This means that now we are seeing the beginning of muscle aches and pains due to the fact that the muscles are being used less. It is a fact that psychological stress can also lead to neck and back pain. When you are stressed, you are naturally tense and this means it contributes to muscle aches, pains, tightness and stiffness.

Another factor that is not really taken into account is your desk and workspace ergonomics. If the set up is poor, then your posture will invariably be poor and this means that you will start to develop musculoskeletal problems. The aches and pains are never felt immediately, but come to light when a poor posture becomes a habit. We all feel those muscle aches and pains, so now that you can recognise them, these are my tips for Working from Home and staying healthy.

A. Posture

Neck and back pain due to poor posture is very common. Maintaining a proper posture is one of the essential factors in avoiding neck/back pain. Sitting for several hours in the same position puts a lot of stress across your neck, shoulders and lower back. As you start to feel that heaviness around your spine, it’s a sign that your muscles are tensing and they need REST!! However, if you still continue working, you are telling other muscles to over compensate which tires them out as well, so GET UP AND MOVE!

Good posture: Try and have an upright posture, using a pillow to support your back while you sit on the chair, avoid slouching and leaning forward while work at your desk and lastly make sure your feet are fully on the floor so your body is well supported.

B. Move, Move, Move!!

Moving is one of the best things you can do to break the pattern and save yourself from those aches and pains. Once you change your posture, which hasn’t changed probably for hours, it gives your muscles a chance to relax and BREATHe, which is absolutely needed to help save our necks and backs.

Move: Moving every 20-30 minutes will help gain more mobility for your spine and body.

C. Stretch

Whilst standing or moving, quickly do some gentle neck, shoulder and lower back stretches or if you do not know any stretches then just move your neck, shoulder and lower back movements.

Stretches: Perform 5 repetitions each and good to get back to your next meeting!

D. Perform Opposite movements

Well, performing the opposite movement of the posture you have been holding helps to stretch the muscles that were shortened and relax the muscles which were being overstretched.

For example: You are sitting in a slouched posture, get up and perform some gentle standing back extensions or shoulder extensions. This will help to stretch your chest and abdominal muscles.

E. Core or isometric contractions:

The easiest way to keep your muscles awake is to perform some isometric contractions. Sounds fancy and complicated, but it is basically just tensing up your muscles and then relaxing them.

Try this: Clench your lower abdomen (without holding your breath), clench your shoulder blades and clench your glutes (bums). You can perform these while you are seated, perform 3-5 repetitions every 45-60 minutes.

F. Ergonomics

Lastly, having good work-desk ergonomics is also important. Make sure you sit at a table and not in your bed with your laptop on your tummy. Your desk should be at the right level and not too high that you have to shrug your shoulders whilst you work. This will put additional stress over your neck and back muscles. Did you know that having tight neck muscles can trigger a headache too! So, when you sit at a desk, try to keep the screen at eye level, elbows supported over the desk and spine upright with your shoulders in a relaxed position and feet firmly over the ground.

I hope this helps you all to ease those pains and aches a bit, if not, then you know where to find us and we are happy to sort you out!

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