The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to begin working from home in recent weeks. While this can be a welcome change for most people, it can also be challenging, particularly if you have never worked at home before.
When you work in a home environment, you may be forced to use an unusual home office setup which is not as ergonomic as your regular work space. You may also modify your behaviour in unexpected ways, working on the couch or while in bed.
Unfortunately, these changes can lead to back pain requiring chiropractic care. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent damaging your back while working from home, which our Ealing chiropractor will share in this post.
Back Safe Home Working Advice From Our Ealing Chiropractor
Set Your Computer Up Correctly
If you are working on a computer for long periods while at home, it is crucial that it be set up ergonomically. This will reduce the amount of strain that is placed on your body’s joints as you work each day.
This excellent video explains how to correctly set up your chair, desk and computer. Ideally, your chair and desk should be positioned so your:
- Feet are flat on the floor
- Knees are bent with thighs sloping up to the hips (so the hips are slightly higher than the thighs)
- Calves are not touching the front of the seat
- Eyes are level with the top of the screen. You may need to place objects beneath the screen to elevate it
- Bottom and shoulder blades touch the back of the chair
- Arms are bent to 90 degrees at the elbow, ideating using arm rests
- Legs have plenty of room to move
Take Frequent Breaks
Sitting for a prolonged period is a common cause of lower back pain. To keep your back safe, avoid sitting for longer than 40 minutes. When you take a break, spend it walking around, performing stretches, or exercising.
Be Careful When Using A Laptop
Laptops are a convenient tool because you can use them to work from virtually any room in your home. However, when using a laptop you will be more likely to put yourself into an awkward seated position that causes muscle stress and back pain.
Be aware of how you are positioning your body when working on a laptop and consider using a laptop stand so it can be used ergonomically. Plug in an external mouse and keyboard to make your setup even more ergonomic.
Perform Stretches To Maintain Good Posture
One of the downsides of working from home is that you are more likely to suffer from poor posture. This usually occurs because you are working in a more casual environment. The best way to maintain your posture is to incorporate some exercises into your daily routine.
This video from the British Chiropractor Association shares some of the best exercises for looking after your posture. If you have any medical conditions which limit your ability to perform certain exercises, talk to your GP or our chiropractor in Ealing before you give them a try.
The exercises in the video include:
- Stand Tall Exercise
This is a simple exercise for which resets and improves posture. Simply stand tall with your head, shoulders hips, and ankles in a straight line. Tuck your stomach in.
- Tilting Star
From a Stand Tall position spread your legs and lift your arms to your sides, so you form the shape of a star. As you breathe in, bend to one side so one hand is placed on your leg and the other pointed towards the ceiling. Return to star position then repeat on the other side. Perform at a slow speed and at least twice.
- Twirling star
From star position, rotate your abdomen so one arm is point behind you and one in front. As you twist, look towards the hand behind you. Return to star position. Repeat at least twice.
- Twisting Star
From a star position, raise your hands up so they are pointed at the ceiling. Bring your left elbow across you body to your raised right knee. Go back to neutral position and repeat for the other side. This can be a tricky exercise, so take your time. Perform for at least 15 seconds.
Check out the video to perform the complete workout. The exercise programme is designed to be done as part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. Done this way it will help you develop and maintain a good posture.
Consider Your Mental and Emotional Well Being
If you are used to spending your days in a crowded workplace with lots of human contact, working at home on your own can be an even greater challenge. You may begin to feel socially isolated from the world, which can impact your mental health and emotional well being.
Watching all of the bad news surrounding COVID-19 can also have an impact on your mental health. This increases the risk of stress and depression, which can lead to back pain. Fortunately, there are many strategies for protecting your mental and emotional well-being, including:
- Use the Internet to remain in regular contact with friends and family
- Call a few members of your family each day
- Practice mindfulness meditation and yoga to stay relaxed and calm
- Keep your mind busy with puzzles and games
- Be cautious about social media usage (avoid doom and gloom stories)
- Perform emotionally fulfilling activities like listening to music, reading, or watching movies
These are very challenging times for many people. Our team at The Spine & Joint Centre in Ealing wish you and your family the very best at this time. Stay safe and well.