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Experiencing Neck or Back Pain Working From Home?
When COVID-19 forced offices closed in March of 2020, millions of Americans were plunged into a social experiment of working from home.
Over the past 2 1/2 years, this model has quickly shifted into a new working norm with lingo like “WFH” and “hybrid-work” becoming part of the everyday American jargon.
While many individuals are thrilled by this newfound freedom and flexibility, for all its benefits, work from home also has its fair share of disadvantages including an uptick in reported neck and back pain.
Between poor workstation setups and increasing demands, if you’ve noticed more pain or discomfort in your spine since shifting to a WFH model, it’s time you do something about this.
WFH: Tips to Alleviate Neck and Back Pain
Read on for three simple tips to alleviate your symptoms, prevent chronic problems, and enhance your home work experience.
1. Optimize Your Workstation
Considering many of us spend more time at our workstation than anywhere else, it should be obvious that our WFH setup be optimized and ergonomic. The term “ergonomics” refers to the study of an individual’s efficiency in the working environment. While often unnoticed in the professional setting, ergonomics is a key component to office design, workflow and equipment purchase decisions. As we trade in our cubicles for couches, we’re losing ergonomic positioning and causing excess strain on our joints and muscles.
While we don’t expect everyone to go out and buy top-of-the-line desk equipment, a few simple adjustments to rearrange your space can greatly improve body mechanics and reduce spinal discomfort.
Ready for a desk makeover? Let’s review some basic ergonomic principles to consider when rearranging:
- Place your computer screen so it is at or just below eye level
- While seated, keep your arms relaxed with elbows bent to 90 degrees and wrists and hands in a neutral position
- Find a chair that provides good lumbar support enhancing the normal curves of the spine
- Place your feet flat on the floor (or a stool) and maintain approximately 90 degree bends at the knees and hips.
- Keep your neck and shoulders as neutral and relaxed as possible- take note that for every inch you move your head forward relative to your body, your spine carries an extra 10lbs of unnecessary force!
Besides the above recommendations, consider incorporating a standing setup. With even the best seated posture, prolonged positioning of any type tends to cause strain on the body and can lead to chronic neck and back pain. By intermittently changing your posture from sitting to standing, the body recruits different muscle groups, reduces the load on any particular muscle and protects the spine long term.
2. Take a Break
A break? Yes we said it- relax, go for a walk, take a couple of minutes to reset. Taking breaks throughout the workday is essential to reducing both the physical and psychological burden on the body. Recent studies have shown that trigger points can develop in our muscles after only 60 minutes of sustained positioning. So commit to a forward fold after each meeting, motivate yourself with a step-tracker or set timers at 30 minute intervals to walk the hallway and watch your neck pain, back pain and headaches melt away.
Besides physical benefits, taking intermittent breaks is a great component to effective stress management. With direct links to all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal system, stress has been shown to exacerbate myofascial disorders including neck and back pain. Deep breathing, meditation or simple mindfulness can all be valuable methods to resetting your mindset and reducing muscular tension while at the workstation.
3. Move Your Body
Finally and perhaps the most critical recommendation to preserving spine health and staving off neck and back pain is to make time to exercise. As humans, our bodies were made to move and 7 hours of stagnant computer positioning is downright harmful if not complemented with some form of movement. By increasing joint mobility, promoting increased circulation and reducing muscle and joint stiffness, exercise can greatly reduce our risk of pain development and improve overall quality of life. With reduced time set aside for commuting and easier access to digital exercise opportunities, there is no time like the present to make your health a priority and get moving today.
The Bottom Line
Following a few simple strategies can make a great impact on your spine health today and for years to come.
With the average person spending 90,000 lifetime hours in front of a screen, it is imperative that we invest in ourselves now to prepare a safe, productive and healthy future ahead.
If you’re struggling with persistent neck or back pain or would like to learn more about a customized ergonomic assessment, check out Functionize Health and set up your consultation today.