There are many perks to working at home, but a year into this transition you might be feeling the drawbacks. If your workspace isn’t ergonomic, you’re likely feeling it in your shoulders, hips, and your back.
Back pain is no joke. It can affect your body when you’re sitting, standing, and when you’re moving around. It can be an ongoing challenge if you feel like there’s no comfortable place to be or rest without pain.
The best way to get around this is to prevent the onset of back pain before it begins. Having an ergonomic home workspace is vital to maintaining proper posture and keeping your back healthy.
There are 4 keys that will help you prevent back pain, so read on and get started right away.
Take notice of how you’re sitting at your desk. Slouching toward your computer is hard on your back, neck and shoulders. To improve posture, adjust from the ground up.
- Start with your spine. Standing at your desk for part of the day will help you create more of an S-curve in the spine rather than a C-curve that occurs when sitting for long periods of time. The latter puts more stress on your low back and where your neck and shoulders meet. The kitchen counter can work in a pinch if you don’t have an adjustable workstation.
- Your feet should be on the floor or with a supportive surface under them. Can’t reach? Get a step stool, box, or use yoga blocks in the meantime.
- Be mindful of your back. You should feel your spine against the back of your chair.
- Watch out for arm rests if you rest your forearms on the arm rests of your chair you could end up shrugging your shoulders, leading to tight traps.
- It’s ideal for your head to be 18 to 20 inches from your computer screen. You want your monitor at eye level so you don’t have to tilt your head. A stack of books will help you adjust the height if this is a challenge. Avoid a neck position where you’re looking down at technology for long periods of time.
- As your eyes get tired you might have the common response to strain your neck and shrug your shoulders. Move your computer away from windows to get rid of glare. Consider blue light blocking glasses if you’re on the computer for long periods of time. You can also try these simple but effective eye exercises to revive tired eyes.
Staying status for a long period of time can cause strain on your muscles. Even everyday movements will bring tension and flexion to different muscles throughout your kinetic chain. Take small breaks throughout the day for movement. Here are some ideas to get you moving:
- Take your dog for a walk
- Try a dance break with your favourite song
- Do a yoga class on Zoom or YouTube
- Step out onto your balcony or into your back yard for a change of scene
- Add transitional movements to your regular activities – do a mini squat sequence. Each time you stand up, sit and rise again five times.
- Do push-ups: Use the surface you are working on, or even the wall.
- Climb stairs: Walk an extra flight whenever you use the stairs.
- Breathwork can ease stress in the trunk muscles and belly. Breathe in for five seconds, hold your breath for five seconds, and breathe out for five seconds. Repeat a few times.
- Break a sweat: Stream an on-demand workout, such as Pilates or yoga.
3- Switch it Up
Another perk of not having to be at the office is that you get to switch up where you work. Try sitting on the floor, standing at the kitchen counter, and taking shifts in a chair. The different ergonomic positions will provide variety to your muscles that will go a long way for preventing back strain from sitting at the same desk all day.
What you put in your body will either foster or eliminate pain. Certain foods contribute to inflammation which will make any pain or existing injuries feel more intense.
Try this instead:
- Stay hydrated- Your muscles thrive with hydration. They’ll heal a lot slower if you’re not properly hydrated.
- Lower inflammation through your diet – eating anti-inflammatory foods will reduce swelling in the parts of your body that support your spine and back muscles. This is key if you have food intolerances that cause bloating. Your core muscles support your low back. Eating well for your body can lower your chance of pain and injury.
- Choose snacks wisely – working from home it can be tempting to eat whatever is around because, let’s face it, the kitchen is right there. Avoid mindless snacking by planning your meals in advance, the same way you would if you were going to work. It can be tempting to snack on unhealthy foods and take in more sugar than normal.
These are some keys to preventing and healing back pain while you work from home. Start with the one that feels easiest to you and slowly incorporate them all – your body will thank you.