Here is the low down on what we mean by the term ‘work from home’ posture and what you can do about it to help reduce back pain.
We are probably over-saturated with news of lockdowns and stay at home orders. Many of us now understand the impact of the last few years in terms of mental health and of course physical health. However, have you considered the effect of working from home and your posture?
‘Work from home’ posture refers to poor posture from slouching behind a computer or looking down at your screen or device.
There are a number of possible reasons as to why we have back pain. Some examples are sitting for a long period of time and our posture.
In this article, we’ll discuss this new phenomenon and provide some expert tips on improving your posture.
Is ‘work from home’ posture real?
According to many health professionals, yes. They have seen increased complaints of lower back pain and neck pain, often related to sitting for prolonged periods of time while working from home.
According to the Australian Chiropractors Association, roughly a third of Australians may need permanent work from home stations, as the workforce shifts to remote work arrangements.
I asked Dr. Rosemarie Jabbour (Chiropractor), from New World Chiro, about this issue and what you can do if you’re experiencing musculoskeletal pains while working from home.
What have you seen in clinic in terms of people working from home?
“Unfortunately working from home has now created a chronic problem with lower back, neck and disc injuries. More patients are presenting health challenges, which need to be addressed,” Said Dr Rosemarie.
What do you recommend for people who are working from home and want to improve their posture?
“I recommend my patients to get up and move around every hour. This simple habit helps to prevent sedentary habits from taking over. Also, it is vitally important that your home office is ergonomically set up, to ensure you can maintain good posture habits from the outset,” Dr. Rosemarie said.
So, what can cause back discomfort or pain?
If you hold a specific posture for an extended amount of time, whether standing or sitting, it may create discomfort or pain. Poor posture may also increase pressure on our joints.
If you spend a lot of time working behind a computer and looking down at a phone or laptop, this may increase localised muscular tension or strain.
This is where the term ‘work from home’ posture was coined.
Other factors that may contribute to back pain include nerve irritation, disc problems, incorrect lifting technique, sports injuries or a slouchy posture.
Do you want some good advice to help relieve lower back pain?
You can do exercises on a daily basis to help increase your flexibility while keeping your muscles balanced and mobile. These exercises may include a warm-up, light cardiovascular exercises like walking, a cool-down, and general stretching. These may be beneficial to help your muscles remain strong enough to support good posture.
Working with a physical therapist might also be helpful depending on your needs. A therapist can assist in understanding how your muscles respond to certain stressors, and what can be done to improve your posture in the longer term
A therapist can also teach you how to stretch and strengthen muscles. Your stomach, back, shoulder, neck, and chest muscles are among them.
Is upgrading a home workstation a good idea?
You might be wondering about how your workstation affects your posture. You may use a chair with plenty of cushioning for your buttocks and back support.
Using a footrest may help you feel more comfortable and relieve some of the strain on your back. A footrest is especially useful because it allows you to keep your knees at a good and comfortable position.
Other workstation improvement ideas include raising your computer monitor to your eye level so you don’t have to look down all the time, and using a mouse with a wrist pad to lessen wrist, arm, and shoulder discomfort.
It is helpful to focus on getting your ergonomics setup right, the first time. A laptop or screen riser may be a good investment to make, as it allows you to raise your screen help, which reduces forward head posture, while allowing you to stand or sit, as you prefer.
You may ask – is there anything more that can help my posture?
It may be a good idea to set a timer every 30 to 50 minutes to get up from your desk and move around. This will keep you active and mobile, while preventing you from being in the same position for extended periods of time.
Getting up will also relieve the pressure on your spine from sitting and keep your muscles from becoming stiff. Staying active throughout the day can lead to better health and well-being.
Be sure to take your one hour lunch break as well. This is a great opportunity to get up and go outside, to go for a run or a walk, or to otherwise stay mobile and active. Taking this midday break also helps to free up your mind, allowing you to get back to work in a fresher state of mind after lunch.
While there are many home treatments you can always try to ease lower back pain, it is important to know the source of your back pain and discomfort.
Staying active throughout the day is key to many aspects of our health. Just as important, though, is ensuring a good ergonomic home office to help you maintain correct posture throughout the day. We all want to avoid ‘work from home’ posture and back pain. Try these tips or if you experience lower back pain, consult with your doctor or local healthcare practitioner.