Many of us have had to transition to working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As you might have discovered, working from home brings on all types of challenges – poor ergonomics being one of them. This can cause neck pain and back pain. There are many reasons for this including sitting for long periods, lack of a dedicated setup, or working from less-than-ideal areas such as the couch or bed. Poor ergonomics can cause a number of issues such as:
- Increase risk of injuries, arthritis, and musculoskeletal problems
- Increase stress therefore weakening the immune system
- Decrease testosterone levels which can affect endurance, energy, focus and concentration
Where and how you work can greatly impact your level of neck and back pain. Luckily, there are simple changes you can make to help improve your ergonomics.
Take breaks – Taking a break from work 2-5 minutes every hour can help to lower stress and tension in your body. During this time, you can take a quick walk, meditate or do some simple desk stretches to help relieve tension in the muscles. If you choose to stretch, you can do so while sitting or standing. It is recommended to stretch your arms, neck and shoulders since we often hold tension in these areas. Here are some stretches you can try:
- Slowly roll your neck to one side and repeat on the other side. Do this 3 – 5 times in each direction.
- Interlock your hands together above your head with your palms facing up. Push your arms up, stretch upward and hold for 30 seconds.
- While you are sitting, reach your hands behind your back. Arch your back and move your chest forward. Hold for 30 seconds.
Alternate between sitting and standing – Most of us sit for long hours while we work, but research shows that the most ideal position for working is a combination of sitting and standing. If you can get a workstation that is adjustable, it can help to improve your posture and any aches and pain you might be experiencing. Standing also helps to burn more calories and can help with insulin sensitivity. Even if you can’t stand for long periods of time, alternate your position every hour or so and try to stand whenever possible.
Look straight at your computer – Make sure your computer monitor is at eye level and your elbows and hips are at 90 degrees. If you do not have access to a monitor, you can adjust your laptop height by putting boxes or books underneath.
Support your lower back –Wherever you choose to work, make sure you are giving your back the support it needs. Roll up a towel or sweatshirt into a log-like form and place this horizontally on your lower back while you are sitting. This will make you sit up straighter and therefore improve your posture and help to prevent slouching.
Remember to alternate your position while working, look straight ahead, and take breaks. Your body will thank you in the long run!