2020 – what a year!!
It is fair to say 2020 has been a year of change – coronavirus, a 4-month long lockdown, leaving your office with a day’s notice and working from home full time. It has provided many challenges which slowly over time we will be able to adapt to and some may become the new norm.
One of the biggest changes for a large proportion of the population is that we are now working from home full time. Don’t get me wrong, this has positives – more time spent with family, less commuting, more work flexibility, no office distractions, increased productivity and so on. However, it does look like travelling into the office and the 9-5 day could be a thing of the past and working from home could become more of a long-term change. It is this change that we need to start considering with a more permanent office set up in the home environment.
Since returning to work after lockdown I have noticed a major increase in clients with aches and pains in the neck and upper and lower back. When you dig into the client’s injury history and recent life changes the majority of the time, we can link their injuries and niggles to a poor office set up at home. These niggles may just start off as tension in the back, small knots and trigger points but can easily lead to pins and needs down the arm, sciatica, headaches and migraines all of which are often preventable.
Who thought after 5 months of home working it was possible that the biggest thing you missed about office life is your ugly swingy chair, your fancy stand up desk and walking across the whole building just to get a cuppa tea – suddenly flicking between your sofa and kitchen chair to work from isn’t as inviting as you first thought is it?
Below is a list of problems that could be causing the niggles and tension in your back and neck:
- Working from a laptop not at the correct height
- Working from a makeshift desk – kitchen table, laptop on your knees, sitting on the bed
- Sitting on a kitchen chair to work from and having a table that is the wrong height
- Sitting on the sofa and using the coffee table to work from
- Working for longer hours due to not needing to commute
- Sitting for very long periods as you haven’t got an office to walk around.
Short term in most cases the list above wouldn’t cause any major problems, however long-term poor posture, sitting for 8-10 plus hours a day and sitting at a makeshift desk could cause chronic pain.
So how do we prevent the tightness, pain and niggles in our neck and back which are starting to have a major influence on your day to day life and making working from home not as inviting as you first thought?
Well, let’s start by improving your posture – if you can learn to sit up nice and straight, relax your shoulders, put less strain through your neck then you are greatly reducing your chances in experiencing pain.
Top 5 tips to help prevent back and neck pain when working from home:
1: Get a keyboard and mouse: The worst posture issues will come from hunching over a laptop. Getting a keyboard and a mouse is the most important investment that people can do to immediately improve their work environment.
2: Make your own laptop stand: If you are working on a kitchen or dining room table, one of the most important things you can do is elevate your laptop so that the top of the monitor is at eye level. Having your laptop at eyelevel will prevent the tension in your neck from forming as you will not always be looking down at the screen. If you do not have a office desk that is set up a the correct height – why not mix up where you work from? you could sit down at the kitchen table but then move every 1 hour and try standing up and working at a kitchen counter or put the ironing board up at the correct standing height.
3: Move around every half an hour: It is more important than ever for you to move your body around every half an hour. Stretch your arms towards the sky and to the sides. Every hour, try laying with flat on the ground and your legs at a 90 degree angle to stretch the muscles in your back. Walk around while you’re on the phone if you can, and run up and down stairs if you have them.
4: Introduce a daily stretch and mobility routine: Giving your back and neck a good stretch and loosen off daily will help prevent the build-up of tension and tightness caused by sitting for long periods of time. Don’t be put off by thinking you need to spend hours on exercises – literally 10-15minutes a day can have a massive improvement on posture and back pain. If you are struggling with what exercises to do then seek a professional (Sports Therapist of Physiotherapist), they can put together a routine for you to do.
5: DO NOT work on your sofa: Your sofa is the worst place for you to work for a long period of time. Not only will your posture immediately worsen therefore increasing your neck and back pain, the perception of comfort can stop you from moving around as much. If you have to work on a sofa, set a timer so that you remind yourself to get up and walk around regularly.
So to summarise – do not let bad posture and working from home cause chronic back and neck pain – it can very much be prevented with the top tips above. If you have tried these changes and you are still struggling with pain and tension why not visit a Sports Therapist for a sports massage – this will quickly get on top of the problem and make working from home much more enjoyable again – you do not need to put up with the pain.