As we continue to work from home, one topic we see rarely discussed is preventing back pain as a result from working from home. The average home is not equipped with the ergonomic furniture an office may afford you for instance. Instead, we have our dining tables, our couches and sometimes just the pillow on our beds as we finish projects and try to catch up with deadlines.
And while many workers have reported that they certainly feel more productive and are saving a lot of money not commuting, we may be paying the price with our backs. In this post, we will talk about healthy daily tips you can use to keep your back healthy, your posture correct and to preventing back pain from becoming a problem.
Preventing Back Pain When You Work From Home
Continue to use good posture techniques
Sitting up and standing up the right way is not suspended now that you’re working from home. In fact, we’ll argue that now that you are working from home, it is more imperative than ever that you continue to maintain excellent posture.
What does that look like? The key to good posture is the position of your spine.
Your spine has three natural curves – one at your neck, one in the middle of your back and a curve in your lower back. It is important to maintain these natural curves but not strain them.
Any of these natural curves in your spine will be strained if you hold your body in a “hunched over” position for too long. This can happen from not sitting properly while you work at your computer or from sitting on your bed or even couch as you work.
While the couch or bed may seem like a comfy place to work from, there is an increased chance that you will be curving your body in awkward positions and as such putting strain on your spine, shoulder and back.
The right way to sit at your home desk is to make sure your shoulders are directly above your hips as you work. If you are used to bending over to work, this may feel weird at first.
But in the long-run, maintaining good posture as you work from home will have a positive effect. Apart from preventing back pain, maintaining good posture will you work from home will:
- Protect your spine and make it less likely that you get injured
- Relieve pressure on your joints
- Improve your balance
- Help you breathe better
- Help you digest food better
Get up from your work area
In order to prevent back pain as you work from home, it is important to get up from your working area throughout the workday to relieve your back and buttock (gluteal) muscles from the stress of sitting down.
A good rule of thumb you can use during your workday – and in life – is to walk or run 5-10 minutes for every hour of the day you sit.
You can do this by getting up to walk after each hour of work. Surveys show that the average US-based worker will sit for an average of 9.2 hours per day.
For the average US worker therefore, counteracting that with 60-90 minutes of walking daily is likely to reduce the strain on your back.
Not only does working for an hour and then taking a break to walk play on the popular Pomodoro productivity hack; it will also allow you to relieve the stress on your back and gluteal muscles. And it will improve your heart health.
There are other health costs associated with sitting for long periods of time. For instance, there is strong evidence that shows that sitting down for long hours increases blood glucose levels, reduces a person’s tolerance for both fats and sugars and ultimately leads to diabetes for instance.
Incorporate back exercises into your exercise routine
Including back exercises into your daily exercise routine is a great way to preventing back pain as well. During exercise, we increase blood flow and therefore oxygen to those regions of our bodies that we are exercising.
The increase in blood flow to these areas will help in relieving any back pain you currently have and can prevent new pain from developing.
Invest in ergonomic furniture for your home
While this may seem like an expensive investment upfront, it will pay off in the long-term. You might even be able to talk to your workplace about borrowing ergonomic work furniture that you can set up and use at home.
Whether it is a chair that has extra support or an adjustable standing desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing, it will pay off in the long-run.
See a physician if pain develops and persists
If you do develop pain in your back and nothing seems to help that pain, it is best if you talk to your doctor about the pain.
They may refer you to a specialist or physical therapist who will then provide you with the tools and medical help you need to combat the pain you’re experiencing.