The majority of the employed UK population is currently working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, for most, this is a significant change and one that has come with its own challenges; maintaining productivity, for example, and dealing with housemates.
Another prevalent issue that arises from home working is back pain. If you’ve gone from a correctly set up desk in your employer’s office to hopping from place to place with your laptop in a shared house, then I’m sure you can relate.
In this article, we’ll look at the causes of backache and pain and how you can avoid and alleviate it. After all, there’s enough going on right now without back pain being an extra concern.
What causes back pain?
Many people assume that back pain when working is always related to the chair you sit in. However, that isn’t the case. Yes, your chair can be a factor, but there are many other factors to consider alongside that.
Older workers and those with pre-existing back or neck problems will be most at risk, but anyone can suffer if they’re sat on an unsupportive chair, looking at their laptop at the wrong angle for more than a couple of days.
Also, back pain can be caused by internal as well as external pressures.
Ergonomics expert, Jodi Oakman, says:
“Back pain is caused by work-related stress as well as work-related physical factors”.
So, with that in mind, we’ll get started with our solutions.
How to avoid back pain
Follow the tips below to reduce the likelihood of you experiencing back, shoulder and neck pain while working from home.
Reduce your stress
A build-up of stress in the body can manifest itself physically — often in the shoulders and back. This tension is painful.
Work on reducing external pressures by staying organised and keeping on top of your workload. To-do lists are your friend.
If you live with others, try getting up before them to get tasks done without distraction.
If you’re working from home with kids and are therefore getting behind with your work, talk to your boss; you can’t be expected to perform miracles during this pandemic!
Overall, work on lowering your stress levels. Try relaxation techniques, cutting down on caffeine, getting a good night’s sleep, taking regular exercise, and talking to someone if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Use a proper office chair
As you’re at home, it could be tempting to work from your sofa — or even your bed — but for your physical and mental wellbeing, it’s essential to work at a table, sat in a proper office chair.
If you don’t own an office chair and can’t afford to buy one, ask around; you’ll be surprised at how many of your friends and family have a spare one lurking in their box room, garage or shed!
At this point in the lockdown, it would be considered fair to ask your boss to provide one, too.
To find the perfect posture in your chair, you will need to adjust the height of it until your eyes are level with the top of your monitor. The monitor should be positioned about one arm’s length away.
If you work on a laptop, you’ll need to lift it up to the right height. A laptop stand is ideal as you can then angle it too but, if that’s not an option, grab a pile of large books or a box to place your laptop on.
Your chair might have lumbar support built-in but, if it doesn’t, you can recreate this by rolling a towel up and placing it between your chair and your lower back. This will act as a reminder to sit in a position that allows your spine to be in its natural S-shape.
As a final note regarding your computer setup, position your keyboard and mouse around 8-10cm from the front edge of your desk.
Both your knees and elbows should be at right angles to avoid muscle strain. If your feet don’t touch the floor, rest them on a box of some sort.
Keep moving throughout the day
Your body needs frequent movement, and this is no different when you’re working.
So, make sure you stand up and walk around as often as you can — every half an hour, ideally. Those suffering from backache and pain have often been sat in the same position for hours on end.
If you take a lot of phone calls, you can squeeze some extra movement into your day by walking around as you chat.
When it comes to your lunch break, consider some light exercise; incorporating stretches would be really beneficial.
Outside of work, make sure you use your one daily period of exercise outdoors wisely. Whether you walk, jog, run, cycle or do some yoga, moving your body is crucial to your mental and physical health — now more than ever.
On top of that, exercise can strengthen your muscles, which makes them less prone to injury. So, enjoy your activity in the knowledge that you are helping to protect your back from pain and discomfort.
What to do about a painful back
If you have already developed back pain due to working from home in less than ideal conditions, you must consult an expert. They may be able to offer a telephone consultation, and then they will take it from there depending on the severity of your problem.
Post-treatment, take the advice of your medical expert regarding your home workstation setup.
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