With many people around the world being confined at home to stop the spread of Covid-19, working from home is quickly becoming the new normal. But swapping the well-equipped office environment for the dining table at home may be less than ideal for an eight-hour workday. The couch isn't a substitute for an ergonomic office chair and balancing your laptop in your lap for long periods is going to cause neck and back strain. So if you are one of the many working from home it's important to take particular care to avoid developing back problems caused by sitting for long periods with bad posture.
Some tips and advice for improving posture when sitting at a desk are;
Avoid sitting with your head forward over your hands as this posture places strain on your back due to the weight of your head. Instead, sit up straight with your head back so the weight is square over your shoulders.
Try not to sit with hunched shoulders, in this position your shoulders will be rounded and your back will be curved. Hunched shoulders are often caused by the chair you are sitting in not providing adequate lumbar support leading to poor posture. If you can, get an ergonomic chair that is designed to ensure you are getting enough support for your back. Otherwise place a small cushion or a rolled-up towel behind your lower back to give the lumbar support. This will pull your shoulders back and encourage you to sit up straighter.
Avoid leaning forward in your chair with only your lower back in contact with the back of your seat. Leaning forward causes the discs in your back to become more compressed which can lead to lower back pain and longer-term could cause herniated discs. Instead sit up straight, if you are still leaning forward try moving your chair closer to your desk.
Make sure you are not reaching across your desk to use your mouse or keyboard. This places strain upon your neck and upper back. If you are suffering from this type of pain try to change the placement of tools on your desk. Move your keyboard and mouse closer to you so your elbows are positioned near to your body. This will ease any pain around the back of your neck and back.
If you can find a place in the house where you are able to stand up to work, then build this into your daily routine so that you have time when you are working but not sitting down.
What else can you do to minimize the chances of developing back pain from prolonged periods of time sitting down?
Working at home instead of the office may mean you are spending less time moving around. Not getting those natural breaks during the day such as walking to a colleague's desk, walking to meetings or going for a coffee break may mean that at home you tend to sit for longer between breaks. Make sure you are moving and being active during the day, this could be just walking out of the house to get some fresh air or even doing some exercises at your desk to stretch out. Sitting all day at an office desk causes pressure build-up on the discs in the lower back so it is important to move or change position for a few minutes each hour. This will allow the discs to return to their natural position and correctly align your spine to avoid back pain developing.
Focus on strengthening your core as poor core strength can make you susceptible to back injuries. Start by doing some gentle core strengthening exercises such as planks. The side plank variation can also be used if the rotation of the exercise doesn't cause any existing back pain to flare up. The bird dog exercise is also good to do during work hours by your desk. Start with your hands and knees on the ground, begin the exercise with your core engaged then lift one leg off the ground and extend it behind you. When your leg is extended out behind you remember to keep your hips level, if your hips aren't staying level lower your leg until they are. Repeat this exercise 10 times for each leg.
Improving localized blood flow in the lower back whilst sitting down is a simple way to keep the area massaged and gently relieve any tension. The Myovolt Back Kit uses focal vibration therapy to relieve soreness and stiffness in muscles, so simply wearing this for a ten-minute treatment whilst you are working at your desk is an easy way to keep back pain at bay and maintain flexibility. Using Myovolt at night before going to bed, or first thing in the morning can also help to loosen tension and improve range of movement if you suffer from back stiffness which develops in bed.
If you are already suffering from back pain, be aware of what you can achieve and don’t push those limits. This includes not doing any strenuous exercise that may irritate the pain more or make it worse. Most importantly don’t try to avoid the problem by ignoring it and hoping it will go away on its own, get it looked at earlier to stop it worsening. If you do a lot of sports then be careful to ease your way back into exercise and make sure you take time to recover properly afterward.