Home office killing your back? These moves will help.
Small changes can have big impact in how you feel
Mary Jean McKinnon
PublishedMarch 8, 2022
The COVID-19 lockdowns and workplace changes have more of us working from home than ever – and that may well change how millions of American office warriors work for years, even decades, to come.
But with all the convenience that affords, there can be a price to pay, in form of aches and pains. Discomfort can come from working at makeshift desks and cheap home office chairs. Without lunch outings and in-person meetings, workers can easily slump into a routine of little movement, sparking pain and causing stiffness.
For starters, Jackson recommends a sit-to-stand desk to decrease back pain. Standing while working stretches the front and back of the hips. You don’t have to stand all day, just mix it up.
Small adjustments to your computer reduce the tension in the neck and back. Place your computer monitor at eye level and an arm’s distance from your body. This will allow your shoulders to relax and better position your head. Your neck pain will decrease as your posture improves. If you’re working on a laptop, it’s best if you don’t literally sit it on your lap – doing so means you are tilting your head down all day. Try resting it on a firm pillow so the screen is closer to eye level.
If you’re working from home full-time, a quality, adjustable office chair is key, Jackson said. If needed, she suggests considering a small lumbar roll behind your back. Your feet should rest on the floor or a footrest to support to the legs. The tension in your legs will unwind and your back will feel comfortable and supported.
Exercises and ergonomic breaks
Jackson advised taking breaks during the day to walk or get other exercise. That will:
Decrease your stress level.
Increase your concentration.
She recommends the following exercises to improve your posture and decrease pain:
Improve your quality of life with rehabilitation services.
Relax your neck muscles by completing a few head turns. Turn your head from right to left. It will help decrease neck pain and loosen your joints and center.
Decrease the strain in your shoulders with shoulder rolls. Roll your shoulders up and backward. This will open your shoulders and improve your posture. It will also strengthen your midback. This exercise is perfect when you are on conference call, though you might want to turn off the video.
Chest stretch: Bend your elbows and place your hands behind your head, slowly pull the elbows apart and backward until a stretch is felt in the front of your shoulders. This relaxes the front of the shoulder.
Back stiffness can lead to chronic back pain. To lessen that stiffness and improve mobility, Jackson suggests a few gentle back bends. Stand, place your hands at your hips and arch your back. This will improve your back flexibility and stretch through your hips.
Often wrists get a bit tight and need to relax. Rotate your wrists clockwise and counter clockwise. Keeping your forearms parallel with the floor flip your hands up and down. This will decrease the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. The exercise lubricates the joint and creates space the between hand and arm.