Working from home has its advantages, but it can also be harmful to your spine if you’re not supporting your back properly.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many people are still stuck working from home. Although this new arrangement provides you with the freedom to set up a workspace anywhere in your house — including your living room, bedroom, or separate office — it may be taking a toll on your spine.
For remote workers, poor sitting posture may be causing pain and stiffness. Keeping your back healthy and strong should be a priority, so follow these simple steps to protect your back as you live and work comfortably at home.
Where You Work Matters
You can sit anywhere you like when you work from home. But whether on a couch, chair, or bed, be sure to sit in a way that protects your lower back from stress. Here are some tips to help you avoid common aches and pains.
Chair. The important thing to remember is to position yourself so you don’t crouch or hunch over the computer keyboard. To do that, make sure your chair is low enough so you can place your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be directly above your feet, with your legs at a right angle on the chair from your hips. To keep your spine straight, press your abs toward your backbone, lift your chest, and roll back your shoulders. Ideally, your shoulders should line up over your ribs and hips. Tilt your head so it hovers over your breast bone; don’t jut it outward. If you need more back support, insert a rolled up towel horizontally behind your lower back.
Meanwhile, your arms should rest at a 90-degree angle on the work table with your elbows bent at your sides and forearms in front of you. Avoid having to extend your arms too far forward as this will strain your wrists and shoulders.
Couch. Working on your couch is perfectly acceptable, as long as you support your back while doing so. To ensure you sit upright, place pillows behind your back. Or, if you’re sitting sideways, use the armrest for support.
Bed. To make working in bed more comfortable and less strenuous on your spine, put pillows behind your back as well as underneath your arms and legs. Bend your knees and prop your arms up, so your elbows are level with the sides of your body.
Exercises to Ease Work from Home Stress
Wherever you set up your home office, be aware of your body’s signals. If you’re feeling stiff, take a break by getting up and moving around your home, or doing some stretching exercises, such as those listed below, to keep your back flexible.
Shoulder Roll. This exercise can relieve back pain and stiffness. As you roll back your shoulders, bring your fingertips behind your spine and move them closer together. Slowly shift your elbows behind you, and try to close the palms of your hands together. If you cannot do that, simply keep moving the fingertips closer. Hold for five deep breaths and release.
Side Stretch. To unlock a tight and painful lower back, sit in a chair and press your glutes into the seat. Then, stretch your arms up, clasping your hands together. Bend to the right to stretch the left side; hold for a breath, and switch to the other side. Repeat five times on each side.
Cat and Cow. This is a great exercise to improve your posture while also keeping your back flexible. Position yourself on your hands and knees, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your hips over your knees. As you look forward, arch your spine and move your shoulders back so you feel the stretch in your chest. Then, round your back toward the ceiling, pulling your belly button toward your spine. Do 10 repetitions.
Dealing with Back Pain?
At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, we have a team of physicians and physical therapists trained in helping you overcome back pain. Contact us today for a consultation.