6 Steps You Can Take Right Now
We’re seeing an increase in patients coming in for back pain these days, and it’s not a coincidence.
With COVID-19 wreaking havoc around the world, many companies have sent their workers home to prevent the spread of the virus. And those workers are spending eight hours a day or more working in environments that were not designed for it—converting living rooms, kitchen tables, and bedrooms to impromptu home offices.
Sitting for eight hours a day in a setup that isn’t designed for it can wreak havoc on your back. But there are steps you can take to preserve your health while working from home—even in a less-than-ideally-ergonomic environment. Here are a few ideas.
Maintain the Proper Curves in Your Back
“Proper posture” doesn’t mean sitting up perfectly straight. Often it feels like leaning back in your chair.
Your lower back naturally curves in toward your navel—and the technical term for this is “lordosis.” Your lower back should be encouraged to maintain its natural, relaxed curve, as this lessens the pressure on spinal discs.
Lower back pain is often caused by long periods of slouching forward, which can put considerable pressure on your lumbar spine. You can help your spine maintain its most relaxed natural curve by sitting back in your chair—in a way that still allows proper positioning of your hands on the keyboard (more on that below).
If your chair doesn’t support your lower back, you can mitigate the problem by inserting a small pillow, rolled-up sweatshirt or towel, or lumbar roll between your lower back and the chair. This will help position your back in a posture that generates less strain.
Put Your Chair at the Right Height
If your chair is the wrong height for you, you may have trouble maintaining a posture that puts less strain on your back.
Your chair should allow you to place your feet flat on the ground while working, with your knees just slightly below your hips. If it’s too short, raise it up. If it’s too high, look for something you can use as a footrest—such as a pile of books, a box, or a cushion.
Position Your Computer Correctly
Another thing that can put strain on your body is your computer positioning. If you spend all day staring down at a laptop screen positioned on a table, you’ll slouch all day—and this can lead to back pain.
Your computer screen should be positioned so that the top of the screen is at eye level, without the need to look down. And your arms should be positioned so that when resting on the keyboard, your hands and wrists are in line with your forearms.
You should not have to extend your arms to use your mouse or type on the keyboard; your elbows should remain close to your sides.
To allow for this position with a laptop, you’ll need to separate screen and keyboard.
Use an adjustable laptop stand to elevate your screen, and a separate keyboard to keep your hands at the appropriate height.
Work Movement Into Your Day
Sitting in the same position for hours at a time can lead to fatigue, which inevitably leads to bad posture, strain on the body, and back pain.
We strongly suggest getting up to move once an hour. Set a timer to remind you, if necessary. Walk around the house, go into the kitchen and make a snack or drink, or find some stretches you enjoy doing—all of these things can help you work some mobility into your day.
Avoid Working on Your Bed
It can seem like the most comfortable place—but working on your bed can really hurt your back over time.
There are a number of reasons why. One is that your pillows may be too soft to provide proper back support. Another is that while working on your bed, your laptop is generally positioned on your lap or stretched-out legs, forcing you to look down.
This puts strain on your neck, back, and spine—and it can cause longer-lasting damage over time. While it may not hurt you to work on your bed for a few hours every day, make sure you limit your time there.
If the only place you have to work is your bed, you can make your position slightly better by placing a firm pillow behind your lower back to provide some support, and resting your laptop on a cushion or laptop tray so you won’t have to look down so far.
Set Your Phone to Speaker Mode or Use a Headset
If you spend a lot of time on the phone, consider using your speaker or getting a headset.
Many people try to talk and type at the same time by squishing the phone between neck and shoulder. This can cause significant pain in your neck and spine if you do it for prolonged periods.
Using your speaker or a headset frees up your hands for typing or other tasks, while allowing you to keep your neck straight.
Got Lower Back Pain? An Expert Chiropractor Can Help
We see many patients who suffer from lower back pain because of their work-from-home setup. We can help you identify the cause of the pain, determine an effective course of treatment, and develop strategies to work pain-free.
Give us a call at 954-432-5006 to schedule your consultation today.
Dr. Rush is a 1994 graduate of the University of Florida where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Sports Science and Wellness.
Dr. Rush earned his Doctor of Chiropractic Degree at Life University in 2000 where he was honored with magna cum laude. Dr. Rush was born and raised in South Florida where he returned after graduation. He currently practices in Pembroke Pines where he owns and operates Rush Chiropractic and Rehab.