Has working from home been a blessing or a curse when it comes to your back? There are many benefits to working from home, including less stress, more family time, and saving money on commuting expenses — but now that we have entered a new season, our seemingly “temporary” at-home desks may need a rehaul. Workspace ergonomics have always been a hot topic, whether working at the office or remotely, but with the “new normal” of the pandemic, I have been asked by many to share tips to keep you pain-free at your desk. Five months lather, I have seen a surge of patients who have developed neck and back pain from their insufficient workstations and sedentary routines. For those who have not quite felt the effects of working from home, the good news is that it’s not too late to settle in for the long haul of working remotely. Here are four ways to keep your back intact while working from home:
4 Ways to Make Your Home Office Spine-Friendly
- Working From The Couch Won’t Cut It
It may seem like the most comfortable option, but slouching over for 8+ hours a day on the couch or bed will quickly cause your back and neck to ache. Take the time to set up a workspace that is more beneficial for your spine, either at the kitchen table or by purchasing a small desk. By having an established work area and creating a routine to work there all day, your mental and physical health will benefit. It’s not healthy to work and play in the same space all day, so if you can avoid that, now is the time.
- Re-evaluate Your Chair’s Support
Your desk chair is a huge factor in your workspace ergonomics. Make sure your chair is at the right height, and the back is adjusted to what is most comfortable to keep your spine in the best position. While many seats provide some type of lumbar support, most are not designed to provide the most adequate support. You can always purchase a lumbar support device, or you can make your own by using a towel. All you have to do is roll the towel up and place it at the small of your back, which will comfortably force your spine to remain straight.
- Don’t Look Down
That’s right: the dreaded Tech Neck. If your laptop is positioned at an angle that forces you to bend your neck, you are putting unnecessary strain on that area. An easy fix is to add a stack of thick books underneath your laptop to make sure it is eye level while you work to avoid neck strain. A more permanent solution would be to invest in a laptop riser or standing desk to ensure you keep your blood flowing through the back and legs. This may not be feasible for everyone, so grab those dated textbooks, yearbooks, or magazines and start stacking until your laptop screen is level with your natural line of sight while sitting.
- Get Moving
Take breaks during the day and do neck circles along with stretching out your back. Another important tip? Be sure to walk around. Even if you only have 5 minutes every hour or two, standing up and stretching is great for your spine’s health (and general health). Taking planned breaks can also benefit your mental health, which is incredibly important to maintain especially during stressful times. If possible, take a quick stroll outside during lunch or in between meetings to get your heart pumping and ease the pain from sitting the rest of the day.
It’s time to invest in our wellbeing and make sure we are taking care of our physical health along with our mental health. If you are still experiencing back pain after making these adjustments, don’t wait to schedule a consultation. Our spine specialists at Virginia Spine Institute are here to help you get back to your life pain-free.
Dr. Colin Haines is a board certified spine surgeon and the Director of Research at Virginia Spine Institute. Dr. Haines performed the world’s first combined endoscopic and robot-guided spine surgery. His patient success has earned him a national feature on The Today Show and WebMD, and Top Doctor recognition in consecutive years. Learn more about Dr. Haines.