As lockdown continues, the majority of Victorians have had to adapt to working from home. Although challenging, there are some benefits to working from home; a lack of peak hour traffic to deal with, the ability to spend more time with the family, or the ability to work with more flexible hours.
However, at our practice, we have found our patient’s spines haven’t taken the move from the office to the kitchen table particularly well. Increased neck, back and joint pain have been an additional challenge for many of our patients working from home at the moment.
Let’s talk a bit about WHY home-workers are suffering and then give some advice on WHAT you can do about it.
So why should staying-in cause pain and discomfort? Well… firstly I’ll point out you can get neck pain sitting at your desk in the office all day too… (Just ask any desk worker how their neck and shoulders feel after a long day!) But working from home adds some unique challenges. It boils down to two main points; 1) a decrease in physical activity and 2) poor work station ergonomics.
In our ever-automated, convenience driven lives, modern humans tend not to exercise very much. The average Australian does no more than 30 minutes of exercise per day. The introduction of Covid 19 lockdown has seen a further reduction in this activity. The walk to the train station before work? No longer! Walking around high school or university campus to get from one class to another? Not anymore! Even the short, trivial bits of physical activity we get throughout the day have been reduced.
Less movement and physical exercise causes a de-conditioning of muscles, stiffening of joints and decreases the ability of our bodies to remove inflammation.
So HOW do we fix this lack of activity? The answer may seem obvious. MOVE! Some ways to achieve this are:
– Use your 1 hour of exercise time to go on a nice long walk. Or two half hour walks.
– Get up from your desk and pace around the room 3 times every 45 minutes or so
– Walk to a destination whenever you can instead of getting in the car.
– Get some simple gym equipment such as hand weights so that you can work out at home
– Do some Yoga from home – there are plenty of free videos online
Whatever you decide, make sure you are getting half hour to an hour of exercise each day to prevent yourself from stiffening up.
What about the ergonomics?
Sitting in ANY position for extended periods of time will eventually cause discomfort, no matter how comfortable you were when you started. Have you ever tried to work while lounging around in bed or slouching on your couch? My bet is what started off comfy soon turned into achey.
This problem is further compounded when using devices like tablets and laptops, which generally force us to hunch over them as we work, since their screens are low in relation to our head.
To reduce or even avoid pain, here is HOW to make a few changes to your workstation.
– sit at a desk that is the right height. Your desk should be at the same height as your elbows
– raise that screen! The middle of your screen should sit at eye level. If you are using a laptop, sit it atop a stack of books, a box or get a laptop stand
– get an external keyboard and mouse, these are cheap and very useful at preventing you hunching over a tablet or laptop
– get an office chair with good low back support, or try using a small cushion to support your lower back
– use your phone speaker or use headphones to take a call, as this is much easier than craning your neck to one side trying to hold a phone
– get a standing desk! Alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day
– and of course, make sure to get some exercise throughout the day. A half hour walk will go a long way to loosening you up
Be sure to also take time to mentally de-stress too. These times are challenging for us all, so ensuring we have a good group of friends to call as support, taking time to enjoy hobbies and meditating can all be very helpful.
Lastly, be sure to see your chiropractor! Characterized as essential workers, we are still open to help you out if you are suffering. There is no travel distance restrictions for our appointments, and no need to get a referral. If you need us, feel free to give us a call. We are here to help! There is no need to suffer and mark of days on the calendar waiting for lockdown to end.