Whether you like it or not, working from home is now the new normal. And whilst this is kicking the Coronavirus curve in the right direction it’s also presenting a raft of new problems – one of these being an increase in lower back pain.
Unfortunately, humans were never built for sedentary work. And whilst some of us have become accustomed to it over the years, others are now being forced into a new way of working.
The comforts of the home office/dining table/lounge probably don’t have the ergonomic qualities of our official office spaces and we’re starting to get see the trend of back pain ensuing from our work positions.
Muscles and ligaments are strong structures and they have the ability to learn and adjust to the stresses and needs of a our day to day lives – they do, however, come into trouble with a sudden change in the normal stresses of day-to-day.
A sudden increase in the sitting duration or a change in the postures of the sitting position is the current reality for a lot of Australians right now, and it’s the soft tissue of the lower back that is going to be unhappy about it.
Luckily there are a few ways to keep the lumbar spine moving whilst doing your bit for society:
Regular movement breaks are a must
Remember the creed ‘motion is lotion’ – muscles, joints and tendons all crave movement. Work breaks do not have to be extended, in fact getting up to walk for as little as 90 seconds can be beneficial. Walking helps to mobilise the hips which in turn gets the lower back moving – think of it as light active stretching. To increase the intensity, add some walking lunges and a trunk rotation toward your front leg for added effect.
Change up your position
If you’re lucky enough to have an ergonomic set up at home, then you’re ahead of the curve here. But for the rest of us, aim to find a table that is slightly below elbow height when you’re seated. If you have access to a standing desk, switch between sitting and standing after every break. If your chair is less than optimal, switch up your seating position – you could try a rolled towel in the small of your back, sitting toward the front of your chair or at the back. The main message here is to avoid being in only one position all day.
Make sure your set up is satisfactory
Whilst the perfect sitting position does not exist, some positions are definitely better than others. As a general guide you want your screen about arms length from you, ideally at eye level. You should be sat fairly upright. Forearms and thighs should be roughly parallel to the floor. Whilst these guidelines may not be 100% possible with our ‘at home’ set up, doing your best to tick as many boxes as possible will save you from potential problems later on.
So whilst working from home may not be a choice for you, you can still keep your body happy in quarantine. Your lower back will thank you for it.