If you are working from home now, due to Covid 19, you may already be feeling uncomfortable. At work you probably had someone come round to check your desk and chair to see the height of the chair and how you use it so that you can avoid neck and back pain.
Now that you are at home there is nobody to help you and you are probably working at a table or sitting in a soft chair and feeling uncomfortable but having no idea when this isolation might be lifted and you can actually go to work again.
Several people have called the clinic to ask for advice due to aches and pains so we are producing some advice and exercises to help you get through this period in as pain free a way as possible.
Don’t forget that it is not only physical health that is at risk. Nearly half (47%) of workers say they work longer hours when at home compared to their primary place of work, and often longer than stated in their contract. Over a prolonged period this can result in increased levels of fatigue and stress.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, however, as the study found that working from home does also come with a range of health benefits. The flexible nature of home working means that three in five (58 per cent) are able to build exercise into their day, and the same proportion say they eat more healthily. Two thirds (66 per cent) say they are able to take regular breaks from their work area, which is good for both mental and physical health.
We will outline the most useful things you can do while working at home to help avoid pain.
PROMISE TO TAKE BREAKS REGULARLY – DON’T WAIT UNTIL YOU HURT!
Microbreaks – one or two minutes every half hour – set your phone alarm and don’t ignore it. Yes you are “in the middle of something important” but if you ignore the alarms then time will go on and you will suddenly be aware that some part of you hurts – by then it is too late – that achiness means you have already irritated the tissues!
These breaks have many uses – by taking a short walk to look out of the window you relax your eyes – look out into the distance instead of the close up work of working at a lap top. Your your brain has a rest as well as your body – we are not machines, we benefit from time to reflect and it is always better to move BEFORE your body starts to feel uncomfortable.
When you are on the phone, walk around as much as you can.
Research findings show that over half of home-workers (51 per cent) have sustained injuries, aches and pains as a result of their working environment, which is 10 per cent1 more likely than those working in a ‘traditional’ workplace.
The research highlighted that not having the right work set-up at home could be the cause, one in four (25%) home-workers do not have a dedicated workspace at home and half of home-workers admit to hunching over while working. 40 per cent said they regularly work from their bed or sofa, all of these factors increase the risk of musculoskeletal injury, with the most common problems experienced being backache (24 per cent) and neck-ache (20 per cent).
HOW TO POSITION YOUR BODY TO WORK
Put a pillow or cushion behind you in the small of your back.
Sit on a pillow or a cushion
Do not lean forwards to look at your screen, particularly if you have to use a laptop. Try to raise your laptop to eye level – but the only issue with this is that you end up with your wrists cocked backwards when you type.
If you have a monitor do not put it at an angle to your desk – look at it straight ahead.
Do not cradle your phone under your ear.
Do not angle your wrists excessively when typing.
Sit on the edge of your chair with your knees slightly lower than your buttocks – you will feel how this encourages the natural curve in your lower back to be maintained.
A COUPLE OF TIMES PER DAY PERFORM STRETCHES
If you are worried that you have a pre existing back or neck problem then please email firstname.lastname@example.org first though! These are not supposed to cause pain – if they do then stop!
- Rotate your shoulders forwards and backwards ten of each.
- Hunch your shoulders up and down, holding for 5 seconds at the extreme of each
- Drop your head down towards your chest and then turn your nose towards one armpit and hold the position for a few seconds then repeat to the other side.
- Put one hand on the opposite shoulder holding that shoulder down and drop your neck to the side ear to shoulder on the opposite shoulder – not so much that it hurts – just to feel a pull then repeat on the other side.
- Raise one arm out to your side then bend at the elbow so your forearm is pointing to the ceiling. Gently rotate your forearm forwards and backwards so that you feel the front and back of your shoulder gently stretch.
- Clasp your hands behind your back – holding arms straight and down and stretch your shoulders backwards to open up your chest.
- Stretch out one arm in front of you with palm towards the floor and with the other hand gently pull the hand down to stretch the back of your hand and wrist.
- Breath deeply in through your nose for a count of 8 and out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
- Lift your knees to your chest, one at a time.
- Stand and hold onto something. Bend one knee and hold onto that foot with the other hand so that you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh.
- Stretch your leg in front of you to feel a stretch in the back of your leg while you stand upright.
- Kneel on all fours and raise and lower your back – in a cat camel exercise routine – see my previous post on the “Big Three” exercises. Perform them all!
Above all – don’t worry too much. We are all in a strange situation and have no idea when we are going to get out of it and back to some sort of ‘normality’. If you suddenly find you are sitting but not concentrating on what you are supposed to be doing, but fretting about someone or something or money or anything other than the job in hand – then maybe it is time to call someone for a short chat – someone who will let you talk about your worries, which in itself helps you to cope with them.
If you are going to sit and work, make it productive and not painful – and we are always here for you if you have a pain.