Over the past week, I’ve had quite a few people who are working from home contact me because they’re starting to struggle with neck and back pain. They’re suddenly working from their laptop on the sofa or on the dining table, having obviously switched suddenly from their ergonomic workstations, and things are starting to hurt. There are many factors that affect neck and back pain, including:
Sitting still for too long
Working from home means it’s harder to create boundaries around “work time” and “home time” – which, for a lot of people, translates into the home now becoming the workplace, so that you don’t stop working. Also when you’re working from home, your day isn’t broken for you into manageable chunks (meetings, lunchtime etc). You can’t get up to talk to a colleague so you have to sit and email them, and because there’s nobody to chat with, you aren’t as incentivised to get up to go to the water fountain or the photocopier! Spines are designed for movement – if they were designed to be still, we’d have one long bone instead of 24 movable vertebrae!
Poor workstation ergonomics
Let’s just say that working from your laptop on the sofa or at the dining table isn’t great ergonomically! To start with, when you use a laptop, your hands and eyes are inevitably pulled too close together, so that either your head has to drop too low, or your hands are hunched too hight, or both. But also, good office chairs are designed to move with you and support you correctly, whereas sofas are designed to draw you in and keep you still… which reduces your disc metabolism and strains your ligaments, eventually increasing the risk of back problems.
This article from the Cleveland Clinic explores the link between fear and stress, and back pain – and right now we are certainly living in a time of uncertainty and fear! Stress is a big factor in back pain because when we are stressed or fearful, we tend to breathe from the top of our lungs rather than using our diaphragms properly. This in turn allows our ribcages to stiffen up, which affects the back and abdominal muscles that connect our ribcages to our pelvises – again, causing excessive sustained pressure through our discs!
The individual solution
Of course, if you need specific help or advice, then I’m available for online physiotherapy, and I would love to discuss personalised solutions. However, as always, it’s far better to not get into bad habits in the first place and that’s why, a couple of years ago, I designed an online programme called Stretches for Home-Based Workers, with some quick and easy ideas as to how to prevent your back and neck from getting stiff and sore. It’s usually £14.99, but during the lockdown I’m giving 50% off, if you use the discount code STUPIDCORONAVIRUS at checkout. (Use the same discount code if you want to try my other online courses during the lockdown, including Yoga for Stressed People, which should help with the stress-related component!)
The corporate solution
I’ve also been working on a presentation and talk to deliver live over Zoom to groups of office workers, which will help HR managers and Occupational Health directors meet their duty of care to home-working staff. It’ll be a 20-minute presentation with a 15-minute Q&A session at the end, accompanied by a resource sheet. To book that for your company, please email my team with your requirements and we will get it in the diary.