Lockdown has forced millions of us to work from home to keep safe and help prevent Covid-19 spreading, causing many of us to be less active than we were. Instead we spend our working days hunched over a laptop, often going from one zoom meeting to another, with no break and hardly leaving the house. But whilst we may not miss the daily commute, this has made things painful for many, especially if you don’t have an office with an ergonomic desk and chair set up.
Many of us now are sitting working on the couch (especially if the kids have commandeered the kitchen table) with a laptop on the knee, which probably means we’re looking down at -our laptop and rounding our shoulders forward in the process. This, as well as other less than ideal working positions around the home, is causing many to develop back pain.
Research commissioned by Nurofen last year found that from a poll of 2000 UK adults, 36% had experienced back pain in the last 6 months, and 25% put their lockdown pain down to a poor workstation set-up at home. Treating all types of back pain is estimated to cost the NHS more than £1 billion per year, and now compounded by the pressure it’s currently under with Covid-19 admissions, what can we do to help ourselves?
Stretching is a great way to reduce back pain as it engages muscles, lubricates joints and improves your range of motion. A simple 10 minute routine can make a big difference to the health of your spine and stretching is also thought to release endorphins that help reduce pain and enhance your mood. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy suggest starting with the leg, chest and sit stretched, visit https://www.csp.org.uk/public-patient/keeping-active-healthy/staying-healthy-work/desk-based-exercises
- Try and exercise every day
You may feel like resting but actually moving is good for your back. Exercising reduces stiffness by keeping the connective fibres of ligaments and tendons flexible. The NHS recommends activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates, Active Leeds run a series of classes over Zoom, if you would like to know more visit https://active.leeds.gov.uk/healthy-at-home/be-active/adults/live-stream-timetable and for walks here are some you may not know that are local to you https://northleeds.mumbler.co.uk/mumblers-favourite-circular-walks-for-families-in-and-around-north-leeds/
- Improve your work space and sitting position
If possible sit at a table and use a comfortable chair so that your arms are not too high or low, your knees should be at the same height or slightly lower than hips, and your forearms and thighs parallel to the floor with your elbows approximately 90 degrees.
If you have to sit on a couch, ensure your feet are firmly on the floor and you’re sitting back with a cushion to support your lower back.
- Set an alarm and move!
Walk upstairs a couple of times, have a stretch, take the dog for a walk, put the bins out, or go and put the kettle on. Our bodies naturally want to move every 30 minutes so give it a try, prevent yourself from seizing up and take care of that back.
- Ask your employer for help
They may be able to supply you with a desk and chair or offer alternatives such as a standing desk. It’s in their interests to try and help as it’s estimated on average an employee takes 17 days sick if they develop a back pain issue. Even if they cannot supply equipment, they may provide resources, advice or assessment tools to help you improve your home-working setup.