Does the coronavirus pandemic have you working from home? Have you had to turn your dining table into a desk or living room couch into a meeting space to accommodate the work-from-home needs? With so many people not returning to their offices unexpectedly, workspaces are looking less traditional and are possibly more taxing on your spine, leaving you with an aching back or neck.
Here are five ways you can continue working comfortably (but not too comfortably) from home while keeping your spine health in mind.
1. Sit in a Comfortable Chair at the Correct Height
A dining room chair isn’t usually meant for long-term use, and many lack padding and support. If possible, invest in an adjustable office chair that can put you at the proper height for your computer and offer some cushion.
Of course, it’s understandable if you’re making do with a dining chair, and if that’s the case, consider adding padding or a rolled-up towel near the lower back for some support.
“Your feet should always be supported while you’re sitting, because dangling legs can add to the pain in your lower back,” explains Christopher Baker, MD, AdventHealth Neuroscience Institute’s Spine Surgical Director. So, if your feet don’t reach the ground, use a footrest or something with a hard surface to prop your feet up.
2. Take Breaks to Stretch
Most of the time, in an office setting, we’re getting up to walk to our colleagues’ desks every now and then or attend a meeting, giving our muscles a chance to move around. “If you’re working from home, don’t let yourself get so caught up in your work that you stay in your seated position for too long,” recommends Dr. Baker.
Stand up, stretch your arms over your head, move around and loosen up periodically throughout the day, so you don’t get too stiff.
3. Change Your Desk Height
If possible, adding a standing desk can help relieve some pain and sore muscles. This doesn’t mean you have to invest in a whole new desk, but you could add a converter that sits on your current desk or table space and adjusts the height of your computer and keyboard to be where you need it to be.
If your shoulders are hunched over because your computer is too low, or your neck is strained from looking up too high, it could be causing aches in your muscles.
4. Apply Heat or Ice to Your Aches and Pains
Is your lower back in need of some TLC? Apply heat to this area with a heating pad, warm washcloth, wearable heating pack or even soaking in a warm bath.
Ice may also provide some relief. You can try icing the sore area with cold compresses to reduce pain and any swelling. Try a combination of ice for a few days and then heat for a few days to see which works best for your body.
If ice is not working, try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (such as ibuprofen) for a few days.
5. If Pain Persists, Talk to Your Doctor
If you’ve tried adjusting your workspace and are still experiencing pain, consider bringing it up to your doctor. It’s always better to get aches and pains checked out early, as opposed to letting them linger.
At AdventHealth Spine Center, “We can help you get started with physical therapy and/or pain management to help ease your discomfort,” says Dr. Baker. Often, physical therapy will reduce or eliminate your pain, improve strength and flexibility and restore normal range of movement. Talk to your doctor about any pains you’re having or reach out to our team, today.