How many hours do you spend crouched over your MacBook, peering at endless work documents, presentations and emails? A good estimate would likely be 10 hours on a weekday, since remote employees find it harder to disconnect from work when the office is their bedroom or kitchen table.
That’s nearly half of your life spent with a hunched back! No wonder you complain of chronic back issues—ranging from a dull ache to an electric shock-like pain.
Here’s some tips on how to avoid back pain while working from home.
While you may be tempted to slouch on your couch during long Zoom calls, it places enormous strain on your back muscles. Instead, find a chair with good lumbar support that allows you to maintain the natural S-shape of your spine. Your feet should be flat on the floor, with your thighs parallel to the floor.
One crucial but often neglected aspect is the height of the desk you are working on—your keyboard and mouse should be at elbow height. If it is within your budget, you can also consider buying an adjustable desk which allows you to customise its height with a press of a button. And what’s more, you can stand to work when you feel like it, enabling you to move and stretch throughout the day!
Moreover, pay attention to the placement of your monitor screen. Ensure that the top of your monitor screen is at, or slightly below, eye level. By setting up your workspace at home according to sound ergonomic principles, you will significantly reduce pressure on your spine.
No matter how ergonomic your workspace at home is, back pain is inevitable if you remain there for long, unbroken intervals of time. Movement—especially stretching exercises in particular—is key in avoiding back pain.
The Cat-Cow stretch is very effective in countering your spine’s tendency to revert to a hunched position. In short, you inhale and arch your back for the cow pose, while exhaling and rounding your back for the cat pose. Alternating between flexing and extending your spine for the Cat-Cow stretch allows your back to ease into its full range of motion. When the familiar feelings of stiffness come creeping back up again, it is a good time to emulate your feline friends.
Another stretch that is tremendously beneficial is the Happy Baby stretch. It is a gentle, restorative posture where you lie flat on your back—with your knees bent and heels facing the ceiling—and hold your feet with both hands. Slowly roll from side to side while not forgetting to inhale and exhale deeply. By performing the Happy Baby stretch, you will realign and stretch your spine, thus alleviating any lower back pain you may have.
Besides these stretches, you can also engage in light cardio exercises, such as jumping jacks or skipping rope. It is a great way to induce relaxation and break the monotony of the work day!