With summer in the rearview window and kids getting used to their new normal, those who’d thought they’d be back in their offices by now are facing the truth of the situation: it’s time to acknowledge that we’re home for the long haul, and need to create a more permanent, healthier environment for ourselves.
Far too many of us have been working in our beds, on our couches or at our dining room tables, and as a result we’ve not only been less productive than we could be, we’re also dealing with constant back and neck pain. Though some of this is definitely due to stress, the majority comes from simple ergonomic mistakes that are easily corrected.
If you’re one of those who has found that working from home has led to chronic discomfort, your first step is to understand what is wrong with what you’ve been doing. The ideal position for office workers who spend most of their time on a computer is to sit with knees, hips and elbows at 90-degree angles. Your back should be neutral, your shoulders relaxed, and your laptop screen or computer monitor should be right in line with your eyes while your keyboard should be level with your elbows.
If that’s not your position, then that’s why you’re experiencing pain. If you’re working in bed then you’re giving yourself no support at all, and there’s no way that your back is in a neutral position. You’re either hunched forward with your back and neck in a “C” or laying too far back. The same is true of sitting on the couch. Both put pressure on your upper back and lower spine and provide you with no support, with the couch possibly worse than the be because of the twist you are likely forcing your spine into. That’s why your lower back hurts.
If you want to sit on the sofa, do so with pillows behind your back for support, sitting on its edge so that your feet are flat on the floor and your keyboard set on cushions on your knees. Sitting on the floor with your back against the couch may be even better.
If you’ve been working at your dining room table, you need to make sure that the chair you’re sitting on is the right height and provides you with lumbar support so that you can sit up straight rather than slouching. Keep your feet on the floor, and if they don’t reach then put a box or pillow underneath to provide support. If you’re working with a laptop with a built-in keyboard, it may be time to invest in an external keyboard so that you can position the laptop higher and the keyboard in a way that allows your elbows to be in the correct position.
If you can do so, it is time to consider investing in some new home office equipment, such as a standing desk or a platform for your computer monitor. If you are experiencing pain that does not resolve, contact our lumbar spine specialty practice in New Jersey to set up a time to come in and see our physician.