Avoiding Low Back Pain When Working From Home

Avoiding Low Back Pain When Working From Home

Avoiding Low Back Pain When Working From Home

Posted by Dr. Michael Crane on 12th May 2021

Health care practitioners have seen the incidence of lower back pain rise sharply in recent months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lifestyle changes associated with its arrival[1][2]. As a large percentage of of the population are now isolated at home, many people find themselves adapting to working from home, which has led to an increase in poor seating posture and reduced physical activity[3].

team-meeting-in-office.jpegWithin an office environment, workers will move intermittently, but regularly within the building. They may get up regularly to visit a colleague at another desk, walk to the photocopier or visit to the toilet. There are regular meetings in various locations within their workplace and perhaps a walk at lunchtime to buy a sandwich. So typically a worker is not really sitting in the one place for too long. However, with the arrival of COVID, workers are now confined to their home.

working-from-home-on-couch.jpegUnfortunately, this has led to significantly reduced movement throughout the day, other than a brief visit to the toilet or kitchen, which is not far away. Many workers are often sitting on the couch, or remaining in bed glued to their computer. Such increased time spent sitting or lying down without the proper ergonomic support that a commercial quality office chair offers, in addition to increased sedentary behaviour, is leading to a noticeable rise in spinal issues[4].

Prolonged sitting is not beneficial toward our broader health, particularly our lower back. All muscle, tendon, ligament and spinal disc tissues require regular movement as it aids in better blood flow. 

stretching-at-desk-at-home.pngMovement leads to nutrients such as oxygen and glucose working more effectively, whilst metabolic wastes such as lactic acid and carbon dioxide are removed. When we do not move enough, we can develop lower back pain or stiffness amongst other possibilities. Functionally we tighten up and lose some valuable flexibility, as well as losing muscle tone and conditioning slowly over time.

So, here are 8 tips to avoid lower back pain/injury:

  • 1.Avoid working for extended periods without the proper ergonomic support of a commercial quality office chair, (eg. on the couch or in bed).
  • 2.If you have a high quality ergonomic chair, make sure you still stand up and move away from your it regularly for improved blood flow. (Eg every 30 mins for at least a 3-5 mins).
  • 3.Perform some regular stretching exercises for the lower back and rest of body[5].
  • 4.Maintaining a general fitness program is essential. Make sure you get some cardio to get heart rate up, some strength training to maintain muscle tone and some stretching for flexibility.
  • 5.Try and go for a long walk at lunchtime or two shorter walks spread throughout the day.
  • 6.Remember that nutrition is an important part of your overall health, so don’t skip meals and always try to drink 2-3 litres of water per day to stay hydrated! Good nutrition maintains blood sugars essential for concentration.
  • 7.A high quality computer chair and desk is important. Although a high quality ergonomic chair or sit-stand desk can be expensive, they are a small price to pay for your health! High quality ergonomic chairs and standing desks are extremely good for overall health[6][7]. Such equipment will allow you to perform your work efficiently and safely.
  • 8.And lastly, ensure you sleep on a high-quality mattress that allows your body to recuperate properly and supports the lower back.

By following the tips above, the chances of lower back pain are reduced significantly. If you are suffering lower back pain and your problem persists, then call your preferred health practitioner for some additional help.

[1] https://www.insider.com/back-pain-on-rise-globally-due-to-long-term-isolation-2020-5

[2] https://www.journalism.co.uk/press-releases/self-isolation-measures-could-cause-a-back-pain-epidemic/s66/a754213/

[3] https://7news.com.au/sunrise/on-the-show/coronavirus-australia-how-to-prevent-back-and-neck-pain-when-working-from-home-c-1059473

[4] https://www.wired.co.uk/article/working-from-home-posture-back-pain

[5] https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2020/03/27/how-to-stay-fit-and-active-at-home-during-self-isolation.html

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3477898/