Is working from home giving you a pain in the neck, back, butt?
Updated: Oct 2, 2021
My husband has been working from home during lockdown. The first 9 weeks he was sitting on a low sofa bed in the spare room. It was the only place he could work without being interrupted by our children. His screen was sitting on a chair, with his laptop on his lap ( I know, they are called laptops because you can put them on your lap, but really not great for more than hour). Now he is a very tall man, so this is not an ideal position for him to be working eight hours a day. A pattern has developed, he is experiencing more shoulder, neck and back pain than usual. Thankfully the spare room has now been kitted out appropriately. He no longer looks like a praying mantis working on a laptop.
After seeing my husband working in this way, I started to worry about my clients and I've been wondering "how you are getting on?". Some of you will have the luxury of a home office properly set up. Some will be working at the kitchen table, perhaps sharing the space with (delete as appropriate) offspring and/or partner who may also be working/home schooling/teaching home schooling (I swear I have more grey hair now than before lockdown due to home schooling, or that could just be due to lack of visits to the hairdresser.). You maybe sat on your bed, or on the sofa.
Each time I think of these scenarios I can't help but worry. The dreaded hunch. Slumped over your keyboard, slouching to read your screen. Wrists typing on keyboards at unnatural angles. In my mind I can hear your levator scapulas' scream with pain, desperately pulling against gravity to keep your head upright (did you know your head is the heaviest part of your body to keep upright thanks to gravity, it's also due to the amount of blood, bone & imagination contained within). I think of your rhomboids valiantly working to pull your shoulders back whilst your pecs effectively take a holiday, letting the rhomboids bear the load of keeping you upright. And then there are the poor old quadratus lumbrorum, glutei and piriformis. Your lower back and bottom muscles. Sitting on them all day really does not do them any good. Did you know the majority of low back pain is actually caused by tight QL's?
Now normally, if you were experiencing pain between your shoulder blades, in your neck, or lowerback, or getting headaches you would book your appointment with me. I would stretch your fascia, find those joyful trigger points and treat you to a deep tissue massage. Unfortunately you can't do that at the moment (soon hopefully) so what can you do?
To help you I'm sharing below a link to an article I found in The Guardian. Home office ergonomics - how to work from home without breaking your back. It provides some sensible guidance on how to set up your workstation at home without having to spend money on equipment.
I cannot stress enough the importance of taking regular breaks from your work station and moving your body. 2 or 3 stretches each break will help.
Here are my top 5 suggestions:
Open up the chest, anything that pulls your shoulders backwards. it gives your hardworking rhomboids a rest and makes your pecs take up some of the work.
Spinal twists, get twisty. Opposite hip and shoulder moving in opposite directions. This stretches your QL, erector spinae (the big long muscle either side) and the lattimus dorsi.
Arms to the sky. This action stretches muscles in your shoulder rotator cuff and again involves your pecs. While your arms are up there give your wrists a twirl. A bit of forward/backward action won't do them any harm.
Rotate your neck. Tilt your neck to the left and then to the right. Take your nose towards your armpit, lift your chin to the sky. These movements encourage all your neck muscles to stretch and it feels glorious.
Knees to your chest. You can do this lying down or standing. You can bring your chest to your knees in a forward bend, or bring your knee/s to your chest. The yoga positions of child's pose is good for this. This type of stretch is good for your lower back and your glutei. Feeling adventurous, try the opposite knee to shoulder.
Top tip: hold all your stretches for at least 30 seconds (and I mean a real 30 seconds, one potato, two potato, three potato...). It takes at least that long to get any real benefit from stretching.
The important thing is to keep moving. If you are not confident about stretching, or if like me, you need some-one to coach you through so you actually do it, then book in with me for a one to one session. I will take you through a specific series of stretches to help relieve some of the pain and discomfort you are experiencing. I can also teach you some self-care trigger point techniques. I'm also available for online self care team sessions, so please contact me if you'd like to find out more about my self care packages for businesses.
In the meantime, take care