In the lead up to Back care Awareness Week (5th-9th October), Feel Good Contacts has collaborated with Personal Trainer, Badrul Islam to offer advice on how to alleviate neck, shoulder and back pain (aka posture pandemic) caused by working from home.
Sitting at our desk, dining table, bed or sofa (if that’s where you’re working from) for eight hours a day is the most passive thing you can do and can lead to back pain – one of the most common complaints made by office workers. Besides this problem, research shows that long periods of sitting can have a detrimental impact on our health and wellbeing and cut years off our lives. The World Health Organisation listed inactivity as the fourth biggest risk factor in global adult mortality.
But luckily there are some exercises and other initiatives you can take to alleviate neck, shoulder and back pain when working from home during the lockdown:
The problem with sofas
Experts will say that whatever you do, don’t work on your sofa, but not everyone has the luxury of having a home office with a desk and ergonomic chair. Although it will seem like the most comfortable place to work, the sofa is actually the worst place to work as it encourages you to slump and puts a huge amount of strain on your shoulder and neck area which you inevitably crane.
If you have to work on a sofa then remember to get up and walk around your home. Whilst walking, you could try some dynamic shoulder stretches. Firstly, lift your shoulder and roll it back and squeeze the shoulder blades together and then allow the shoulders to depress, roll forward and then repeat this exercise. You should also do this movement in reverse. Next, take a seat and try some dynamic neck exercises to mobilise the area. You’ll need to move your head up and down, look to the left and right and also tilt to the left and right. Do not hold the positions for any length of time because the neck is a particularly sensitive area.
Change your position
If you are working on the sofa, if possible, try to change your position by sitting on the floor and putting your laptop on the sofa or coffee table.
To alleviate back pain caused by sitting, extend your spine in a superman position. This involves positioning yourself on all fours on the floor in a tabletop position. Then stretch your right arm in front of you and raise and stretch your left leg. Whilst extended stay as straight as possible and keep hips square to the floor. Alternate with the opposite hands and legs. Hold the position for 10 secs and extend the time as you get more confident with the exercise.
During the day, if it’s possible, stand up and do your work. Standing uses more muscles and burns more calories than sitting and it’s good for your back and posture. If you can’t stand and work, then stand up every 30 minutes to stretch your chest and extend your spine to reverse the hunched position of sitting.
Use a towel or broomstick to use for stretching. Holding the towel or broomstick with straight arms at either end, rotate back and forth over your head slowly. Doing this can help to open up your chest muscles and mobilise your back muscles. Stretching is vital for maintaining good posture, especially when working at a desk, table, sofa, bed for several hours a day. It will also help to reduce back and neck pain significantly.
Make your own standing desk
We know that standing desks can decrease chronic back pain caused by prolonged sitting, so why not create your own one at home. Try standing up and working at the kitchen counter or position an ironing board at standing level. Position it next to a wall to create stability.
Turn daily tasks into exercises
Turn everyday chores into exercises. If you’re having a video conference, then suggest you all do it standing up. As well as getting you out of your chair, research shows that these types of meetings are a good way of increasing efficiency, making sure that the meeting doesn’t stretch to an hour when it can be done in half the time.
Set an alarm
Try and break up multiple chunks of sitting time (set an alarm if you feel you need it) with some movement by taking trips to the kitchen. The general rule is to take a walk at least every half an hour to get a glass of water. People get dehydrated when they sit, plus at this time of year, you’ll need the extra h20.
When you’re stuck with some dead time, for example, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil don’t be embarrassed to do some light exercises like calf raises, squats or lunges.
Try to motivate yourself to get out of the house during your longer lunch break and go for a walk or light run, to mobilise and activate your muscles. If this really isn’t possible then try some simple but effective deskercise routines. Don’t forget to keep a glass of water handy.
Stick to your work hours
We are well aware of how bad screen time can be for your health. So, unless you have a particular deadline that you need to hit, you should stick to your structured work hours as much as possible. It’s important to be able to relax after your workday and not keep thinking about work. This is easier to do if you shut the laptop and ignore your emails from the moment your workday ends. Try to organise fun and relaxing things for yourself to do, slip on an eye mask and have a long warm bath, listen to music, have a solo disco or read a book.