Bad Habits When Working at Home are Ruining Your Back!

Posted: 10.10.2018
 
For those of us that work from home, it can be a great lifestyle. You don't have to deal with traffic, you can work in the comfort of your own home, and you can keep the schedule that you want. However, it’s not uncommon that people who work from home suffer from back pain, mostly due to bad habits.
 

Poor Posture


The number one issue for people who work from home is poor posture. And it's more than just slouching; people that work from home often work while lying in bed or on a couch or chair with the laptop on their lap. For 8 years I used to have terrible back pain, and in my first appointment with my chiropractor that helped me fix my back pain, the first thing he wanted to know is how I work at home. The reason he wanted to know this is because having poor posture for long periods of time can create lower back pain as well as upper back and neck pain because your spine is out of alignment, which can pinch nerves and create habitual muscular tension. When you are looking down at your laptop, your head is bent forward and your upper back and neck are curved, and your hips are almost always out of alignment when you hold this position as well. Keep in mind that whatever position you hold for long periods of time, your body will tend to get into even when you're not in that posture. This is why looking down at your phone dozens of times per day is referred to as “iposture.”
 

Long Periods of Inactivity


Many people who work from home will spend a lot of time in front of their computer. They spend some of their time working, and some of their time on personal things like social media, which can mean staying in the same position for a long time. Humans are designed to move, and being sedentary has been linked to a large number of health issues, including type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer, early mortality, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. This is why sitting is “the new smoking.”
 

Adjustable Standing Desks


The best addition you can make to your home office is a standing desk. Or if you have a desk that you don't want to replace, you can get a standing desk converter that you place on top of your desk that is adjustable so you can change the height of the platform you are working on.
 
Because you have a standing desk does not mean that you'll stand all day. The general rule is to keep moving throughout the day. So, you may stand for 10 minutes, and then you might sit for 20 minutes, then stand again. You keep alternating positions throughout the day and you're not holding any one position for an extended period of time. And if you find yourself getting tired, many people benefit from using a standing desk mat.
 
A good idea is to give yourself time to adjust to your new desk. In the beginning, you might not be standing for very long, but over time your body will acclimate to it and you'll be able to stand longer. But remember the goal is not to be standing all day and holding the same position, the goal is to keep moving.

Besides reducing back pain, there are a ton of other benefits for people that use standing desks. Many people report increased productivity, better mood, higher energy levels, and sometimes even a small amount of weight loss.
 

Take Movement Breaks


Ideally every 20 minutes you should be moving around. It doesn't have to be a lot of movement, it could be going to the other room and grabbing some water. It could be doing stretches for 30 seconds, you can do a few calf raises, bust out a few squats, and because you're working at home, you could dance or do some yoga.
 
If you want to take your back-care routine up a notch, you can get an inversion table, and take breaks and invert a couple times per day. Research has shown that the only way to take 100% pressure off of your vertebrae is to invert to a 60° angle (you don’t need to go 180°). In addition to reducing pressure on your vertebrae, it’s a great way to increase circulation to your brain and studies have shown that your muscles relax around 35% within the first 10 seconds of inverting.
 
You’ll want to speak with your doctor first. It’s not recommended by people that have any back or heart issues; those who are pregnant, those with hiatal and ventral hernias, spine issues such as degenerative discs; arthritis, inner ear issues, glaucoma, hypertension, those taking anticoagulants, history of stroke, carotid artery disease; or any issues that can be exacerbated by higher blood pressure (such as glaucoma and even pink eye).
 

Good Office Ergonomics


To prevent back pain while working, there are a few guidelines that experts recommend:
 
  • Keep your elbows close to your body
  • Make sure your monitor is eye-level
  • Your keyboard should be around your hips, your wrists should be straight (not bent backwards)
  • Your shoulders should be back, your head should be back so your ears line up with your shoulders if someone was looking at you from the side
  • Wear comfortable shoes (no high heels), and wear orthotic insoles if you have fallen arches
  • Your monitor should be approximately the size of your screen’s distance to your face; if you have a 20-inch monitor, your screen should be 20 inches away
  • Keep items that you use most often close to you
 
 
Written by Ryan Fiorenzi, contributor at StartStanding.org
At Start Standing there are two things that we're passionate about. The first is to educate the world about the dangers of extended periods of sitting and a sedentary lifestyle. The second is to help people find simple ways to add movement into their life both indoors and out.
 

View All