Working from Home is Causing More Back Pain

Digital technology has impacted every industry through the last few decades. With communication abilities and opportunities driven by laptops and home computers, as late as 2016 43% of the workforce worked from home some of the time. As trends continue and goals are met that number will increase. 30% of the workforce will begin to work multiple days at home in a week.

With the current pandemic challenges forcing many office workers home those numbers are skyrocketing. With these work from home scenarios comes the introduction of unwanted back pain. Strain and pain from sitting on a computer for hours on end in a less than ergonomically encouraged position. As employers deal with new challenges every day thrown at them by the pandemic, they are seeing cost savings. This only suggests that working from home will impact many office workers post pandemic. One statistic claims that a typical employer can save about $11,000 a year for every employee that works remotely 50% of the time.

Picture someone sitting in the bathtub, lounging in a hammock, on the couch, in the recliner or on a barstool. Work from home ergonomics are being challenged as entire families are struggling to share space at home. Not every chair is designed and constructed the same. A table and chair may catch your eye because of a striking color but be terrible for your spine and your posture. Too often we find ourselves saving a dollar at a wholesaler to end up in the doctor’s office dealing with back pains.

Let’s identify ergonomics and the implications in setting up a correct workspace at home. Then we’ll go through and encourage some daily tips that will help your posture and ward off back pain issues.

  1. The desk or work surface. You’re at home desk, whatever it might be, needs to have your keyboard and mouse at the height of your elbows. If you can’t adjust the height of the desk, then adjust the height of your chair.
  2. Since laptops continue to be the popular option, they are not the best ergonomically. It is best to have the top of the monitor slightly below your eye level. If you are on a laptop, consider hooking up a second monitor for this reason. Or, if you use the laptop monitor than consider a remote keyboard.
  3. The placement of your mouse should be near the keyboard with overextending your arm.
  4. Sit Pretty! Sitting properly begins with your feet flat on the floor. Your thighs are then parallel to the floor. Keep your chest out pinching your shoulder blades together to relieve scapula pain.
  5. Consider a standing desk option. Alternating from sitting to standing is terrific and healthy option. You must also stand straight with a neutral spine to make this option beneficial.

While working from home create the habit of getting up once an hour and take a few minutes to perform these six stretches from the Mayo Clinic.

  1. A standing hamstring stretch for 30 seconds on each leg.
  2. A shoulder stretch for 30 seconds with each arm.
  3. A standing thigh stretch for 30 seconds for each leg.
  4. A lower back stretch for 30 seconds bringing up each leg.
  5. A neck stretch, turning your head each direction for 30 seconds.
  6. A calf stretch, 30 seconds on each leg as you press against a wall.

Working from home is here to stay. Exercise common sense in your workspace and take care of your body as you spend hours on your computer. By doing these simple things you can avoid unnecessary back pain.

Neck Pain as Related to Cell Phone Usage

Two major changes have occurred to our society and our workplace over the last few decades. The number of people sitting at desks has increased as well as the numbers for cell phone owners. With these increases comes the unnecessary and unwanted addition of neck and upper back pain.

Here are some alarming numbers that support those statements.

  1. First, the average amount of time spent on a cell phone today is 2 hours and 51 minutes.
  2. 58% of smartphone users cannot make it 1 hour without checking into their phone.
  3. 150 times a day. That is the average of how many times the phone is unlocked a day.
  4. 66% of smart phone users are addicted to their phone.
  5. 71% of users usually sleep with their phone.
  6. 40% check their phone in the middle of the night.
  7. 75% of Americans use their cell phones while using the toilet.
  8. During the current COVID-19 pandemic the smart phone usage has increased 57%.

Saving the best statistic for last; we laugh on the average of 15 times a day, but we average touching our phones over 2,600 times a day! So, the case has been proven we use our phones a lot causing a corresponding increase in neck pain.

Let’s look at some suggestions in how to look at your mobile device to relieve the strain on the neck muscles.

  1. Look Forward First– Try to bring the cell phone UP to your eye level. This small change will minimize the bend in your neck and improve your spine posture.
  2. Move your Eyes, not your Neck– If your smart phone is below your eye level do your absolute best to shift your eyes, to lower your gaze, to the screen rather than dropping your chin.
  3. Take Frequent Breaks– Many micro breaks to move and stretch your neck and back. Do NOT use your device over 20 minutes.
  4. Consider a Phone Call– If possible, dial the recipient of the text versus texting.
  5. Check your Posture– Make your best effort to maintain a curve in your lower back which sitting and using your cell phone. If possible, try to use a supportive chair with arms to rest your arms on. When on the phone, avoid cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder.
  6. Stretching– Try tucking your chin on a regular basis and hold there for several seconds and repeat several times. Then try pulling your shoulder blades together thrusting your chest out. This scapular retraction loosens the back as well.

When you bend your head to text or browse you are dramatically increasing the stress on the cervical spine. This position is not natural and will undoubtedly lead to irregular stresses on your spine and the surrounding soft tissues.

If you have neck pain it is self-induced. Consider your cell phone usage and your posture. Start today by introducing a new habit around your relationship with your phone. Consider this; SMART, make your change Specific, make it Measurable, there is a Reward in you sticking with it and your progress will be Trackable.