3 work-from-home posture mistakes that cause pain

Are you working from home or retired and pottering… Stuck inside because of the lock down?

Many of us are house bound, or at least spending more time at home since COVID hit.

And, if you’re like a lot of people, you might have found the indent on the sofa has become a little deeper. The computer is on for a greater number of hours as you scroll and bide your time. The kitchen bench doubles as a desk and your bed as a work station.

This has unsurprisingly taken a toll on our health and increased pain. After all, sitting for hours in wonky positions is not what the body was designed for!

A 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that the pandemic and its associated lockdown has significantly increased the intensity of lower back pain. Other research has shown that neck pain has worsened too. Simply put, poor posture increases musculoskeletal pain. When we work-from-home in poor conditions it’s like 'texter's neck' taken to the next level. Horrible for the body!

Yet…

As Richard Kauntze from the British Council for Offices said, “The idea that people will return to the five-day week in the office has gone.”

With this in mind we need to better understand how the body works and alter our work setups to protect our posture and our health, reduce — even avoid — pain, and live well.

So, this brings us to an important question…

What are top posture mistakes to avoid indoors (and how can we fix them)?

There are 3 top mistakes I see people make: poor work station set-up, forward head posture, and weak core muscles… Here’s how to test and then fix them.

1. Poor Computer / Work Station Set-up

As you work from home or otherwise spend time on your computer; the hours rack up quickly. So how can you determine if your work station set-up is faulty? How do you determine whether you are making this common mistake?

The simple test…

Sit down at your work station in your usual posture. Are your shoulders rounded? Is the curve of your low back pushed backward? Are you arms spread away from your body? Are your forearms resting any where other than horizontal? These are signs your work station is failing you and straining your body.

The fix…

You cannot fix this problem while sitting on your sofa. Sorry! Because, like tyres that are out of alignment, the pressure of poor posture mounts over time causing damage, fatigue and pain.

It’s time to set up a work station. To do this there are rules you need to follow.

Desk: Your desk ought to have clearance for your legs and be just the right height. If your desk is too low and is not able to be adjusted, place sturdy books under the legs. If your desk is too high, raise your chair and use a foot stool if required.

Monitor: Your monitor should sit directly in front on you. Place it arms length from your face, with the top horizontally aligned with your eyes.

Keyboard and mouse: Your keyboard and mouse should be positioned within easy reach. If you need to stretch, bring them closer. There are wonderful ergonomically designed options now available. These can be purchased online.

Chair: Your chair should be built with curves that support your curves. If you don’t have a supportive chair, consider purchasing one. If you’re not able, use a small rolled up towel or thin pillow, placed horizontally, to support the curve of your lower back. Next, rest your bottom against the back rest. You should feel comfy and upright even when relaxing your muscles. This trick will straighten your spine and make it difficult to slump.

Footrest: Your feet should comfortably rest on the floor. If they cannot reach, a footrest will support them. If you’re not able to get a footrest, sturdy books can again come to the rescue.

Perfect angles: Ninety degrees is the magic number. Your ankles, knees, hips and elbows should rest comfortably at near to this angle. If they don’t, tweak your work station to incorporate this math. That might mean raising or lowering your desk or your chair.

2. Forward head posture

Does your head sit forward of your shoulders? This is called a forward head posture. It can trigger neck pain, headache, changes to your chest that diminish your lung function, and reduce your wellbeing.

The simple test…

Ask someone to observe your posture from the side while you stand and sit. Taking photos will help you to see what they see. Assume your natural position. Your ear hole should rest above the middle of your shoulder joint. If it’s forward of this mid-shoulder position, you have a forward head posture and it may be harming your health.

The fix…

These simple steps will reduce forward head posture.

Work station set up: By setting up your work station correctly, you will unconsciously reduce a head forward posture. For example, support to your lumbar curve brings your head naturally back into a better position.

Exercise: Strengthen the muscles at the front of your neck. Assume a straight posture then, with your eyes facing forward, pull your chin in. Hold this position for 30 seconds, repeat three times. Perform daily.

Posture support: There are posture supports that also help. They work by comfortably pulling your shoulders back. When you slump and your head moves forward, the support works in two ways: the tension across the front of your shoulders will restrict the unwanted motion, and the sensation will remind you to improve your posture.

3. Weak tummies

As we slump around our homes and find it difficult to get out and exercise, our tummies become weaker. Our core muscles support our posture. In a way, they are like the foundation of a house that supports the floor, walls and roof. When weakened, the curves of our spine get out of kilter, muscles become strained and fatigued, and pain can increase.

The simple test…

When you stand, does your tummy poke forward? When you rise from bed is it easy to do so, or does tummy muscle weakness make it difficult?

The fix…

Perform exercises to strengthen your core muscles on a daily basis. You will find exercises with strange names like the bird-dog, the plank, and dead-bugs online.

To begin, though, simply stand or lay. Draw your belly button towards your spine while tensing your buttock muscles.
Hold for 10-seconds, rest and repeat three times. Build up over time so you can hold each repetition for one minute.

The Take Away

While the pandemic continues so, too, will working from home and spending more time indoors. It appears likely that in a post-pandemic world this might also be the case. So, taking steps to improve your posture is a sensible practice. In fact, these may boost your energy, reduce your pain and make being home far more enjoyable.

Are you working from home or retired and pottering… Stuck inside because of the lock down?

Many of us are house bound, or at least spending more time at home since COVID hit.

And, if you’re like a lot of people, you might have found the indent on the sofa has become a little deeper. The computer is on for a greater number of hours as you scroll and bide your time. The kitchen bench doubles as a desk and your bed as a work station.

This has unsurprisingly taken a toll on our health and increased pain. After all, sitting for hours in wonky positions is not what the body was designed for!

A 2020 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that the pandemic and its associated lockdown has significantly increased the intensity of lower back pain. Other research has shown that neck pain has worsened too. Simply put, poor posture increases musculoskeletal pain. When we work-from-home in poor conditions it’s like ‘texter’s neck’ taken to the next level. Horrible for the body!

Yet…

As Richard Kauntze from the British Council for Offices said, “The idea that people will return to the five-day week in the office has gone.”

With this in mind we need to better understand how the body works and alter our work setups to protect our posture and our health, reduce — even avoid — pain, and live well.

So, this brings us to an important question…

What are top posture mistakes to avoid indoors (and how can we fix them)?

There are 3 top mistakes I see people make: poor work station set-up, forward head posture, and weak core muscles… Here’s how to test and then fix them.

1. Poor Computer / Work Station Set-up

As you work from home or otherwise spend time on your computer; the hours rack up quickly. So how can you determine if your work station set-up is faulty? How do you determine whether you are making this common mistake?

The simple test…

Sit down at your work station in your usual posture. Are your shoulders rounded? Is the curve of your low back pushed backward? Are you arms spread away from your body? Are your forearms resting any where other than horizontal? These are signs your work station is failing you and straining your body.

The fix…

You cannot fix this problem while sitting on your sofa. Sorry! Because, like tyres that are out of alignment, the pressure of poor posture mounts over time causing damage, fatigue and pain.

It’s time to set up a work station. To do this there are rules you need to follow.

Desk: Your desk ought to have clearance for your legs and be just the right height. If your desk is too low and is not able to be adjusted, place sturdy books under the legs. If your desk is too high, raise your chair and use a foot stool if required.

Monitor: Your monitor should sit directly in front on you. Place it arms length from your face, with the top horizontally aligned with your eyes.

Keyboard and mouse: Your keyboard and mouse should be positioned within easy reach. If you need to stretch, bring them closer. There are wonderful ergonomically designed options now available. These can be purchased online.

Chair: Your chair should be built with curves that support your curves. If you don’t have a supportive chair, consider purchasing one. If you’re not able, use a small rolled up towel or thin pillow, placed horizontally, to support the curve of your lower back. Next, rest your bottom against the back rest. You should feel comfy and upright even when relaxing your muscles. This trick will straighten your spine and make it difficult to slump.

Footrest: Your feet should comfortably rest on the floor. If they cannot reach, a footrest will support them. If you’re not able to get a footrest, sturdy books can again come to the rescue.

Perfect angles: Ninety degrees is the magic number. Your ankles, knees, hips and elbows should rest comfortably at near to this angle. If they don’t, tweak your work station to incorporate this math. That might mean raising or lowering your desk or your chair.

2. Forward head posture

Does your head sit forward of your shoulders? This is called a forward head posture. It can trigger neck pain, headache, changes to your chest that diminish your lung function, and reduce your wellbeing.

The simple test…

Ask someone to observe your posture from the side while you stand and sit. Taking photos will help you to see what they see. Assume your natural position. Your ear hole should rest above the middle of your shoulder joint. If it’s forward of this mid-shoulder position, you have a forward head posture and it may be harming your health.

The fix…

These simple steps will reduce forward head posture.

Work station set up: By setting up your work station correctly, you will unconsciously reduce a head forward posture. For example, support to your lumbar curve brings your head naturally back into a better position.

Exercise: Strengthen the muscles at the front of your neck. Assume a straight posture then, with your eyes facing forward, pull your chin in. Hold this position for 30 seconds, repeat three times. Perform daily.

Posture support: There are posture supports that also help. They work by comfortably pulling your shoulders back. When you slump and your head moves forward, the support works in two ways: the tension across the front of your shoulders will restrict the unwanted motion, and the sensation will remind you to improve your posture.

3. Weak tummies

As we slump around our homes and find it difficult to get out and exercise, our tummies become weaker. Our core muscles support our posture. In a way, they are like the foundation of a house that supports the floor, walls and roof. When weakened, the curves of our spine get out of kilter, muscles become strained and fatigued, and pain can increase.

The simple test…

When you stand, does your tummy poke forward? When you rise from bed is it easy to do so, or does tummy muscle weakness make it difficult?

The fix…

Perform exercises to strengthen your core muscles on a daily basis. You will find exercises with strange names like the bird-dog, the plank, and dead-bugs online.

To begin, though, simply stand or lay. Draw your belly button towards your spine while tensing your buttock muscles.
Hold for 10-seconds, rest and repeat three times. Build up over time so you can hold each repetition for one minute.

The Take Away

While the pandemic continues so, too, will working from home and spending more time indoors. It appears likely that in a post-pandemic world this might also be the case. So, taking steps to improve your posture is a sensible practice. In fact, these may boost your energy, reduce your pain and make being home far more enjoyable.