Working From Home and Body Pain
The past year has been a wild ride. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, life changed quite drastically for a lot of people. Working from home became the new “normal” and the majority of people who were new to working from home simply weren’t prepared for it. Office workers were sent home, but their $1,000 Herman Miller chairs and standing desks stayed behind.
The days of ergonomic office furniture seem like days gone by. Some working from home don’t have a dedicated workspace and have resorted to sitting wherever they could work. The kitchen table, their bed, couch, and some inventive ways that most of us haven’t considered. Working from home was originally going to be temporary, but turned into a permanent work setting for office workers all over the country.
If you’ve noticed neck, shoulder, and back problems since starting working from home, you aren’t alone. Sitting for 8+ hours a day and not having the proper workstation set up at home can take a massive toll on the body.
At both Forward Motion Physical Therapy clinics, we’ve seen an uptick in patients coming in with neck, shoulder, lower back pain, and miscellaneous aches as a result of them working from home. In addition to not having a decent workspace, being less active is a major cause of body pain. The obvious solution to these pains is to be active, get a better chair, a better workstation setup, etc, but if you are already in pain, you’re going to want a way to help alleviate that pain.
In this article, we’re going to dive into what exercises you can treat these pains from the comfort of your own home, ways to make your workstation more ergonomic, and if physical therapy may be needed.
Stiff and sore neck? If you’re working from a laptop or your computer screen is too low, that is the likely cause of your neck pain. By placing the laptop on your lap or if the computer screen is too low, it is forcing you to look down at your computer screen all day. That’s a long time to have the neck angled down! If you can, get an ergonomic laptop stand or simply put your laptop on a stack of books so that you can elevate your laptop.
When the laptop is elevated and at eye level, that will help alleviate some of the strain off your neck. Another thing you can do is move your laptop around. Occasionally bring it over to the kitchen counter to turn that counter into a makeshift standing desk. Alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day should help with your pain.
Shoulder pain while working from home is caused by the strain you are putting on your neck. Looking down at the computer screen all day will cause your neck to stiffen up, get sore, and can also affect your shoulders. Keeping the head positioned downwards all day will make your shoulder and neck muscles work harder than they normally would. This can lead to muscle strain, spasms, and knots in your muscles. This is why it is so important to make sure your laptop or computer screen is elevated.
Have you been using a spare folding chair and kitchen table since you started working from home at the beginning of the pandemic? Sitting in a chair for hours at a time and using it in a way that it is not intended to be used can lead to some issues. If you don’t want to splurge on an ergonomic chair, there are some adjustments you can make to the chair you’ve been using to improve the comfort of the chair. Getting a back support pillow can make a massive difference in the comfort of your chair. Plus, it’ll help relieve the back pain you are experiencing.
Another way to improve the chair you’ve been sitting in is by getting a supportive, ergonomic seat cushion (AKA: Butt Pillow). These improvements will save your back! One other pro-tip: make sure your feet are touching the ground and that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Doing this ensures you are properly supporting the back and lower body.
Elbow and Wrist Pain:
If you’ve been using your laptop keyboard while working from home this year, consider getting a separate mouse and keyboard. It’s more comfortable to use and minimizes strain on the wrists.
In addition to all these changes, you should be periodically be getting up, moving, and stretching every 30 minutes to help take some pressure off the body parts you are overusing while sitting. Plus, who doesn’t want a break from the never-ending Zoom meetings?
Exercises you can do to help with…
Neck and Shoulder Pain:
One way you can relieve neck and shoulder pain is by making sure to stretch throughout the day. To stretch the neck, you should take a few seconds to look up, look down, turn your head to each side and then side bend (ear to shoulder). Hold each position for 15-20 seconds. To stretch the shoulders, put your arms up as high as they can go and then see if you can reach the opposite shoulder blade with your hand. Stop and hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat if needed.
The best way to relieve back pain while working is by, you guessed, stretching and moving around throughout the day. In the video below, Hanna shows how to relieve some of your back pain with two awesome stretches. Give them a try!
Wrist and Elbow Pain:
Last but not least, wrist and elbow exercises that you can do help with any pains you’re having in those regions! The wrist extensor stretch is a great way to stretch out your strained wrists and give them some relief from typing on that keyboard.
The way you can do a wrist extensor stretch is by extending the arm with the affected wrist in front of you and point your fingers downward. Next, with your other hand, gently bend your wrist farther until you feel a stretch in your forearm. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times. The wrist extensor stretch is also going to stretch your elbows as well!
We can help!
If you’ve tried all of the above and need some help getting over your working from home pain, we can help. Our main goal is to help our patients help themselves feel normal again without using pain medications, surgeries, or injections. Call us at 973-400-3730 to schedule an evaluation today.