When we think about hazards in the workplace, we may envision warehouses with lots of moving parts or laboratories that work with caustic chemicals. The workplace that is set up in the home may look completely safe. For the most part, there are few risks faced when your trip to work involves walking a few feet from one room to another. From this perspective, it may be surprising to know that complaints of neck and back pain have increased in this last year of massive shifts in work situations. Millions of people now work from home. Even before COVID-19 changed the way we live, 42% of Americans were said to work remotely. With such a substantial number, we’ve got to look at what might go wrong.
Working from home offers several benefits. Where many people struggle, though, is in setting up their workspace. When the transition first began last year, people didn’t have much time to envision how they would work ergonomically in their homes. A year later, we still hear of people working at the kitchen table on their laptops. When this is the only choice, there’s little that can be done. Fortunately, small tweaks can make a big difference when we’re considering how posture affects the neck and back. We offer a few tips here.
Ideal Workplace Posture
The reason head, neck, and back pain have become more prominent in the past year isn’t a mystery to your spinal specialist. The way we sit at computers has a lot to do with it. For the spine to stay in proper alignment during working hours, experts suggest a few detailed postures, including:
Sitting with both feet flat on the floor. Some people feel that placing their feet on a short footstool helps ease tension on the lower back.
- Sitting with the back against the chair. A small back cushion can improve lumbar support and comfort.
- Setting the screen at eye-level so the head is not leaning forward or down when working.
- Setting the keyboard where the elbows are kept at a 90-degree angle.
Is a Standing Desk a Good Idea?
People who notice that sitting at a desk leads to a sore back, shoulders, neck, or headaches may consider the benefit of a standing desk. There are points to consider here, as well. When using a standing desk, it is beneficial to stand on a soft surface rather than a hard floor. A cushioned floor pad may be useful. Additionally, when using a standing desk, one must take periodic breaks to sit down. Just like sitting for long periods, standing for hours at a time can cause muscle strain and poor posture that leads to neck and back pain.
If your workspace is causing persistent pain, it may be helpful to talk with a specialist. Ongoing pain could be due to posture or it could be caused by an underlying structural issue that a spine doctor can treat conservatively.