A women experiencing back pain while working remotely during COVID-19.
Sports / Orthopedic

How to Prevent or Relieve Back Pain When Working from Home

Jul 7 2020

Many Americans are now working from home in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For lots of them, this is a new way of spending the work day. Instead of sitting at a desk in an office, work from home gives more flexibility with your day. However, working from anywhere – like your bed or the couch – can lead to negative consequences such back, neck and shoulder pain and stiffness.

Follow these tips to help prevent poor posture and improve your muscle strength while at home.

Sit up straight

While it’s a lot more comfortable, laying in bed or slouching on the couch isn’t good for your back. Poor posture can easily be corrected by sitting upright, with your shoulders relaxed and your body supported against the back of your chair. If you are on the couch, try putting a pillow or rolled up towel in the small of your lower back to provide additional support.

Exercise and stretch

During the work day, get up for a few minutes every hour to take a walk, stretch, or do another activity that gets you moving. Here are a few stretches to try that can relieve back stiffness:

  • Cat-Cow Stretch: Start with your hands and knees on the ground in a tabletop position. Press into your hands and feet as you inhale and look up, allowing your belly to fill with air. Then, exhale, tucking your chin to your chest and arching your back. Move this way for a few breaths.
  • Sphinx Stretch: Lie on the ground on your stomach, elbows underneath your shoulders and hands extended in front with your palms on the floor. Set your feet slightly apart. Gently lift your head and chest, engaging your lower back, buttocks and thighs. Breathe deeply, and press your pelvis to the floor. Hold this pose for one to three minutes.
  • Knee to Chest Stretch: Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your left knee bent, or if more comfortable you can extend it straight out along the floor. Draw your right knee into your chest, clasping your hands either behind your thigh or at the top of your shin. Avoid lifting your hips, and breathe deeply while holding the pose for a few minutes. Repeat with the other leg.

If you do have back pain, gently exercising and moving can help relieve it faster. Try to get additional exercise with walking, yoga, swimming or biking for 30 to 60 minutes per day. By strengthening your muscles, you may have less pain.

Set up your work space

Have your computer screen set up with the top of the monitor at eye level. Don’t angle your screen so you have to twist your neck in order to see it. Keep your neck straight and shoulders relaxed, with both feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. If you use a standing desk, take breaks every 20-30 minutes to walk around, stretch, or even sit to promote muscle relaxation and circulation.

Be sure your mouse and keyboard are also at a comfortable height in front of you. You should be able to use them with your forearms and hands level and straight to avoid putting pressure on your neck and shoulders.

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