As a result of the lock-down, many of us had to adapt overnight to working in our home environments. Where we once resided comfortably in an ergonomically-friendly office space, we were now forced to hunch over the dining room table or a tiny home desk for several hours a day. Unfortunately, these set-ups offer minimal support to our spines, and consequently result in neck, shoulder and lower back pain, as well as headaches.
While these set-ups are not ideal, you can make small changes that will spare your spine from unnecessary strain at home. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid working in bed or on the couch. While soft surfaces may be comfortable in the beginning, the lack of back-support will force your back muscles to overcompensate, leading to spasms and pain.
- Make sure your desk and chair are at the right height. Having a workspace that is too high can cause you to tense your neck and upper back, causing neck pain and headaches. Dining room tables are generally higher than office desks, so if you are using an adjustable chair like an office chair, remember to raise it. Alternately, look for a higher chair or use a pillow to raise your seat.
- Laptops are not meant for extended periods of work, and the screen will either be too low or the keyboard too far away from your body. This can be resolved by getting an external screen or keyboard if you work from a laptop. Ideally, your screen should be positioned at eye level (or just below), and your keyboard close to your body so that your elbows rest at your sides.
- If you are using two screens, try to position them both in front of you to avoid looking off to one side. This can be achieved by either putting the two screens right next to each other in front of you, or by placing the bigger screen on a thick book or stand behind the smaller one.
- And finally, movement is the best way to prevent back and neck pain, as well as muscle spasms. No matter how well-designed your set-up, your body needs regular movement, just like a machine that needs regular use to ensure optimal functioning. Take regular breaks from sitting at your desk or computer, and move during those breaks. A good rule of thumb is to aim for five minutes of moving around for every hour of sitting.