Working at Home During the Pandemic? Prolonged Sitting and Posture Mistakes
How it Effects your Health and What to do about it
Working from home isn’t something new. Many people have regular remote jobs. The problem with the Pandemic is that those who are now working from home aren’t used to it. The problem goes even further as people thought they would only be home for a few weeks, so they didn’t prepare to be sitting sedentary in these types of rigid positions for so long. As these days turn into months, people are starting to see more and more health problems increasingly linked to poor posture.
Everyone is experiencing this current Pandemic in various ways. Those that are working from home may be noticing some discomfort; particularly those that are spending hours sitting at their computer during Zoom meetings and entering data. Neck and back pain are increasing problems for people that are spending more time than usual in cramped spaces while bending over their laptop or holding a phone to their shoulder while speaking to colleagues as they type. The good news is that the freedom that working from home provides allows movement when necessary. Here are some of the issues you may be facing from working from home due to the pandemic and many ways to avoid those posture pains.
Health Issues from Dormancy
It may start with an aching back or sore wrists. Your hips and feet may even suffer. One reason is if you are working from home most of the time it may seem easier to sit on your couch or bed. Unfortunately, if you choose to sit on this type of furniture because it seems comfortable at the time, you are doing your body a disservice. Softer surfaces do not help your posture because they allow your body to sink in resulting in rounding your shoulders too much or slouching. A sturdy chair and a flat surface, like a desk at waist level help you stay upright and keeps your spine aligned.
Sore muscles are one thing, but if your position, while you’re sitting working from home, isn’t correct, it can lead to further painful aches. Pinched nerves are one of these ailments. You can tell if you have a pinched nerve from neck pain that you can feel shooting into your shoulders, upper, and lower back. When you slouch, such as bent over the laptop that is resting on your thighs, you can cause unnecessary pressure on your spine. This can compress it and pinch the nerves that run along your spine reaching other areas of your body.
Stress and tension headaches are also common side effects of poor posture. That same pressure on your spine that can cause a pinched nerve can lead to tightness in the muscles in your upper body. That tightness creates tension in your back and neck muscles that can cause stress on the stalk of your brain, otherwise your brain stem. This cannot only lead to minor headaches but the far more painful migraine. Prolonged poor posture, as you may experience working from home through the Pandemic, can cause these migraines to come and go more increasingly over time. Chiropractic treatment can help alleviate the symptoms above and even prevent future occurrences. Many people who are not familiar with chiropractic care are unaware of the benefits they are missing out on as they continue to do their bad sitting habits.
One such issue people don’t realize that comes from poor posture is a difference in the way you breathe. When your spine is not aligned and you are looking down, your breathing becomes shallower. Bending your head during an 8-hour workday because you are looking down may not seem that important at first, but over time you may find that you are taking deeper breaths even through a normal day of walking around the park or even taking a shower.
The Pandemic’s effect on your posture is seen through a complete change in body posture during many activities due to the nature of slouching more than necessary during your workday.
Ways to Combat the Effects of Stillness
You can, however, find ways to lessen the damage on your joints, the stiffness in your muscles, and your overall body health that you may be experiencing from sitting at your computer all day while you are working from home. Some of the ways to alleviate the stress on your body are as follows:
- During your day, take a break from sitting every 30 minutes or so. This could be getting up to get a glass of water, taking a bathroom break, gazing out the window, or anything you have a few minutes to do that doesn’t involve sitting and slouching.
- If you must stay on the phone such as on a conference call or staying by your computer while on a video conference, simply stand up to straighten your spine, back, and shoulders. This is easier to do if you work at a desk by simply moving your computer to a higher counter, such as a kitchen or island counter so you aren’t sitting constantly.
- Be mindful of how long you have been sitting in one position. It is easy to get caught up in a phone call, trying to finish a deadline, or get lost in new project ideas. Try to set a notification, whether on your computer, watch, or desk alarm, every 30 minutes or so to remember to move, even if it just to sit up straight and stretch.
- Keep the water flowing. It’s always important to stay hydrated. One thing that happens to sedentary bodies is that they do not intake enough water and if they do it doesn’t flow through as beneficially. The more water you take in, the easier it is to have a reason to move, and the more it will hydrate those stiff muscles and joints.
- Straining is another thing to avoid. You may want to keep necessary items right next to you so you don’t miss any notes. This will avoid straining your neck or back by grabbing for something just out of your reach.
- Use extra support behind your back or under your legs with a pillow or towel when sitting. This will increase the likelihood that you won’t slouch and you protect the alignment of your back and hips.
- Find the ergonomically correct design for you in your work environment. Whether sitting or standing you know the space that you have and figuring how to make that work for your posture safety is key.
- See your Chiropractor. Your doctor can not only give you adjustments to combat any stiffness you are already facing but keep any more tightening at bay. Regular adjustments can help your muscles from becoming overly rigid. The regular introduction and reassessment of flexibility can keep your muscles more livened in the first place. If you must work from home during this pandemic, a proactive approach can help much more than fixing something after it has already built up to be a problem.
- Exercising regularly is also a good way to ward of stiffness and cramped muscles for greater mobility. Even 2 or 3 days a week can loosen your body up and keep you limber. On off days try some light jogging, yoga, even simple weight lifting that can cushion your body a bit against those long stiff days at home in front of your computer. Whether those off days are often or not, you can still take advantage of exercise while you work at home during the Pandemic.
Walking in place while you tune into a meeting, doing calf raises entering data, doing some light stretching while you are getting a presentation, or even practicing great posture while you are giving that presentation are all great ways to get started toward achieving healthy posture. Getting your body moving and chiropractic care during this Pandemic will not only help your physical health and energy, but your mental health as well. You may even be so lucky to lose a few pounds!
Aside from these tips that you can do yourself, see what your employer can do for you. Depending on your employer and the resources your company has at hand, it may be possible to have them assist you in developing an ergonomic workspace. The office furniture they provide at your workplace is designed to support the positions you must stay in for hours at a time as you spend your days in the office. The chairs they provide in the office are designed for work at a particular desk in front of a standard keyboard to enhance correct posture and also productivity. If at all possible, look into what resources your office is able to provide you with at home and even ask your management to see if any equipment they already have is available for you to take home and use.
Whatever you are doing to avoid negative posture during this Pandemic, make sure you are keeping up with regular movement, attention to slouching and stretching often. Prolonged sitting while you work from home does not have to ruin your posture or cause health problems. The longer we work from home during this Pandemic, the more we learn about our bodies and how important it is to take care of them.