How to Prevent Back and Neck Pain when Working from Home

How to Prevent Back and Neck Pain when Working from Home

By Dr Tony Setiobudi BMedSci, MBBS, MRCS, MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho)

The Covid-19 pandemic has forever changed how business is conducted. More people than ever are working from home (WFH), either temporarily due to social distancing, or permanently as a remote professional. This scheduling flexibility may be nice but working from home can present its own unique challenges for your neck and spine for a variety of reasons.

WFH dramatically increases inactivity leading to an increase in musculoskeletal pain, such as the neck, shoulder, and low back pain. Psychological stress is a contributing factor to back and neck pain. With most people, experiencing higher levels of persistent stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, the risk of you getting it is increased. Coupled with non-ergonomic desks, WFH has caused people to develop musculoskeletal pain.

Luckily, preventing back and neck pain when WFH need not be as difficult as you might think. There are a few preventive measures you can take to ensure you are not feeling any discomfort when WFH.

  1. Move your body

Don’t stay in one position for more than 45 minutes. Take a break in the middle of the day to do some exercise. There are a lot of simple exercises you can do at home to strengthen your neck muscle, core muscle, and support your lower back and spine. Do some stretches, walk around, bend over, roll your shoulders to help your body, they will also help your concentration. Even 30 second breaks to change your posture briefly by standing up or arching your back a few times while seated can help take pressure off.

  1. Practice good posture

It would be best if you can invest in an ergonomic chair and table for your working area at your home. However, most people don’t have that luxury. However, you should try to keep your posture right. These are some tips to help position yourself properly when sitting:

  • Sitting up straight, do not slouch. Sit all the way back in your chair to take full advantage of the lumbar support.
  • Your upper arms must sit loosely next to you, with elbow height at a 90 to 100-degree edge.
  • Support your back using a pillow or towel roll, place it near the lower back for lumbar support
  • The knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle with the flat feet should be flat on a surface. If your feet don’t reach the ground, use a footrest, stack of books, or even stacks of paper to support them.
  1. Adjust the level of your equipment

  • Adjust seat height level. Look for a chair that can be easily adjusted so you can change its height and backrest position. The most important is to adjust your seat height so your eyes are lined up 3 inches below the top of your screen. Adjust your chair height so you can use the keyboard and mouse with your wrist and lower arm straight and level with the floor.
  • Adjust monitor height level. The ideal laptop height and angle let you view the screen easily without bending or rotating your neck. Your eyes should naturally hit the top third of your screen when you look straight ahead.
  1. Find a doctor

Finally, if you are starting to develop some neck or back pain, don’t let the problem get worse before you get help! With the proper treatment and a bit of discipline when it comes to correcting your posture, you can live a pain-free life. Contact us for an appointment today.

Dr Tony Setiobudi is an Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard), Singapore.

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