The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a shift to the work environment. For more than a year now many people have been working remotely due to quarantine regulations. Majority of people have adapted to these changes and prefer working from home. People have reported feeling more productive working from the comfort of their own homes. Working remotely has saved many people from the coronavirus infection ensuring their safety. In addition, it has been beneficial in several ways like saving commute time.
Along with all the pros of remote work there are also cons. Work from home has also led to an increase in common musculoskeletal back and neck pain. A study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, surveyed 51 mobile workers to gather insights on the impact remote work had on them. The results showed that 41.2% of remote workers reported lower back pain and 23.5% reported neck pain. Moreover, 50% of them said that their neck pain had gotten worse since they started working from home.
If you are working from home, you can take certain measures that can help protect your physical wellbeing. In this article we will discuss the various health issues caused by remote work and how you can deal with them. This will help you be proactive and prevent any type of pain or discomfort in the future.
Here are some common physical ailments that can occur due to long hours of working.
Work From Home Risks
Musculoskeletal pain is the pain that occurs in the muscles, bones, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. This pain can be felt in the lower back, neck, joints, and shoulders. This is the most common ailment experienced by remote workers. The main cause for musculoskeletal pain in remote workers is prolonged work hours combined with bad posture. When working from home most people use the couch, dining table or bed when working. They do not pay attention to their posture or the set-up of their laptops. Sitting in awkward positions for long periods of time often leads to lower back pain. Not positioning the laptop in an appropriate position can impact the neck or shoulders.
As seen in the statistics above most people complained about back and neck pain. Many people also sit without any back support which can worsen back or neck pain. Due to poor posture and improper ergonomic alignment, musculoskeletal pain is very common for remote workers.
Sciatica refers to the pain that occurs along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back through the hips and down each leg. Sciatica usually affects only one side of the body. This pain occurs when the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed. There are many reasons for sciatic pain but the main one for remote workers is sitting for long periods. Sciatica occurs due to long hours of sitting in awkward positions. Sitting can cause increased pressure on the sciatic nerve causing irritation. Severe sciatica pain may require surgery; hence, it is important to take precautions to avoid this.
The best way to avoid this pain is to not sit in one place for a long time. Moving around can help prevent this type of pain. Ensure that you maintain a proper posture which can help in dealing with this type of pain. However, if the pain intensifies it is best to seek medical attention.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome refers to the pain, numbing or tingling felt in hands or wrists that can travel to the shoulder. It is caused by repetitive activities like typing. This is another issue that can develop when people work on computers for long hours. It is advised to take breaks while working and stretching hands and wrists to reduce this pain.
Long hours of working on a laptop or monitors can have a strain on the eyes. People can end up with blurry vision and watery eyes. In addition, blue light emitted from phones or laptop screens can be harmful for the eyes in the long run. Using devices for hours every day can be harmful for your eyes and can disrupt your vision. When working at home people usually don’t pay attention to keeping their laptop screens at an appropriate distance from the eyes.
Sitting on sofas or beds can lead to people keeping their laptop screens too close to the eyes. It is important to take care of how you position your laptop while working as it can take a toll on your eyes.
Healthy Practices for Working from Home
Take breaks and move more
As discussed above the root cause of most of the lower back or neck pain is prolonged hours of sitting. Sitting for long periods of time is harmful for your overall health. It can lead to lower back pain making it worse every day. The best way to deal with this is to take short breaks throughout the day. You can move around the house for some time to help prevent recurring back pains.
Moving around can also decrease stiffness and increase blood flow. Taking short walks is a good way to prevent any back or neck pain.
Avoid bad posture
Sitting in a bad posture for a long period of time causes lower back and neck pain. There is no right posture for longer periods, however you can take certain measures to ensure that you are not straining your back and neck. Avoid lying down with your head propped up on pillows as it can strain your neck. Ensure that you have a back support when you are working on your laptops or monitors. Also, avoid slouching and try to keep your spine in a natural position. This can reduce chances of lower back pain.
It is a good practice to stand up from your chair and do some stretches. You can do simple stretches like raising your arms and holding for ten seconds. Then slowly reach higher and farther back and hold for another ten seconds. Then take a deep breath and take an upright standing posture and then drop your arms. These stretches should not be done in a haste but in a relaxing manner. These stretches help in de-stressing your spinal discs. Do it throughout the day to avoid sitting in the same position for long.
Keep your computer screen at an appropriate height
Keep your screen in front of you at a comfortable viewing height. Avoid looking down at your screen as this can strain your neck. Don’t angle your screen in a manner where you need to twist your neck. Many people like to keep their keyboard or mouse in front of them while their monitor is on the side. If you use a laptop, you can keep something like a box or some books underneath it to raise its height to an appropriate level. Keep screens at a height where your neck is straight, and you feel comfortable with that viewing position.
Protect your eyes
Constantly staring at a screen for hours can irritate your eyes. Take short breaks to rest your eyes. Keep your eyes closed for ten minutes to give them some rest. Reduce the brightness of your computer screens at a comfortable level to avoid straining your eyes. If you are working near a window keep your screen sideways to a bright window. If you work with your back to a window, the light coming in will cause a glare on your screen that will strain your eyes. Also, avoid facing a window while working as you will be staring directly into the light.
Avoid standing for too long
Just like sitting, standing for a long time can also be harmful for you. Some people use standing desks as they believe it is a better option to remain sedentary. Standing requires a lot more energy than sitting. In addition, it puts a great strain on the circulatory system and on your legs and feet. Prolonged standing can increase the chances of varicose veins (twisted, enlarged veins). The best practice is to stand up every 20 to 20 minutes, stretch and move around to increase circulation and destress your muscles.
Switch between keyboard and mouse
Keep alternating between typing and using a mouse. You can use tools like voice recognition for emails. This gives your hand and wrists some rest and helps you avoid the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
If you are working from home, chances are you have felt one of these ailments mentioned above. To avoid severe work-related injuries in the future, take these small and simple steps to maintain your health. These little steps can make a huge difference and help you prevent discomfort and long-term conditions in the future. However, if you are experiencing severe and prolonged pain it is best to see a medical professional immediately.
If you are experiencing sciatica or musculoskeletal pain, physical therapy in the early stage can help prevent any future episodes. At SquareOne Physio, we have a team of experienced physiotherapists who specialize in back and neck pain. If you need help you can book your appointment here.