Most of you would be familiar with working remotely or at least know some one who has. Since the start of the COVID-19, companies have been working on their business continuity planning. This typically includes having half of the employees coming into work while the other half would work from home.
EY Australia has gone beyond that and asked its entire team to work from home.
Working from home – as appealing as it may be to some – is where the back pain and neck pain dilemma begins.
Neck pain from poor workstation setup
For the record, ergonomic intervention was found to be ineffective against lower back pain in the Lancet low back pain series. This is easily the biggest paper published by one of the oldest medical organisations in the world.
Yes, yes, yes. We have all heard about standing desk and ergonomic chairs. Yet research doesn’t seem to support its efficacy at addressing back pain.
Having a comfortable work area, however, makes a difference. Don’t believe me? Try working on a laptop for a long haul flight in the economy seats. It’s awful.
Postural strain does happen when you spend too much time in a position that your body is unfamiliar with. This is why people without back pain or neck pain do feel uncomfortable after long plane rides or watching a movie in the front row seats. However, this discomfort tends to resolve without additional attention.
A client who is doing very well with treatment started experiencing an increase in back pain symptoms over the last two weeks. Guess what changed?
He started working from home and he was working in bed!
If you are starting to experience back pain symptoms or a neck strain sensation, it might be a good time to consider your work setup at home. At the very least, you should be working on a table/chair configuration.
I highly discourage working out of bed, sofas, and the likes.
p.s. postural strain is NOT the same as poor posture being a cause for neck problems. Read more about what I have to say regarding text neck syndrome.
Back pain from increased time of inactivity; not necessarily sitting too much
Even clients with a nice table and chair setup going, they were also experiencing a increased in stiff neck or lower back strain episodes.
They started moving less.
It might not seem like much but a typical Singaporean will spend perhaps 30 minutes or even over an hour commuting to and from work. Furthermore, with out eat-out culture most workers in Singapore will take at least a short walk during their lunch break.
Clients working from home have also attributed less walking through the workday.
There are no meetings to attend and there are no colleagues at the other end of the office to check in with. Toilet breaks and pantry are a lot of a shorter walk at home than it would have been in office.
The solution to this is simple though: get moving.
An article published in TODAY earlier this month recommended doing planks and a walkout to help with lower back and neck pain. I wholeheartedly agree with this.
Foam rolling and stretching? Not so much. Nuzzo in Sports Medicine made an argument to retire flexibility as as core component of physical fitness.
His reason? There’s just simply not enough reason to suggest that it matters.
For a faster and more efficient workout, doing 10 air squats could just be enough to get some movement going through your lumbar spine.
For those with a higher fitness capacity, try doing 30 squat jumps and hold the very last one for 30 seconds. It should give you a nice, warm burn through your thighs. Repeat as needed.
Neck retractions and chin tucks are a quick way to increase movement in the cervical spine. Most neck pain clients find this exercise to be especially helping at relaxing the neck muscles and providing pain relief.
According to the Lancet low back pain series, exercises work better than pain medication.
p.s. they also highly recommend against bed rest.
Social distancing, stay home is a necessary evil
Yes, working from home may have caused inconvenience to some of our lives. However, we should be thankful that Singapore is for most parts still functional.
Malaysia went into lock-down a few days ago and may be deploying the army to increase compliance.
Australia will be closing their borders starting tonight. They are expecting to remain closed for the next six months!
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong continues to assure Singaporeans that the COVID-19 situation in Singapore is under control. Our borders remained open with some travel restrictions.
For the chronic back pain sufferers with Stay-Home Notice, it might be a challenging period for you. I understand home quarantine means you cannot go for your regular chiropractic adjustments or physical therapy. It’s an unfortunate situation but let’s make the best out of it.
Let’s get moving.
This too shall past.
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