At the height of lockdown in the UK it is estimated that 60% of the UK’s adult population were working from home, with 26% of British people planning to work from home permanently or more frequently after lockdown. While working from home of course has numerous benefits- less time commuting, saving money, and being able to spend more time with family- one of the main complaints that people have is the onset of neck, back and shoulder pain since being out of the office.
Why do my neck, back and shoulders hurt more?
Many offices are furnished with ergonomic furniture (things that encourage good posture). These include chairs with lumbar support, computer monitors which can be height-adjusted and desks which are deep enough so that there is space for your wrists to rest whilst typing.
When lockdown was first introduced and employees were encouraged to work from home, few people had the equipment to set up a work space with good ergonomics or wanted the additional expense of purchasing ergonomically designed furniture. Offices are equipped with such items to benefit the health of employees- long hours at poorly fitting workstations can lead to a handful of musculoskeletal conditions, most commonly neck, shoulder and back pain.
What can be done to help?
Being aware of how you are sitting whilst working can make a big difference to how your body feels, and can be hugely influenced by how your desk is set up. Simple adjustments can be made at home to improve your workstation, and without spending a fortune.
Your computer screen should be eye-height so that your neck isn’t angled up or down
Using a couple of old books or a cardboard box as a stand to raise your screen to the correct height often works well. This will make a huge difference to your seated posture, and will help to prevent slouching and reduce the chances of neck pain
Adjust your chair properly
When you are sitting your hips should be slightly higher than your knees. Use cushions to lift you up if you are using a dining chair, or if your desk chair doesn’t lift high enough. Using a rolled up towel or cushion as a lumbar support if you are using a chair which doesn’t have one built-in works well, and will alleviate a lot of pressure from your lower back. Make sure that you use the back rest and don’t lean forwards as this will increase pressure on your lower back
Your keyboard and mouse should be at a comfortable height in front of you
When sitting your keyboard and mouse should be at about elbow height, this allows for your shoulders to be relaxed by your side. The nerves which travel to the hand originate in the neck and run through the shoulder, elbow and wrist. When your arms are relaxed at your side the nerves aren’t compressed, reducing the risk of injury.
Have your feet resting flat on the floor or on a foot support
Once you have adjusted your chair correctly, make sure your feet aren’t just hanging, but resting flat on the floor, if they aren’t use a foot support (or a box)
As discussed in our very first blog “What Can I Do To Help My Body During Lockdown” stretching helps to maintain muscular balance. Sitting for long periods of time causes the muscles in the front of your body to weaken and tighten because they are no longer being used as much. When muscles in the front of your body tighten disproportionately to those at the back, posture changes can lead to pressure being placed upon different structures, causing pain.
To read “What Can I Do To Help My Body During Lockdown” and learn which stretches can help to alleviate pain from working at home, check out the full blog post here
Sometimes a little extra help is needed to get your body in the best condition after a busy week working from home. Here at HLM Sports Therapy we often have people come to us complaining of neck and shoulder pain. This is usually caused by tight muscles and stiff joints which can be treated with mobilisations and deep tissue work, and of course we make sure to remind you about setting up your work space to look after your body too!