Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints in working adults.

Up to 80% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. While many companies have addressed this through improving the workstations of their employees, the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in many individuals switching to working from home virtually overnight.

Unfortunately our home workstations are not always ergonomically designed and many people found themselves dealing with pain they had never had before. If this sounds familiar to you, there are 5 easy tips below to prevent pain and keep your back feeling good.

Young woman in an office suffering from back pain

1. Good posture starts with your desk and chair.

A desk should be positioned at a height where the elbows can rest at 90 degrees when typing and the monitor raised so that the eyes are looking at the upper ⅓ of the screen. A chair should be adjusted so that the knees rest at 90 degrees and the feet rest on the floor. Use a stool if your chair is too high.

2. Support your back!

An ergonomic chair will have adjustable lumbar support however if you do not have access to this type of chair at home there are a number of ways you can add lumbar support. There are specially designed lumbar cushions and pillows that can be purchased to provide support. Additionally, you can roll a towel or blanket to make a lumbar roll. This should sit at the level of your lower back above the sacrum. When using a lumbar pillow, sit back as far as possible in the chair. Remember, your feet still need to touch the floor.

3. Laptops are not always the most ergonomically friendly.

When you use a laptop your neck and back end up slumped forward. If you are using a laptop for prolonged periods of time, prop the laptop up on books so that you are able to look directly at the screen without slouching and use a separate keyboard and mouse.

4. Taking breaks is especially important.

Our backs are not meant to sit for 8 hours a day. A good rule is to stand up every 20-30 minutes. Find ways to incorporate standing into your workday. For example, if you are on a call, stand up and walk around while talking. Additionally, sit to stand desks are a great way to reduce the amount of sitting you do in a day. There are many relatively inexpensive options that can rest on a normal table or desk.

5. Lastly, take time to stretch throughout the day.

Even with taking breaks there is a significant amount of strain that occurs in our body with prolonged sitting. Take breaks to stretch your hamstrings, hips, and back throughout the day. An especially helpful stretch is a seated hamstring stretch.

To perform a hamstring stretch, start by sitting at the edge of your chair. Keep one knee bent and straighten the opposite leg so that your heel stays on the ground. Keeping your back straight, bend forward through your hips until you feel stretching in the back of your leg. You should not feel any strain in your lower back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

 In Summary

While working from home has its challenges, these are some easy-to-apply tips that you can use to prevent low back pain from occurring. If you are struggling with low back pain after working from home this past year physical therapy can both treat and prevent future low back pain. At Life’s Work Physical Therapy we are experts in the prevention and treatment of low back pain and dysfunction. If you have any questions we are always happy to answer them. No one should have to live with back pain.

  1. Good posture starts with your desk and chair. A desk should be positioned at a height where the elbows can rest at 90 degrees when typing and the monitor raised so that the eyes are looking at the upper ⅓ of the screen. A chair should be adjusted so that the knees rest at 90 degrees and the feet rest on the floor. Use a stool if your chair is too high.
  2. Support your back! An ergonomic chair will have adjustable lumbar support however if you do not have access to this type of chair at home there are a number of ways you can add lumbar support. There are specially designed lumbar cushions and pillows that can be purchased to provide support. Additionally, you can roll a towel or blanket to make a lumbar roll. This should sit at the level of your lower back above the sacrum. When using a lumbar pillow, sit back as far as possible in the chair. Remember, your feet still need to touch the floor.
  3. Laptops are not always the most ergonomically friendly. When you use a laptop your neck and back end up slumped forward. If you are using a laptop for prolonged periods of time, prop the laptop up on books so that you are able to look directly at the screen without slouching and use a separate keyboard and mouse.
  4. Taking breaks is especially important. Our backs are not meant to sit for 8 hours a day. A good rule is to stand up every 20-30 minutes. Find ways to incorporate standing into your workday. For example, if you are on a call, stand up and walk around while talking. Additionally, sit to stand desks are a great way to reduce the amount of sitting you do in a day. There are many relatively inexpensive options that can rest on a normal table or desk.
  5. Lastly, take time to stretch throughout the day. Even with taking breaks there is a significant amount of strain that occurs in our body with prolonged sitting. Take breaks to stretch your hamstrings, hips, and back throughout the day. An especially helpful stretch is a seated hamstring stretch.To perform a hamstring stretch, start by sitting at the edge of your chair. Keep one knee bent and straighten the opposite leg so that your heel stays on the ground. Keeping your back straight, bend forward through your hips until you feel stretching in the back of your leg. You should not feel any strain in your lower back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

 

While working from home has its challenges, these are some easy-to-apply tips that you can use to prevent low back pain from occurring. If you are struggling with low back pain after working from home this past year physical therapy can both treat and prevent future low back pain. At Life’s Work Physical Therapy we are experts in the prevention and treatment of low back pain and dysfunction. If you have any questions we are always happy to answer them. No one should have to live with back pain.