With the recent COVID pandemic, working from home can create a host of challenges and barriers including a direct impact to one’s spine and joint health. Overall spine health is critical to maintaining one’s ability to function at a high level both in a work environment as well as caring for loved ones both young and old at home.
A recent Stanford study found that approximately 40-45% of the United States labor force is now working from home full-time, nearly triple the prior pre-pandemic estimated 15% of individuals working from home.
Why is this important to spine health?
Spine related pain as well as joint pain will likely see a direct rise with the number of hours spent working from home given the limitation in daily physical activity, compromise in posture, and added stress and distractions that may come from this unprecedented and rapid change into a make-shift home/virtual “office” with poor ergonomics.
Spine and joint pain can majorly impact your life
In the U.S., back pain is a leading cause of missed days at work as well as school. An estimated 20% of people with acute low-back pain will have persistent symptoms within a year if left untreated.
What can YOU do?
- Movement and position changes are key: Research has shown that movement and even standing at work is great for your health. Not only will you burn a few extra calories but also experience 50% less lower-back pain. Less movement can lead to weight gain and muscle loss which can worsen existing muscle and joint pain. Also, poor posture ergonomics, such as leaning, slouching, or using a workstation that is too high or too low, can lead to muscle and joint pain. Yoga is a wonderful form of movement with many virtual and online options offered through YouTube.
- Importance of ergonomic home office decor: While it may be your favorite at home comfy go-to chair it could actually be contributing to your spine pain. Try to find a chair that delivers both support, good posture/positioning, and comfort to your lower back and hips. You may want to consider using a foot stool so that your knees are at hip level or slightly above to take pressure off the lower back. Also, avoid crossing your legs or ankles, since this may contribute to lower back pain.
- Outdoor breaks and lighting: When able take a 10-15 minute break and get outside! Vitamin D has been suggested to help with mood, quality of life, and improve one’s long term health outcomes. In addition, find a spot within your home that has good lighting whether natural or artificial to avoid eye and neck/back strain. Good lighting can limit the dangers from tripping and falling over electronic cords and repositioned furniture in a poorly lit space of a home office.
- Meditation and thought journaling: Meditation and thought journaling can help relax muscles of the spine and joints, which in turn can improve overall spine/joint pain and health. It can also decrease the perception of pain by allowing you to concentrate on something other than the pain. Listed are some useful websites and apps for meditation as well as a how-to guide for creating a thought journal.
We are here to help with your spine and joint health. A telemedicine visit through secure video chat with one our pain spine specialists can offer simple solutions to help reduce or prevent neck, back, joint pain. Please call 336-716-PAIN (7246) to set up a virtual visit.