The number of people working outside of the office has continued to climb for more than a decade, so much so that one in five Americans now work from home. If you’re a telecommuter, you may not be fully aware of how your spine could be affected by a more casual work environment. According to recent research, nearly half of all at-home workers use their laptops in comfortable spots like on the sofa and in bed, and more than a third of those surveyed reported having back pain. If you work at home all or part of the time, here’s what you can do to prevent spine-related problems.
If working from home means slouching in chairs or on the sofa or propping yourself up in bed with your laptop in front of you, the alignment of your spine could easily be thrown off enough to cause spine pain. For times when you’ll be doing several hours of work, do your back a favor and invest in an office chair. A spine-friendly chair is:
• Ergonomically designed to fit your spine’s natural shape • Sturdy enough to provide necessary support • Adjustable so you can keep your feet comfortably on the floor without having to excessively bend or extend your legs
If you have an office chair, set your laptop up in front of you on a desk that allows you to look straight while working. For times when you use your laptop to work while on your patio or at your dining room or kitchen table, be just as mindful of your head-shoulder alignment. Also, don’t forget to: • Sit fully back in your chair • Sit up straight as you work • Avoid leaning excessively to one side or the other
Consider using a stand to give your laptop some height so you’re not craning your neck. Another option is using a rolling laptop stand that can be adjusted to the optimal height and moved to wherever you happen to be working at home. Another possibility is a desk that allows you to switch from sitting to standing positions as you work. All that’s needed for set-up is a flat surface.
It’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in work at home if you don’t have scheduled breaks or a regular lunch hour, but your spine still needs to move to remain healthy and flexible. Make an effort to get up and stretch or walk around every few hours to ease pressure on your spine.
For times when you’re not working at home, get into the habit of exercising in a way that’s comfortable for you, which may include daily jogs or swims or some time spent working your core muscle groups in a home gym or at a local fitness center. Even making an effort to casually walk around your neighborhood for 20-30 minutes a day can be helpful. With your diet, resist the urge to consistently grab sugary snacks during breaks. Doing so could increase inflammation around your spine. In moderation, coffee may block inflammation, but you’ll be better off if your snack breaks include:
• Bright-colored fruits • Low-fat yogurt, almonds, and other light, healthy treats • Nutrient-rich energy bars • Apple slices, carrot sticks, and other bite-sized veggies
Simply working from home doesn’t automatically mean you’ll experience spine pain. The tendency to be less mindful of posture while at home could be a source of stress on your backbone and the parts that support it. If you do experience aches and pains, home remedies like getting some rest, applying heat and ice, and using over-the-counter medication may help. If your discomfort sticks around or gets worse, see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon.
If you tend to overwork and are experiencing consistent pain in your spine, get it checked at The Spine Institute. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of experienced professionals can help you identify the root cause of the pain and determine if you require a procedure such as spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles residents who want to ease their pain can call 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.