How to protect your back when working from home

Most of the office-based population have been working from home far more than usual over the past two years. It seems likely that most companies will be encouraging some sort of hybrid working with working from home (WFH) at least part of the time will become the new normal.

However, the increase in homeworking has also meant a spike in the number of people suffering from back pain. According to Arthritis Research UK, one in six people suffer from some form of back pain. A study by Professor Frances Williams at Kings College London found out that the pandemic has affected our back health significantly. The study finds:“… back pain cases have begun to escalate, perhaps because many are working from home in sub-optimal conditions and lack the exercise of travelling to and around the workplace”.

Amanda Oswald is a myofascial specialist (myofascial pain is a chronic muscle pain condition) and owner of a clinic specialising in myofascial release and therapy for chronic pain. Amanda is also the author of Living Pain-Free: healing chronic pain with myofascial release and Trigger Points. She’s keen to help people understand how chronic pain can be prevented by some additional checks on their home-working setup.

Amanda says: “Most people who started working remotely due to the pandemic did so without a proper workstation set-up at home and had to make do with what they had. I heard of someone who did all their work on their smartphone for the first three weeks, and many people who worked using their kitchen table, lap, or ironing board as a desk. Even now many people are still working from home without a correct workstation set-up. Working like this can create pain issues such as back pain and RSI. “

Poor posture is often caused by an incorrect set-up and unsuitable equipment. Not everyone has an office chair and desk at home, but if working at home looks like something you’ll be doing for a while, we advise you to upgrade your workstation, your back will thank you.

Amanda says: “Working at a makeshift set-up means your posture will start to collapse in as your back cannot self-support for prolonged periods. Using a kitchen chair, for example, or a dining table that is at the wrong height forces you to twist to accommodate and lean in to see your screen. Positions like these put extra strain on your back in particular as it tries to do this while also keeping you upright.”

Five ways to improve your back support 

Jo Blood the Posture People’s expert workstation assessor says: “Don’t underestimate how much damage sitting on a kitchen chair one or two days a week can do overtime. The majority of people that we are now seeing, need to get a proper office chair or another solution to replace their current set-up, as they’ve recognised you need the right kit to support you properly through the day.”

1.Check your current workstation

There are a few basic checks you can do to improve your workspace set-up:

–           Seat height: Your feet should be able to comfortably rest flat on the floor if your chair is at the right height.

–           Desk height: Relax your shoulders and bend your arms at the elbow to make a right angle, your elbow, your forearms should be in line with your desk.

–           Monitor height: The top of your monitor should be level with your eyes.

–           Desktop ergonomics/work zones: This just covers where your computer accessories should be placed on your desk. For example, your keyboard should sit close enough to you so are not having to extend your arms to type, but it shouldn’t be so close that you’re tensing your shoulders and hunching.

Jo covers these topics in our YouTube videos below.

 2.Think about upgrading your chair

If you’re able to, consider getting an ergonomic chair, it will support the body and protect the body against back pain.

Essentials to look out for:

  • Seat width and depth adjustment
  • Sat height adjustment
  • Fully adjustable armrests
  • Height adjustable back rest with good support

Koplus Tonique Office Chair

The Koplus Tonique office chair has a mesh back and adjustable lumbar support. You have the option of using the chair locked or unlocked. Locked means the chair stays in place when you lean back on your chair, unlocked means the chair back will move with you when leaning back.

Senator Ousby chair

The Senator Ousby chair is a comfy and affordable option. It has a self-supporting mesh back and adjustable lumbar support. You also have the option of adding adjustable armrests to give extra support for your arms and shoulders.

3. Try a backrest

If you’re not able to get an ergonomic chair or you feel like your back could use some extra support, a backrest comes in handy. A backrest provides support for your back when using chairs with flatbacks. Our backs aren’t flat, so it doesn’t make sense to sit on a chair with a completely straight back.

4.   Consider your desk

  • Standard desks (or fixed height desks) – great for a person of average height but might not be suitable for those who spend long hours seated.
  • Standing/adjustable – ideal for someone who is taller or shorter than average height and spends a lot of time sitting.

Jo says, “If you find that you are getting very stiff at the end of the day, then using a standing or adjustable desk such as the Eiger Pro can help to counteract the effects of sitting all day.”

5.   Boost your posture

If you’ve ever watched Strictly Come Dancing, you’ll have seen the celebrities using various posture correcting devices to improve their rounded shoulders. Posture People might just have an easier solution. Our Posture Corrector Kit includes a resistance band for exercising your back muscles, a peanut ball for relieving tension and a shoulder brace to hold you into an upright position. All of which could help alleviate back pain.  If you’d like to find out more about the posture kit and what it does, read through this blog post: Why you should use a posture corrector kit.

Amanda Oswald has a video on the Pain Care Clinic YouTube channel called Myofascial exercises for chronic pelvic pain. The video is aimed at people struggling with chronic pelvic pain but the exercises will help with lower back pain too.

If you need any advice on picking out any of our products, please give us a call on 0330 332 0880 or leave us an email at [email protected]

Do you need some advice about your workplace?

Get in touch and one of our team would be happy to help answer your questions.

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