It's now almost been a year since the concept of working from home everyday became a reality for most, and our family homes and flat shares became our official workplace.
Bar cautious office re-openings in the summer, most of us have stuck with this concept as we've tried to stay safe at home and perfected our remote working – and while we're now used to the concept, something we could do without is the back pain, dead legs and general stiffness that accompanies sitting in front of a laptop all day.
Whether you spend your days with a lap tray on the sofa, sat at the kitchen table or in a dedicated home office space (lucky you), you're bound to have suffered some sort of pain, as a result of your current WFH situation. From back, shoulder and neck pain - caused by hunching over a laptop all day without proper seat adjustments or screen breaks - to screen-induced headaches, it's a problem that won't go away without making some changes.
'The majority of us still won’t have a proper at-home desk set up which can lead to lots of unwanted back pain', says Jonny Sumner, specialist physiotherapist at LDN PHYSIO. 'However, home working also means we now have the time and space to manage these aches and pains, that we wouldn't necessarily have at the office.'
From a daily checklist of ways to change up your work station, to simple, easy-to-follow stretches and exercises, Sumner provides his top tips for staying flexible, strong and healthy, and preventing minor working-from-home ailments from turning into long-term problems.
How to prevent work-related pain at home:
Create a variety of work stations and postures
There is no such thing as "bad posture", there is only bad prolonged posture. Think about it – our bodies can slouch, sit upright, stand and lie down perfectly well. But doing any for too long can give you serious problems. Plan out a few different work-stations or stand up to work.
Strict, regular breaks
I recommend using Boxing Interval Timer which is a free app on all smartphones. You can set how long you want to have a ‘round’ of working, and then how long until you are allow yourself to break.
Try out 20 minutes of work to two minute breaks to prevent aches and pains creeping up on you.
Organise a lunch time workout
Eight hours a day sat in front of any screen is unhealthy, and you’re probably sitting for lunch too!
Your muscles don’t get the blood supply they need – and you can build-up of all sorts of things that can eventually lead to serious, long-term pain.
Keep your cardiovascular health in check
According to national guidelines, you should be aiming for 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate intensity exercise every week. That’s 30 minutes, five days a week.
Our bodies have been more sedentary this year than they've ever been, so now's the time to up your game and aim to try and complete this every day. Our bodies also like variation, so don't just stick to one program. Try these isolation-specific video workouts with LDN PHYSIO personal trainer Marshall:
Banish back pain with these simple exercises
Hunching over a laptop is going to do your posture, back and shoulders no favours. So, try the simple workouts below to ease aches and pains, and strengthen muscles to help prevent them in the first place.
These key stretches and exercises are much easier-to-follow than a lot of complex online workout videos, providing the basic moves you need to keep your body in the best shape possible, given the current circumstances.
5 easy stretches & exercises to do if you work from home
1. Chin tucks
Try this seated or on your hands and knees. Set your spine straight and slowly pull your chin back onto your neck. In simple terms – give yourself a double chin!
Chin on neck, not on chest
Progress by pushing the ground away and exercising your shoulder blades
Advance by rotating your head left to right whilst holding the chin tuck
Hold it for 1-2 seconds, repeat 20 times.
2. Cat-Cow stretch
Those of you who have tried yoga or pilates will know this one well. On your hands and knees, push your bum in the air, chest forwards and look up. Hold. Then tuck your bum in, chest in towards you and look downwards.
Hold for a few seconds in each position, repeat 20 times.
3. Back stretches for flexibility
On your hands and knees adopt the chin tuck and place one hand behind your head and the other forearm flat on the floor. Twist, pointing your elbow up to the ceiling, hold, and then lower and point your elbow to your other arm.
- Stay relaxed and don’t over strain
- Twist with your back and not your neck
- Level two is to step into a deep lunge and perform the movement with an outstretched arm
Repeat 10 times on each side, have a short break, 1-2 more times each side.
4. Full spine stretch
Again on your knees, but this time with your elbows on the edge of a chair in front of you. Slowly sit down on your heels and drop your head between your elbows.
- Deep breathing will help your flexibility with this exercise
- Hold onto a broom with both hands to keep your hands apart for a better stretch
Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat up to 6 times.
5. Lower back side stretch
Adopt a kneeling-lunge position and put your hands behind your head. Slowly reach with the other arm sideways and stretch your side.
- Small pulsating movements can be helpful
- Try to glide and move with your hips as you reach sideways
- Level 2: Kneeling with one foot out the side and stretching sideways with your other hand supporting your balance on the floor
Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat up to 4 times on each side.
6. Wall angels
Place your back on the wall with knees slightly bent. Start with your arms flat on the wall out to the side. Then slowly reach up towards the ceiling.
- Keep most of your spine in contact with the wall
- ‘Double chin’ position
- Make you’re your arms don’t lose contact as you reach up
- Level 2: Perform in a squat position with your back against the wall
Repeat 10 times, have a short break, then go again a couple of times.
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