By Dr Ravichandra Kelkar, Consultant – Orthopedics, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal
Work from home has lasted for almost a year now. Many companies have already decided to continue this concept either permanently or for a few more months. The biggest concern here is the working style which has been adopted by us. How many of us really think about our posture or the sitting position while working from home? Most of us are comfortable sitting on the sofa or on the couch, usually with the slouching back while working.
Spine related complaints on rise
Though many of us welcome the work from home option, there is a significant part of the workforce which is suffering from spine and neck related complaints and have been approaching doctors and physiotherapists for help. Also, with the schools and colleges yet to open in many parts of the country, online classes have become an integral part of the new normal. It is not only the professionals who are suffering from spine complaints, but the students too.
The routine for the workers and the students is such that they get up late, grab something for breakfast, pick up the laptop, tab or the smartphone and then sit wherever they feel comfortable. It can be over the bed, recliner, coffee table, balcony, steps, dining table etc. More or less, the same routine is being followed every day. Sooner or later, they are sure to develop discomfort in the back, neck and shoulder region.
What are the major causes of spine-related problems?
At home, many do not have ergonomically designed work-stations. Poor ergonomics is one of the major causes of back pain as it puts a lot of pressure on the spine and neck. When we use the laptops with a slouched back for long hours, the spinal ligaments are strained. The furniture at home are not designed to sit for long hours. To the already existing sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercises, a wrong posture can significantly increase the risk factor of spine-related pain.
Some might dismiss that this back pain as temporary and will ease out. But what they fail to realize is that the damage is slow but steady and has all possibilities to hinder our movement in the long run and can even permanently damage the spine.
What are the right postures and steps to reduce back pain?
There is no single perfect posture as even the most upright posture can also lead to stiffness in the back region and lead to back pain.
Do not lounge on your back and cross your legs while sitting.
Do not sit for prolonged hours in one position. Change your positions so that you are shifting your weight. Stand up, relax and stretch by taking frequent breaks. If possible, walk for a minute or two. This way you can reduce the muscle fatigue and ensure that the blood circulation is not restricted.
We cannot sit on firm chairs for long hours. You can use pillows to sit comfortably for long hours. Keep pillows behind the back and glutes region to sit better and give correct lumbar support.
Till the time you get an ergonomically designed furniture, you can follow some steps and adjust with whatever you have. Take help of your old books and raise the laptop just below your eye level. Use a small stool as a footrest and give relief to your aching feet.
Along with all these, exercise regularly to keep you healthy. Drink ample quantity of water and have a balanced diet. There are simple exercises for the back and neck one can do at the desk to prevent spine-related complaints.
It is suggested to visit the doctor when you sense any discomfort in the spinal region. It is safe to visit the hospitals as all necessary precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the patients.