Over the course of this pandemic, we have seen an increased number of patients who have complaints of neck, upper back, or lower back pain and wonder how to help themselves throughout their home workday. Here, we want to address some common issues relating to posture and provide some tips to help you relieve pain and stiffness throughout the day.
What is the “Ideal” Sitting Posture?
You may find various articles or diagrams showing the “perfect posture” ergonomic setup for your work from home space. When sitting at your desk, there are some important aspects to note.
- Computer monitor adjusted slightly below eye level
- Support at upper and lower back following natural curves of the spine
- Elbows bend 90–100 degrees with arm support, and minimal bend at wrist
- Seat tilted between 90–120 degrees at the level of the hip
- Feet firmly supported on the floor
While this can be helpful information, movement is also an important factor in mitigating pain/stiffness that you may feel throughout your workday, so keep reading further.
Is my poor posture causing my pain?
- Consensus in recent research says no. In many studies looking at cervical, thoracic, and lumbar posture, there is a poor correlation between static sitting posture and whether or not individuals have pain
- Those who do develop pain often have reduced range of motion, strength, and proprioception compared to those who do not. Working on these deficits is found to be beneficial
- Prolonged periods of any sustained posture are likely to create some discomfort related to joint stiffness and muscular tightness or weakness that can develop over time
Tips When Working from Home
1. MOVE! And set reminders to move
- Set alarms/reminders on your phone every 30–45 minutes to either get up or perform simple stretches/exercises in order to stay moving frequently throughout the day
- Drink plenty of water! Staying hydrated not only has a plethora of health benefits, but also makes sure you need to get up frequently during the day to use the bathroom
- Every 2 hours, try to stand, walk around for a little longer(5–10 minutes) and perform some basic stretches
- There are a variety of free mobile apps to use as reminders to stand and stretch periodically throughout the day
2. Sit in a comfortable chair (or maximize the comfort of the chair you have)
- Make sure you are sitting in a chair that is comfortable for you. (Refer above to seated desk recommendations)
- Consider an off the shelf Lumbar Support to allow you to sit relaxed throughout the day as you work.
- Consider a desk chair with the ability to recline, adjust height and lumbar support. Adjustable features are helpful in making sure you are able to comfortably alter postures
3. Consider a standing desk option
- There are multiple affordable options on the market now for adjustable standing desk attachments for people in the office or working from home
- This is a great way to add some variety to your postures and make sure you are not sitting for extended periods
4. Stay active outside of the workday
- Create a plan for yourself to stay active and mobile outside of the workday, especially in these winter months. This can include and are not limited to:
- Yoga/pilates/Tai Chi
- Strength/resistance training
- Try some of these targeted exercises (pdf)
How can Physical Therapy Help You?
As physical therapists, we are the experts on the musculoskeletal system. When a problem arises, we can help identify potential limitations in joint motion or muscle function and their relation to larger movement patterns. We can help identify the triggers of pain throughout your day and develop a plan to minimize these triggers, reduce your limitations, and get you moving comfortably again. This plan may consist of stretching, strengthening, hands-on manual therapy, recommendations for altering your work from home setup, or likely a combination of these. If you develop a problem that you feel requires further attention, here at Lexington Physical Therapy Associates we can work with you to create a specific plan to get you moving comfortably again. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or comments!
We are not stakeholders in any of the products listed above. The information in this article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be taken to be the provision or practice of Physical Therapy services. It is not intended to delay or substitute diagnosis or care from a Physical Therapist or other healthcare professional.
- T. Vos ADF, T. Pincus PK, C. Lariviere DG, et al. How consistent are lordosis, range of movement and lumbo-pelvic rhythm in people with and without back pain? BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. https://bmcmusculoskeletdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12891-016-1250-1. Published January 1, 1970. Accessed January 18, 2021.