While there are some undeniable perks to working from home, like being able to make a fresh cup of tea in your own kitchen between meetings and not having to change out of your comfiest sweats (at least from the waist down), anyone who has been hunkered down at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has likely also noticed some not-so-great side effects to telecommuting — namely, its affect on our bodies. If you have been wondering why your back or neck actually hurts more after a day of working from home than it used to after a long day at the office, you are probably not imagining things. According to Ryan Coleman, a Strength and Conditioning Specialist at the Orlando Health National Training Center, there are a few reasons for this.
When you work in an office, it’s likely you are spending your day at a desk dedicated solely to work in a chair designed to fit comfortably with the height and style of the desk. Meanwhile, many of those who are working at home do not have the space for a truly dedicated work area with the proper ergonomic desk setup, so many might find themselves slouched on the couch or hunched over the kitchen counter or a dining room table. While this may not sound like much of a big deal, doing this day-in and day-out can actually have multiple undesirable, pain-causing effects on your body.
Here's how poor posture can hurt you
Ryan Coleman of the Orlando Health National Training Center says there are three major effects poor work posture can have on a person. If you are sitting with what he calls a “forward head position,” which is when the head is being pushed forward farther than normal — normal is when your ears are aligned with your shoulders — this might cause neck pain and stiffness. “For every in of forward head position, you effectively add ten pounds to the weight of your head,” he tells The List. Yikes! No wonder your neck is sore.
Poor posture can also effect your upper back by causing “abducted shoulders,” which is when your shoulders round forward in combination with a forward head position. This combination can cause kyphosis, an excessive outward curvature of the spine. This results in the hunching of the upper back, which can lead to shoulder and back pain. Poor posture can also affect your lower back by causing lordosis, which Coleman explains is “an exaggerated curvature of the lower back, which can lead to increased anterior pelvic tilt and weak core musculature.” In other words, lower back pain due to poor core support and poor posture.
So what can we involuntary homebodies do to help alleviate these problematic work-from-home ailments?
Actions to take to alleviate the effects of bad work posture
While creating the perfect ergonomic workspace and mindfully sitting with perfect posture are, of course, the ideal solutions for body aches, here in the real world, the Orlando Health National Training Center’ Ryan Coleman suggests three “postural reset” exercises that might help prevent bodily pain. First Coleman recommends the Posterior Translation, which requires the individual to “look straight ahead with your eyes fixed on a spot, pull the chin and head straight back without losing sight of the spot. Like you are trying to tuck your chin into your neck.”
The second stretch is called the Scapula Retraction. Coleman instructs: “With your hands against a wall and your arms extended straight, squeeze your scapula together drawing yourself closer to the wall, bringing your shoulder blades closer together. Reverse this position and push away from the wall without bending your elbows to complete the movement.”
Last, but not least, Coleman recommends an exercise called Bird Dog. Start in a quadruped position (on all fours), and then focus on pulling the belly button into the spine to stabilize the core. Next, Coleman says to “extend your right arm and your left leg until straight and return to the start position. Repeat the movement using the left arm and right leg. Focus on creating a straight line between the fingertip of the hand that is outstretched and the toe of the opposite foot.”
He also suggests taking breaks every 10-15 minutes to get up from your desk (or couch or counter) to move around.
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