Is Your Work From Home Routine Hurting Your Back?

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: May 26, 2020

Are you one of the millions of Americans working from home during this pandemic? There are certainly some appealing aspects, whether it’s the choice of wardrobe (sweatshirt instead of business casual) or location (sofa instead of office chair). However, this increased flexibility can also lead to some unintended consequences, such as back pain due to poor posture. Here are five tips to help you prevent back pain while working from home.
  1. Make sure you have adequate lower back support when sitting.
    Some ergonomic chairs curve to support proper posture while sitting. If your chair offers this, make sure it is correctly set up to account for your body proportions. If you are using a standard chair or sofa, you can roll up a sweater or towel into a log and place it horizontally in the small of your lower back. A back pillow can also help. Either option will provide support, enabling you to sit up straighter without slouching.
  2. Ensure your desk is correctly set up.
    The computer screen should be an arm’s length away from you, with the top of the screen being at eye level. This encourages your eyes to look straight ahead or slightly downward (about 10 degrees), promoting a relaxed neck position. Your legs should be uncrossed with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent around a 90 degree angle. If you are working from your sofa or a bed (we won’t judge), try to place your laptop on a support or platform so your hands naturally rest on the keyboard with your shoulders relaxed and elbows bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
  3. Get up and move at least once an hour.
    Regardless of proper posture, getting up and moving regularly helps your body stay loose and release tension. What about standing desks? While helpful for some, standing while working is not necessarily a better option than sitting at a desk. If you do decide to stand while working, check out tips from the National Institutes of Health on proper posture to ensure your weight is evenly distributed. Whether standing or sitting, it is important to get up and move at least once an hour, but ideally every 20-30 minutes. Whether you take a quick walk, stretch for several minutes, or do a load of laundry, just make sure you’re moving.
  4. Get enough exercise during the week.
    Whether outside or at-home these days, exercise is important to stay healthy, strengthen muscles, and relieve stress. Some of you may have dedicated workout sessions throughout the week. For others, an easy reminder is to incorporate exercise into your work breaks, perhaps knocking out a set of push-ups or even a resistance training circuit. For an effective routine with no equipment needed, try out this ten minute at-home workout.
  5. See a licensed health professional for any abnormal or lingering aches and pain.
    While the tips above help in most cases, your body and circumstances are unique. Listen to your body and seek expert guidance when needed. This is especially true if you have a history of back pain. A health professional can provide individualized recommendations to ensure your back stays pain-free for years to come.

Our country is adjusting to a different way of life and a different way of working. While this provides increased flexibility, it is more important than ever to be mindful of posture and exercise. Treat your body well and it will treat you well- during this work from home period and beyond.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.