By Dr. Tom Padilla
One year after thousands of people moved to at-home workstations, back pain is on the rise. Already worth $100 billion a year, the back pain industry continues to grow. One cause may be your at-home office setup. If you’re struggling with back pain while working from home, start by investigating your office set-up. Here are five quick tips for your at-home office to avoid back pain.
- Place Your Feet On The Floor
If you find this difficult, you’re not alone. Try observing yourself during a normal work day, you might be surprised to find the habits you’ve developed. Habits range from crossing your legs, sitting on one of them, shoving them way under your chair, and crossing your ankles. This creates tension in your hips, pelvis, and lower back. Eventually it makes your muscles stiff, achy, and compresses the joints.
- Keep Your Knees Below Your Hips
Keeping your knees below your hips allows your pelvis to tilt forward. This allows your lower back to have it’s normal forward curve, rather than rounding backwards into the chair. “Lumbar supports” claim they’ll fix this, but if your knees are level with or higher than your pelvis, these supports will be unable to help your back stay aligned.
- Avoid Excessive Reaching
If you’re seated at your desk your elbows should be relaxed at the sides of your ribs. When you reach forward too far, this creates extra work for your back muscles. Think of it this way: if you had a 10 pound bowling ball, would it be harder to hug it close to you, or hold it straight out in front of you with your elbows straight? Even though your arms don’t feel like much weight to you, holding them out in front of you without good support will fatigue the muscles of the back and shoulders eventually leading to fatigue, and that feeling of stress and tension you feel in your upper back.
- Get a Supportive Chair
One of the biggest reasons back pain is spiking is because people work at deflated kitchen table chairs, or couches for too long. Try investing in a chair with good padding. The discs in your back are made of mostly water when you’re younger, having a seat with good support will help you preserve those discs.
- Move Often
Despite your best efforts, you may still find yourself getting back pain when you sit in one place too long. This is because the muscles and joints need movement to get blood flow and exchange fluid. When they don’t get frequent movement they get dehydrated and sticky. Moving around often, even if it’s just a quick wiggle break, is one of the best ways to “grease the joints.”
Dr. Tom Padilla is founder and CEO of The Doctors of Physical Therapy. His practice helps active adults age 30+ return to active lifestyles without painkillers or surgery. For more information and free report downloads on back pain, visit thedoctorsofpt.com/back-pain.