One of the most significant changes to the landscape of our work environment has been the direct result of the COVID 19 pandemic. A study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science found that people are sitting an additional 7.8 hours per week – since the pandemic started. More people than ever in history are now working from home even after restrictions were lifted. Working at home involves many challenges, including protecting your spine while hunched over a laptop or scrunched on the couch. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your back and your productivity. Support spine health while you work with these tips from BoneSmart Pilates.
Take Steps to Reduce Stress
Stress can wreak havoc on your life, but it can also make chronic pain more challenging to manage Stanford Medicine points out that easing stress will reduce pain, so taking steps to de-stress is worth the effort. Eliminating work-related stress starts with creating a comforting and inviting home office space. De-stress your workspace by cleaning up clutter, storing scattered paper records, and adding natural lighting. Having a space that is clean and organized supports clear thinking and productivity.
Take Walks to Reduce Stress Further
Step away from your computer or to-do list at lunch or quitting time. Taking a walk is a great way to relax and clear your head. If you have a pet, it’s an even better reason to keep you and your buddy healthy and your bonds strong. Consult a Walk Score map of your community or the area near your office to find the best walking spots.
Though your work setting is one factor that creates stress, getting enough sleep, exercising like the walks I mentioned, and mental stimulation are also critical.
Work on Proper Posture
Protecting your spinal health means more than avoiding injury; maintaining proper working posture protects your back. For good posture, stand tall with your shoulders positioned back and down in a relaxed manner and your chin parallel to the floor. While seated, aim for a 90-degree bend at your knees and elbows with your spine long and straight. A healthy spine position reduces strain on your muscles and joints and can even make you appear taller and more confident.
Make a Reminder Poster
Using a free online tool to design a poster or vision board, like the one I created above, is a fun and effective way to remind yourself of good postural habits and practices.
These tools offer a range of templates you can customize to suit your preferences, allowing you to add your own text and photos. You could include tips for maintaining proper posture while sitting or standing, exercises to strengthen posture-supporting muscles, or even inspirational quotes to encourage mindfulness about body alignment. Place the poster in a prominent spot where you spend much of your time, like your workspace or living area. This visual cue reminds you to adjust your posture, cultivate healthier habits, and reduce the risk of discomfort or strain.
Invest in Creative Furniture
If your current office setup is not conducive to good posture, consider changing things up. An ergonomic chair, or even a desk with adjustable height, can make a world of difference for your seated posture. Many work-at-home professionals swear by standing desks. My son even installed his own. This could help you avoid the effects of “soft tissue creep” that occurs with sitting for prolonged periods in a slumped posture.
Try sitting on a physioball as an alternative to a chair. It promotes movement and better posture, which is great for your spine. It’s also easy to shift forward and drape back over the ball to relieve back strain, as seen
in this stretch here.
Perform Spine-Safe Exercises
Strengthening your spine is one way to improve posture and prevent back pain. Dr. Stuart McGill is a renowned Canadian spine expert who has developed the Big 3 top exercises to prevent back pain, which I demonstrate in this video. I look forward to advancing my spine assessment skills by immersing myself in coursework with him this spring!
Other activities that strengthen your core muscles can also minimize pain. Swimming and cycling are excellent examples of low-impact exercise that is spine-safe and healthy; however, if your goal is improving bone density, don’t let swimming or cycling be your primary choice. They don’t build bone. Walking and hiking are excellent options for building strength, maintaining or building bone density, and promoting healthy circulation. Practicing BoneSmart Pilates can improve your strength, mobility, posture, balance, and bone density while relieving chronic stress and tension.
Enjoy Regular Movement Snacks
Our bodies crave movement. One of the worst things we can do to our body is sit unmoving for prolonged periods. Something known as “Soft tissue creep” occurs. That’s when our connective tissue reshapes and adapts to that cashew posture position you’ve been adopting. The body erroneously thinks it needs to “stabilize” you in this new faulty posture by adapting and reorganizing connective tissue. Studies show that “movement snacks” – bite-sized spurts of exercise throughout the day – can be just as effective as lengthy sweat banquets.
In addition to reducing your risk of health complications, consider these perks:
- Better sleep
- Bursts of mood-enhancing endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin
- Increased longevity
- Clearer thinking, learning, and judgment
What should you do? Play a favorite song and dance like no one’s watching. Do some squats, heel raises, or counter push-ups.
Enjoy a BoneSmart Burst™, a 5-10 minute curated movement snack, easy to incorporate into your day, that’s bone-safe, and will help prevent you from getting the dreaded Dowager’s hump, that exaggerated rounding in the upper back.
Seek Care for a Better Back
Severe back pain can impact your ability to work, no matter how many precautions you take or adjustments you make to your work-at-home routine. Be sure to seek medical guidance if your back pain doesn’t resolve. We want to rule out any underlying causes that might manifest as back pain.
Healthy Back for Life
Spine health is serious business. If you work from home, especially if you sit for long periods, you must take care of your back. Use the tips I’ve shared today to help your back remain mobile and healthy throughout your life.
In the comments section below, let me know which tips made a difference for you!
Do you have some tips that I haven’t mentioned? Please share!