Is Working From Home Causing Back Pain?

Working from home sounds like a dream for most people. For starters, being home means no morning commute, not pretending to want to interact with coworkers, and can even lead to more productive days. But depending on a person’s work area, a more relaxed environment absent of ergonomic furniture can also be a recipe for disaster. While convenient, sitting at a kitchen table or attempting to work for hours hunched over a laptop on the couch are common causes for aggravating back pain. Learn how to correct poor posture and create an at-home work environment that won’t lead to long-term discomfort.

What is poor posture?

Poor posture is any position where the body’s spine isn’t correctly aligned. Sitting improperly can lead to uncomfortable pressure points developing in the muscles, discs, or even joints throughout the back. Especially for people that lack an ergonomic workspace, several contributing behaviors can encourage back pain:

  • Slouching or slumped sitting in a chair
  • Lying on the belly while working or reading
  • Sitting on the bed while working with the back unsupported

Creating an ergonomic workspace

Individuals who would typically work at a desk should prioritize creating an ergonomic workspace with a desk at the right height and a supportive chair that encourages proper posture. Consider investing in a comfortable chair that offers adjustments. For example, the chair height should be adjustable to parallel an individual’s arms with the desktop. Likewise, the seatback should have lumbar support and support the spine’s natural curve. And the chair cushion should have a waterfall edge to reduce pressure on the back of the legs, which can encourage pain throughout the back, buttocks, and hips.

Learning to sit properly

A comfortable workspace is essential, but alone cannot fix poor posture. People need to be intentional and aware of how the body is aligned when in a seated position. Avoid sitting with the shoulders slumped or hunched. And consider adjusting computer monitors so that the head is held in a neutral position, rather than with the neck lowered or raised, which can cause neck strain. Also, pay attention to where the body is aligned within the seat cushion. Keep the knees at or below hip level, and avoid sitting with the legs crossed. Also, keep the back comfortably against the backrest. And if necessary, invest in a footrest that allows the feet to sit comfortably flat.

Don’t forget to move

Even with proper posture, sitting for extended periods can still lead to back pain and other discomforts. So every hour, remember to take a movement break. Switch positions or even get up to perform a few stretches to ease any discomfort. Alternatively, consider investing in a standing desk.

Stay aligned in any activity

Sitting for extended periods doesn’t automatically mean an individual has to develop back pain. But preventing discomfort is a two-part effort. Along with learning to sit correctly at a desk, people need to create a healthy workspace that supports proper posture and doesn’t encourage unnecessary strain on the body.