Why working from home is hurting your back

Published: Mar. 30, 2020 at 3:00 PM EDT
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As workers stay home to limit the spread of the coronavirus, many of us are doing our jobs from the couch or at the kitchen table. That can lead to poor posture and back pain.

The change in his work environment has been a real pain for Andrew Falcone.

"I have chronic back issues that are due to my severely flat feet, so going from the pleasantries of the office with ergonomic furniture, to making do with a New York City apartment has definitely been a difference," Falcone said.

He's not alone. Since we are not working at our usual desks, our bodies are feeling the aches and pains from poor posture.

"You may be working off your couch or on your bed and so you tend to have a more rounded posture," said Dr. Rahul Shah, an orthopedic surgeon.

Shah says a flat surface is ideal. Make sure the keyboard is just within arm's length with your elbows bent.

"The neck is basically taken care of by looking straight ahead or looking down about 10 degrees. For the low back, you want to try and sit up in your chair as best as you can, and taking breaks every 20-30 minutes if you can," he said.

If you are having aches and pains from the long hours in front of the computer, don't forget to get your regular basic exercise daily because it can help.

"We're all experiencing a new normal. Because of that, we may not be doing our other aerobic activities like walking, like going over and saying hello to a colleague. It's important to make sure that we keep that as part of our routine so that we don't get fatigued easily doing our work from home," Shah advised.

Falcone made a makeshift standing desk at his kitchen counter.

"Doing some stretching and some, you know, light workouts within the apartment, as well just to kind of stay loose because typically it's when things get tight, that's when things start to cause pain," he said.

Falcone also says he finds spending less time sitting is definitely helping his back.

Phones and devices are another common reason for pain from poor posture because looking down can affect the back and neck. Doctors say try to keep your phone more toward the front of your face, if possible.