Working from home? Take regular breaks

Dr. Umesh Srikantha

Dr. Umesh Srikantha


Work from home (WFH), a spin-off of the dreaded coronavirus, may sound cozy, but it has its own unfortunate side-effects like sedentary lifestyle.

Bengaluru: Work from home (WFH), a spin-off of the dreaded coronavirus, may sound cozy, but it has its own unfortunate side-effects like sedentary lifestyle.

Sunil (name changed) was a happy 30-year-old working for a reputed IT company when the pandemic forced him to convert his only room at home into a make-shift workstation. Not only is his personal space affected, the uncomfortable chair and long, uninterrupted work hours started to cause him back and shoulder pain. Now he gets these 'postural pains' (as his doctor told him) almost daily.

Dr. Umesh Srikantha, head of spine services at Aster RV Hospital and Aster CMI hospital said, "The pandemic has brought in unprecedented changes in everyone's lifestyle. One of the major changes the white-collar working class has undergone is to work from home. For many, since this change was sudden, unexpected and has prolonged beyond what anyone would have imagined, they were caught unprepared. The poor working space conditions at home, lack of a proper seating or a desk and prolonged work conditions, coupled together with inappropriate precautions and lack of exercise has resulted in many young individuals complaining of posture-related problems like neck, back and shoulder pains. These can often be mistaken for potentially serious underlying spinal problem forcing an individual to seek expert opinion and often ending up doing extensive and unwarranted investigations."

"Lack of physical activity can have detrimental effects on the spine. Over a period of time, the muscles become weaker and the joints become stiffer, which can result in chronic back or neck pain. In addition, with day-to-day wear and tear and aging, lack of physical activity compounds the degenerative changes in the spine that are a part of ageing process, thus resulting in spine relate problems developing at a much earlier age than it was supposed to. There has been a significant increase in young patients coming postural back or neck pain due to WFH situation, which is a result of poor posture; inadequate/ improper facilities at home; poor ergonomics and prolonged working hours," he explained.

How to avoid postural problems during WFH?

Choose a comfortable seating with adequate back support. A small pillow/ rolled towel can be kept behind the small of your back

♥ Neck should be straight with screen at same height as eyes while using a desktop.

♥ While using a laptop, neck should be straight with eyes looking down at the screen

♥ While sitting on a sofa without a desk, the laptop may be kept on a pillow placed above the lap to elevate the screen.

♥ While sitting on a bed, apart from the above, another pillow can be kept below the knee to gently flex them

♥ For a standing desk, Counter should be at mid-tummy level with screen at same level as eyes and weight should be evenly distributed on both legs with ankle, knees, hips, shoulders and ears in a straight vertical line. A small foot rest can be used intermittently to rest one of the feet.

Take frequent breaks while working

Maintaining a perfect posture for a long time can also be harmful, and hence it is important to take frequent breaks. Ideally, the 'break' should be at least for 5-10 mins every hour.

Regular Exercises

The importance of regular exercises for improving your overall spine health cannot be emphasized enough. Regular and simple exercises (spinal mobilization and core/ extensor strengthening) can not only keep your spine healthy, flexible and strong; but also helps to mitigate a lot of negative effects of prolonged sitting and poor posture. In essence, regular exercises can help the spine in withstanding day-to-day wear and tear and stresses to an extent that may not be possible otherwise.

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