ergonomics, injury prevention, Physiotherapy, Stress Management

Three Tips to Help Prevent Work-From-Home Neck and Back Pain


We have all heard by now how important it is to break up the time we spend in sitting, but many of us have trouble putting this habit into practice.

With the multitude of health risks associated with prolonged sitting including increased risk for type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, various cancers, and increased mortality rates (3), it is important to try and reduce our collective sitting time as much as possible.

Coupled with these numerous health risks, many who work from home or from an office also experience increased pain and discomfort in the neck and back.

Some interesting numbers:

Prior to Covid-19 the prevalence of low back pain found in office workers was said to be anywhere from 15-25%. The prevalence of neck and shoulder pain found in these same individuals was said to be anywhere from 27-48%, with 11-14% having their ability to perform daily activities limited by pain and discomfort. (1)

Now, with the majority of us working from home, spending less time commuting, attending in-person meetings, and stepping out of the office for our favourite sandwich, getting up and moving has never been more important.

Research has shown that even short bursts of physical activity, less than 10 minutes at a time, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease! (2)

But how do we make these smaller periods of movement part of our daily routine?

Here are 3 easy ideas to try fitting into your work-from-home routine to get a bit more movement in:

1: Set a reminder on your device

This can be done through the use of an app or even just by setting a timer on your phone or on your computer. The problem is without a reminder we often forget, and then suddenly 4 hours has gone by and your neck pain has already begun!

Try adding an external reminder to your schedule every hour of the workday to help you get up and get moving.

2: Pair it with another goal

Maybe you there’s another goal you have been trying to accomplish, but just haven’t been able to turn into a regular routine? Maybe you’re trying to drink 8 glasses of water per day? Or get those 10,000 steps in? This break from sitting every hour of the day can be a great way to help achieve those goals as well.

Try saying to yourself:

“I will fill my glass of water every time I take a movement break”

Or

“I will take 500 steps every hour of the day”

By combining them, we not only double the chance of accomplishing one goal, but two!

3) Fill the movement break with intentional activity

Here are 3 simple exercises you can try by using just the space in your home to fill your break from sitting with more exercise and intentional activity! Pick one of these every hour of the workday and try performing a set of ten!

1.) Counter push-up: Go to your kitchen or wherever you have a stable counter, set your core muscles and your shoulder blades on your back, tuck your chin slightly and do 10-15 push-ups. Repeat 2 sets with a 30 second break between each.

Image from iOS

2.) Wall Squats: Find a wall in your home, place your back on the wall and your feet out far enough in front of you that your legs make a 45 degree angle with the floor, slide down the wall, engage you core and gluteal/buttock muscles and hold for 10 counts. Repeat X 5-10 times, depending on your strength. Repeat X 2 sets.

Image from iOS 3

3.) Shoulder external rotations with scapular setting at a wall:  Place your back to a wall, bring your elbows to 90 degrees. Slowly move your hands out from your body while drawing your shoulder blades onto your back. Keep your front lower ribs knit into your chest and don’t let them pop out. Hold for a slow count of 5. Repeat X 15.

Image from iOS 5

Hope these tips have helped!

Our therapists are here to help if you need more ideas for mini-breaks or are struggling with neck and back pain that won’t go away. 

Book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists or RMT’s online HERE. 

References:

1.  Danquah, I., Kloster, S., Holtermann, A., Aadahl, M., & Tolstrup, J. (2017). Effects on musculoskeletal pain from “Take a Stand!” – a cluster-randomized controlled trial reducing sitting time among office workers. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health,43(4), 350-357. Retrieved April 19, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26386146

2. Dean Cooley, Scott Pedersen, “A Pilot Study of Increasing Nonpurposeful Movement Breaks at Work as a Means of Reducing Prolonged Sitting”, Journal of Environmental and Public Health, vol. 2013, Article ID 128376, 8 pages, 2013. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/128376

3. Keadle, S. K., Conroy, D. E., Buman, M. P., Dunstan, D. W., & Matthews, C. E. (2017). Targeting Reductions in Sitting Time to Increase Physical Activity and Improve Health. Medicine and science in sports and exercise49(8), 1572–1582. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000001257