Healthy Hacks to Maintain Spine Health While Working from Home
Working from home has become the norm for the past few weeks, and for much of the American workforce, this is a completely new experience. While working from home can mean less distractions and less meetings, it may not be the most productive, nor the healthiest setup, as people are likely slouched on the couch, using makeshift desks, not getting up to talk with colleagues or taking water and restroom breaks as often, causing prolonged periods of sitting.
This does nothing to strengthen the muscles. In fact, research has shown back muscles are weakened, which means they cannot support the spine as they should. The National Spine Health Foundation found sitting for prolonged periods of time can put the spine health at risk if proper posture, exercises and practices aren’t enacted.
With two-thirds of company employees replacing home for the office, it’s critical to adopt healthy habits, starting with creating a suitable workspace. Using the couch as a desk while wearing sweatpants may be comfy, but it’s not great for productivity. A clutter-free workspace will enhance concentration and signal a clear message to the brain that it’s time to focus. This space should be avoided during non-work hours to indicate boundaries of personal time.
Once the right space is set up, strive to sit with 90-degree angles at the knee, hip and elbow joints. This means sitting with feet flat on the floor, chair at a height that allows the thighs to be parallel to the floor, shoulders above the hips, forearms also parallel to the floor and wrists resting in a level position. Maintaining proper alignment will help predispose someone to better posture.
It’s also important to place the computer monitor at or just below eye level, allowing the head to remain stacked on top of the spine, preventing leaning or straining of the neck. If a suitable desk or ergonomic chair is unavailable, this could be done by setting the computer atop a stack of books.
The obvious solution to excessive sitting is to not sit for such long periods. This is simple in theory, but can be difficult in practice. Finding a healthy sitting/standing balance will ensure healthier postural positions, allowing the body to move more often and in a more natural way. And for each hour of sitting, be sure to step outside, take a lap around the house or stand and stretch for five minutes.
Additionally, muscle tightness can lock into place over time, creating pain and reducing mobility. Simple stretches can help maintain circulation and avoid stiff joints, helping to loosen them up and elongate the muscles for the body to work more efficiently.
If prolonged sitting causes chronic back pain and stiffness (the spine is compressed 30 percent more than when standing), a gentle adjustment from a chiropractor can relieve the pressure that occurs to the spine and joints while restoring more natural movement, diverting pain patients out of the medical systems and emergency rooms, easing the pressure on those systems.
By Dr. Steve Knauf