As many people started working from home due to Covid-19 and adjusting themselves to the new reality, the inappropriate home-office set up has, most likely, led to more than one person suffering from back pain.
It’s hard to keep a good posture when you are sitting long hours in front of the computer, without the right desk or chair setting.
At home, you most likely don’t have an ergonomic chair nor a proper desk to work on. You don’t move as much as you would when at work - like chatting with a colleague at their desk, grabbing lunch or going to meetings.
Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine.
She is a school teacher and since the lockdown she was forced to teach all her classes online. It was an experience she has never faced before, like most of us. Because all of her classes were face-to-face and being at school, she would be constantly walking around the classroom.
Over the past few months, most of her day has been spent sitting in front of her laptop, teaching class after class and often without a break in between.
The inevitable happened: She started complaining about her back pain. Not only back pain but she started feeling her sciatic nerve pinching as well.
When she told me about the issue she was having with her back, the first thing I asked was to send me a picture of her workstation setting. I wanted to make sure exactly how she was sitting.
When I received the picture and examined the setting, I wasn’t surprised she was having such pain!
I gave her a few suggestions on how to improve her work environment, which I will share with you later in this post. Two weeks later, when I checked in on her, her pain had reduced considerably.
What is bad posture?
A bad posture is when the curves of the spine are not respected and, therefore create stress on the muscles, joints and vertebrae of the spine.
Some symptoms of a bad posture are:
Bent knees when standing or walking
Head that either leans forward or backward
Body aches and pains
Our bodies are like clay and they will mould to any shape according to the pattern of the movement we do most frequently.
If you slouch most of your lifetime, by sitting poorly when working, driving, eating and watching TV back pain will inevitably occur.
What are the side effects of a bad posture?
Bad posture doesn’t only make lower back pain happen - which is the most common problem.
But there are other negative effects you should be mindful of:
Risk of cardiovascular disease
Best tips to fix bad posture
Learning how our bodies should move correctly and how to correct our postures can bring good back health and it can make a big difference to our recovery.
Before we dive into how to fix, let’s understand how the spine structure works.
There are 4 different curves that keep us in an upright position:
Slightly inward curve on the top of the spine - lordotic curve on the cervical.
An outward curve on the middle of the spine - kyphotic curve on the thoracic.
Another inward curve at the bottom of the spine - lordotic curve on the lumbar.
Another outward curve at the very bottom of the spine - kyphotic curve on the sacrum.
Understanding our spine structure and respecting its natural curves while standing, sitting, sleeping and moving can be game-changer.
Let’s put this into practice. Try to assess yourself while doing the following:
1. Stand tall
Find an empty wall and stand straight with your back against the wall. Keep the back of your head, shoulder blades, your buttocks in contact with the wall.
Your heels should be about 2 inches away from the wall and your toes pointing forward with the outer edge of your feet parallel to each other. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
You don’t need to lock your knee caps, just bend them slightly.
Place one of your hands behind your lumbar, so you can slide it through the space between your lumbar and the wall.
Balance your weight evenly onto both feet.
Now, leave the wall and try to maintain this correct alignment throughout the day when standing.
2. Sit straight
Sit on a chair, with your feet planted on the floor - if you can’t reach the floor, use a stool to support them.
Roll a towel and place it behind your lumbar spine for extra support.
Keep your ears aligned with your shoulders.
When sitting in front of the computer, your arms should be kept at 90 degrees and your wrists supported on the desk when typing the keyboards.
Position your laptop higher where it is at the eye level, so you avoid bringing your head down and forward to see the screen.
Change your position every 30 minutes. Walk and do some gentle stretches before going back to your desk.
3. Lifting and Carrying
When picking something from the floor, always bend from your knees and hips, never your spine.
Use the strong and large muscles of your legs and abs to lift the load.
Bring any heavy object as closely as possible to your chest
Just like standing tall, keep your head aligned with the rest of your body.
Be aware to not tilt your head forward. Keep your eyes looking forward and your chin tucked down, parallel to the floor.
Your shoulders should be relaxed and away from your ears.
If you frequently wake up with pain in the mornings, you may want to consider changing your mattress. Depending on your body structure you might want a firmer or a medium-firm mattress. Do a test run on your new mattress and choose the one that you find best supports your spine.
You can also consider having some support depending on your dominant sleeping position. If you sleep on your stomach, you may wish not to use a pillow at all.
For a side sleeper, place a cushion/pillow between your knees and a support under your waist.
For a back sleeper, support underneath the lumbar and under the knees might help.
The last thing you need to know about bad posture
When you avoid incorrect postures you stop hurting your spine and help it to start its healing process. This can be a very important first step to relieve your pain and it is a very important one because it gives you the power and knowledge to control one of the root causes of your pain.
As I have mentioned, bad posture can also lead to other health issues. Creating more awareness of your daily movements and correcting your posture, for example, every time you’re slouching is an excellent way to go about this.
I hope these techniques were useful.
If you have any other tips to improve the posture, I'd love to hear them. You can submit them here.
It’s such a privilege to be able to help people care about their back health and to see their improvement. Leave me a comment below if you have any question about these techniques, or about back pain in general.
For more on how you can improve your back, download the free guide Improve Your Back Health in 3 Steps