Unless we act quickly, there is a dangerous resulting issue from the pandemic coming as the quarantine and work-from-home policies wear on—neck pain, back pain and headaches. Besides the time-proven connection between stress and pain throughout the body, most of us now are working in makeshift home offices that are rife with poor ergonomics that cause something called forward head posture (FHP), which if left to fester can lead to greater physical and emotional issues..
At the office, even laptop users generally work on desktop screens so their posture likely remains proper with their head aligned over the shoulders and eyes looking straight at the screen.
Whether you’re now sitting at your home desk, the dining room table, kitchen counter or even on the bedroom floor, there is a good chance that you are not following proper seating guidelines. This is especially true if your laptop is now your only computer. Add onto that the fact that while we are at home and quarantined, we are spending even more time at our computers having virtual meetings instead of in-person get-togethers, and we can’t even take a break and get outside for some activity with others. I was shocked to see how many business e-mails I received on Sunday from people in the company and from outside. As the boss, I should be glad people are being so productive…but I am not. Even with the quarantine, we need work-life balance…and more than eight hours a day hunched over a keyboard simply is unhealthy.
If you can adjust your workspace so that you are sitting erect and looking straight at your screen, do it. It may cost some money to buy a screen and a keyboard, but it likely will be worth the investment if we are home for an extended period of time. Sure, I’d love to sell everyone some really top-notch CBD for the discomfort, but I would far prefer that you don’t have the pain at all.
It there are no alternatives or you choose to stick with what you’ve got, here are some exercises that I recommend you do several times a day. I have taken them from an assortment of our experts’ past articles…
1. Chin tuck: This is to offset the chin jutting that occurs when you are working on a laptop or hunched over a tablet or phone. Look up with your chin parallel to the floor, and simply tuck your chin back toward your spine. Oddly, placing your finger on your chin may make it easier to get the motion of this exercise. Repeat 10 times, multiple times a day.
2. Corner Stretch: This loosens and lengthens the muscles in the shoulders and chest, which tend to shorten as we hunch over the computer and roll our shoulders. Here’s what you do…
- Stand facing a corner of the room about one foot away from where the walls meet.
- Stretch both arms straight out to the side toward the wall until your palms lie flat against each wall.
- Without hunching your shoulders, lean forward until you feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Hold for a few seconds, release and repeats
Alternatively, you can stand in a doorway with your forearms raised in “cactus pose” along either side of the door. As described above, gently lean forward to get a stretch across your shoulders and chest. Hold for a few seconds…breathe and release to stretch a little deeper…then repeat. Try adjusting your arms to different heights in order to shift the stretch. I do this pose regularly at home or in the office. I even showed our social-media manager how to do it when we were talking about our shared neck pain yesterday. She loved it!
3. Standing Elbow Curl: This strengthens the upper back and shoulder muscles and helps counter those hunched shoulders. Here are the instructions from certified chiropractic sports physician Peter Scordilis …
- Stand with your back against a wall, feet parallel and hip-distance apart. Your heels, butt, upper back and the back of your head should touch the wall throughout the exercise.
- Make loose fists with both hands, and place your knuckles against your temples, with your thumbs pointing down.
- Spread your elbows as wide as you can. Touch the wall if possible.
- Squeeze your elbows toward each other, allowing your knuckles to roll against your temples, until your elbows touch (or come as close as they can).
- Spread your elbows apart to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Coronavirus—and the associated quarantining at home—is bad enough. Don’t add years of back and neck pain to the list of long-term effects from it.
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.