With many of us continuing to work from home, even in a slightly lesser capacity in comparison to the height of lockdown, the reduction in movement that would normally occur in the daily commute has reduced significantly.
Although this may initially seem like a fantastic thing, with the reduction in fuel consumption or travel costs saving a vast amount of money (along with the extra time in the mornings to relax), it can result in other problems; the decrease in regular movement can mean muscles tighten and backs stiffen.
The team at Ultra Sports Clinic has shared advice on how to reduce the risk of lower back pain, and how to minimise the risk of back pain working from home.
With the weekly commute reduced to maybe a few days a week (or none at all if you are permanently working from home), taking time to exercise is crucial
Exercise is the most effective way to reduce the risk of lower back pain and plays a vital role in its treatment. Not only will exercise help keep pain at bay but it will also help with mood, blood pressure, heart health, diabetes, sleep and joint health. However, this doesn’t have to be going to the gym, running or playing a sport.
Simple increases to something like your daily step count can have a large and lasting effect on your physical and mental health.
The most recent chief medical officer report recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week. As well as some form of strength training twice a week.
Strength training is often the aspect of this recommendation that is the most easily neglected and perhaps the more intimidating of the two. Running, cycling, swimming and sport are all commonplace within our childhoods, but strength training isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally to all. However, it doesn’t have to be complex, there are many simple bodyweight exercises that you can get started with.
The goal of strengthening is to apply a stimulus to your body large enough to force a change within your muscles and joints. This change in turn will help your body cope with the forces applied to it day to day. If you can progress enough, your body will change enough that day to day life causes no challenge. Things like working, sitting, lifting or carrying pose no challenge and thus minimal fatigue and less risk of injury.
- Rest / Recovery
A lot of us take rest and recovery for granted but this is just as important if not more important than exercise and movement itself. Without appropriate recovery, stress can accumulate from work, training and life which can lead to overload and lower back pain. So look after yourself, be smart with your training, take breaks from work, prioritise friends and family as well as sleep.
Sleep is the easiest recovery method and the most effective of all the techniques. If you’re not getting enough sleep then there isn’t any other method that will make up that difference. Many research studies have shown how getting less than 6-8 hours sleep increases your risk of injury, reduces your performance, concentration and reaction times. As well as putting you at higher risk of pain during the day, sleep is also paramount for tissue repair, restoration of hormones and blood glucose.
Over the years a lot of emphasis has been placed on “bad posture” and “sitting correctly”, however, lots of recent evidence shows that there is no link between one specific posture and injury. The problems arise when staying in one position for a prolonged period of time. In other words, there is no one good or bad posture but movement is the key.
Set an alarm for every 30 minutes to change position, stand up or walk around.
This being said we can reduce the stress being placed on our bodies whilst we are working by optimising ergonomics to support a more neutral position. For example, sitting on a supportive chair, feet on the floor and desk/computer at the right height will mean you could sit for longer than, for example, sitting on a stool, twisted at an angle working off a laptop. The effort required to maintain the second position is much greater and will therefore be much more difficult to maintain and thus sustained or frequent bouts in this position may lead to an ache in your lower back or neck.
If you are spending a significant amount of time working from home, then it is entirely reasonable to ask your boss to set you up with the correct equipment. From a business perspective, everything can be expensed, so there’s no need to worry about the financial costs to your company.
Moving forward with less pain in your lower back
Keeping your pain on a daily basis to a minimum makes a massive difference to your overall quality of life, as well as your ability to carry out your work in a productive manner. Having pain on a daily basis blocks your ability to think clearly, as well as increasing the risk of depression and other mental health conditions. Get the basics right, and you have an excellent chance of reducing your lower back pain when working from home, and throughout your day.
For more advice and support on at-home stretches and expert physio tips, visit: https://www.ultrasportsclinic.com/blog/categories/tips