Much of the world has had to drastically adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic and for many this has meant an indefinite or significantly increased time working from home. For some, this may be ideal and their homes may boast the ideal ergonomic home-office set up but others may be finding working from home tiresome and pain-inducing. Whether or not your home working situation is temporary or permanent, it is still important to try to take care of your body to prevent muscle and joint pain. The increase in home working has led to an increase of people, young and old, suffering with various muscle and joint pains.
Whether due to comfort seeking or simply no other alternative, one cause of muscle and joint pain is sitting in the wrong way. Speaking to The Washington Post, James Koshy, director of ergonomics for Duke University’s Occupational and Environmental Safety Office said: “Typically people find the easiest place to sit, such as a couch, and they end up holding awkward postures for long periods of time… The pain is just the body’s way of telling you to stop and pay attention.”
Speaking specifically about the hips, Michelle Njagi, a senior physiotherapist at Bupa Health clinics told The Huffington Post: “Particularly over the last year, our health clinics have seen a rise in younger patients experiencing hip pain, due to taking up running or home workouts. Similarly, we’re seeing more people experiencing joint pain as a result of working from home.
A sudden change in lifestyle can really affect how the body is able to deal with exercise and posture changes, as your body needs time to adapt.” Huffington Post further reported that research from Bupa suggests that 11 million people in the UK have experienced pain from their home working set-up. Poor posture, sitting slouched over, on beds, at poorly-supportive seating can all cause pain. Hip pain, for example, can derive from unsuitable back support as it leads to more pressure on the hips. Other factors including poor sleeping posture and too much, or too little exercise can also cause joint pain.
Michelle Njagi added to The Huffington Post: ‘“Regular physical activity can help strengthen muscles, improve balance, increase mobility and make your hip joints more stable. As such, a lack of exercise can contribute to hip pain… Working from home, we’re stuck at our desks for over eight hours a day. We’ve removed the commute and, if the weather’s bad, it isn’t always easy to get out for a walk. This amount of inactivity can cause an imbalance and deconditioning of the hip muscles.”
If you are suffering from joint and muscle pain whilst working remotely, there are several ways to combat or alleviate it. If possible, consider looking into creating a more ergonomic set-up for your workspace. Whether this is installing desk or investing in a supportive chair, or raising your monitor or laptop on some books to align with your eyes, preventing neck strain. Looking down at a screen puts an immense amount of stress on your neck and spine. According to The Washington Post, when setting up your screen position: ‘ideally, the center of the screen should be 15 degrees below your line of sight.’
To help to prevent wrist and elbow problems, it is ideal that your arms sit at a 90-degree angle, with the hands resting on your mouse or keyboard. Further, if you are sitting at a chair, placing some books or a block under your feet, to raise your knees slightly and lift the pressure off of your thighs. Building a better and more ergonomic work environment, however makeshift or temporary can make a huge difference to your comfort.
If you are unable to invest in a home-setup for whatever reason there are several other steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms. Take several breaks away from your workspace in the day to do stretches and muscle exercises for various parts of your body. Taking part in some light exercise programs such as yoga and walking can help keep your body limber and active. Some stretches can be done at your desk, such as shoulder shrugs, posterior shoulder stretches, sitting back extensions, neck rotations, upper shoulder and neck stretches, shoulder extensions, hand and wrist stretches – all of which can help alleviate problems from sitting at a desk or home working all day.
Other exercises such as hip flexion, hip extensions, hip abductions, need to be done whilst standing up but still prove to be extremely beneficial for preventing or alleviating aches and pains. If you are experiencing discomfort from home working, look into the exercises that can be done regularly to help alleviate that or consult a physiotherapist or doctor.