Working From Home – A Rise in Neck and Back Pain!

Dec 9, 2020

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We are now nine months into the pandemic and many people have been forced to work from home, setting up temporary offices in their living rooms, bedrooms and garages!

Clinically, over the past months since I have seen an increase in patients contacting us with complaints of neck and lower back issues since this new normal work environment has emerged. Examples of how and where people have been working are:

  • sitting at a kitchen work surface
  • using a laptop on or in bed
  • sitting at their children’s study desk
  • sitting on the sofa using a laptop
  • using the dining table
  • sitting on the floor using a laptop

Less than perfect ergonomics, especially when used repeatedly over weeks and months can lead to poor posture, putting abnormal stresses and strains on the spine, eventually leading to aches, pains and dysfunction in the neck and lower back. I have also seen an increase in posture-related headaches as people are generally more sedentary than usual.

Employees no longer have a set start and finish time to the working day and so often are still at their unsuitable workstation still at 9pm at night, having been there for most of the day. Stress and anxiety is on the rise too, with the threat of redundancies and changes to contracts, so this is not helping with physical pain. See my previous blog on Stress and how it affects the body.

According the the Telegraph, the British Association of Chiropractors (BCA) website saw a 660% increase in traffic during the first lockdown, compared to the same time a year before. Data from a 2019 study reveals that over 70% of chiropractors have treated patients with injuries linked to sedentary lifestyles, such a screen time (78%) and sitting for too long (93%).

The Institute of Employment Studies has carried out a recent survey and the results show that there has been a ‘significant increase in musculoskeletal complaints’ during lockdown. More than half of those surveyed reported new aches and pains: 58% in the neck, 56% in the shoulder and 55% in the back.

Some little tips to help you be aware of your desk ergonomics if you are one of those having to work from home currently:

Sit up straight, sounds obvious but I do see some slouching that patients aren’t even aware they are doing! Try to find ‘neutral pelvis’ where you are balanced on top of your seat bones. Bring your chin back a little so that the weight of your head does not draw the whole body forwards into a slumped position. Roll your shoulders back a few times so that the collar bones are ‘long’.

Try not to lean more on one seat bone than the other, keep the weight distributed 50/50 through each buttock.

Knees should be at the same height or slightly lower than your hips. If your chair isn’t adjustable, you could use a seat wedge to help you achieve this position. I use an adjustable saddle stool which I find helpful, some people like the ‘kneel-sit’ chairs too.

The top of the computer screen should be about eye height and the length of your arm away from you. Typically, people tend to look down at their screens too much, which makes the head travel forwards, putting an overstretch on the spinal cord, loading the muscles up and stressing the spinal joints. Ouch!

If using two screens, try to position them equally to each side.

Try using an external keyboard for your laptop and use something to raise the laptop up. I have purchased an adjustable stand for my laptop and I love it, its made such a difference for my posture and my wrists!

The desk height and any arm rest should be elbow height (measure this by hanging your arms down by your side). If too high there is an increased chance of getting repetitive strain such as tennis elbow.

Your keyboard should be within easy reach, same goes for anything in regular use to prevent over-stretching and causing rotator cuff stress and neck strain.

Wrists should be in a neutral ergonomic position, without any twist or bend in them. This will help prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and RSI in the forearms.

Feet should be placed flat on the floor, avoiding leg crossing! If your legs are little and feet can’t reach the floor, try using a foot rest or even one or two bigger books to offer support.

Try to incorporate movement into your day, use a sit-stand desk or the aforementioned laptop stand, take a short brisk walk outdoors during your lunch break, it will give your spine and joints some much-needed motion and will also give you some brain-boosting oxygen which will improve your focus and concentration for the afternoons work!

Try to develop a good sleep-routine, helping your body recover from the day’s efforts. Aim for approximately 8 hours per night and try to get to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Avoiding blue light tech in the hour before bed can also help you to nod off more easily.

Posture exercises such as rolling the shoulders in a backwards motion, gently drawing the chin back to lengthen the back of the neck, lying on your back with a foam roller or towel down the spine to help open the chest will all really help if you’ve been hunching over a laptop.

If you’re working from home currently and suffering with any issues such as neck, shoulder, lower back pain or Repetitive Strain Injuries and would like some help and advice, do get in touch with us on either 07980662229 or We’d love to help ease the pain, teach you some simple stretches and exercises that can be done from your desk and advise you on stress reduction techniques.