Is your working from home environment hurting your neck and back?

pain in the neck

Is your working from home environment hurting your neck and back?

Working from home has become the norm for many of us over the last 2 years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and it continues to have both positive and negative effects on wellbeing.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare disease expenditure report for 2019 revealed that  more money was spent on osteoarthritis and low back pain than any other disease or condition in Australia.

With a huge number of Australians still working from home due to COVID restrictions, this number is expected to rise.

Without having a correctly setup workstation and neutral working postures, the chances of getting an injury is just a matter of time.

In 2020, Safe Work Australia outlined some factors that businesses and workers need to take into consideration to fulfil their duties under the WHS Act in the context of broad, pandemic-induced work-from-home arrangements.

Acknowledging that what firms could do to minimise risks at a worker’s home may be different to what they could do at the usual workplace, SWA recommended that, in consultation with workers and representatives, firms should:

  • provide guidance on safe home office environments, including what a good workstation setup looks like, why workers should not be sedentary all day and how to avoid this
  • allow workers to borrow any necessary workstation equipment from the office to take to the home as agreed
  • require workers to familiarise themselves and comply with good ergonomic practices, consistent with any workplace policies and procedures — for example, requiring workers to complete a workstation self-assessment checklist and provide their responses to the organisation
  • maintain regular communication with workers
  • provide access to information and support for mental health and wellbeing services

Understanding basic ergonomic principles while working from home is essential

The next step is to recognise the warning signs and symptoms of an injury, as they can indicate a potential for an ergonomic risk at your workstation.

Some common warning signs that indicate a less than ideal ergonomic setup are redness or swelling around an affected joint, the skin around the area being warm to the touch, and a reduced range of motion for that affected joint. Some warning symptoms that you might encounter include the following:

  • fatigue
  • soreness
  • achiness
  • burning
  • clumsiness
  • stiffness
  • tenderness
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • weakness
  • change of skin color

When you’re exposed to ergonomic risk factors repeatedly or for long periods, and you don’t address any of the warning signs and symptoms, you might experience pain or discomfort.

Why is it beneficial to take a stretching break?

Stretching exercises encourage the lengthening of your muscles and associated tendons by counteracting the shortening and tightening of muscles that can occur due to prolonged inactivity and awkward positions.

Taking regular breaks to stretch throughout the day can:

  • Increase blood flow to your muscles
  • Help joints work to their full range of motion
  • Decrease muscle strain, tension and stiffness

Simple stretches for your back and neck

When working from home, your back is one of the main areas that will experience stiffness and soreness if you’re not taking care of it. Not only that, back pain can also lead to referred pain in your neck, shoulders and hips if you don’t take steps to treat it.

  • Back and Hip Stretch– Cross your right leg over left leg. Keep your shoulders square with the front of your body and look over your right shoulder as you place your left hand on your right knee and apply pressure. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat on other side.
  • Shoulder rolls– Roll your shoulders forward several times slowly and then backwards. Repeat 5 times.
  • Head turns – Turn your head to look over your right shoulder and hold for 10 seconds. Turn the other way and hold for another 10 seconds. Repeat several times.
  • Chin tucks – Raise your head to straighten the neck and then tuck your chin in and upwards creating a double chin. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat several times.

Get your workspace assessed by an occupational therapist or physiotherapist

Lane Cove physiotherapists are trained to analyse a variety of workspaces and actions for any relation to your pain and discomfort. To set up an appointment to discuss your home workspace or any aches and pains, give us a call on (02) 9428 5772 or book online for your consultation.