From tech neck to slumped shoulders and a tight lower back, these stretches will remedy the aches and pains gained by working from home.
As we head into the eighth (yes, it's really been that long) week of lockdown, we’re beginning to feel the real effects of working from home. Sure, you don't have a lengthy commute, you don't have to wait an hour for a bus to only be told it's too full and you'll have to wait for the next one or attempt to make small talk at the coffee maker every morning but you are experiencing something far worse: tight, achy muscles.
By swapping your usual work station for the kitchen table, sofa or (dare we say it), bed, can be a fast track ticket towards neck and backaches. What's more, it's not only your neck and back that can suffer from being hunched over a laptop, but your shoulder, hips and legs can get stiff and weak thanks to sitting all day – plus your wrists, hands and fingers can become uncomfortable thanks to all that typing.
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If you are currently holding your neck from the pain of staring down at your laptop, you need to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Keep scrolling for what actually happens to your body when you're working from home and because we have (ahem) your back, we've found all the top ways to fix it.
your neck and shoulders hurt
The Issue: If your neck and shoulder are sending your warning pains, your posture and the way you look at your work may be the culprit. There's a reason why you place your desktop on top of books in the office – and no, it's not just for aesthetics. If you're looking down at your computer or laptop, you are going to be flexing your neck and your head forward and down, which is going to change your posture causing aches and pains.
The Fix: Elevate your work station. Position your monitor at eye level so that your neck and shoulders are in a neutral position. Place frequently-used objects such as files, notebooks and snacks nearby so your body doesn't have to strain to use them. If you're working from home on a laptop, place the laptop on a table or desk that is preferably at elbow height. Change locations and positions frequently to increase your circulation.
your eyes feel fatigued
The Issue: When you stare at the glare of a computer screen for too long, you are making your eyes work harder. This habit can lead to digital eye strain that is characterised by headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck and shoulder pain.
The Fix: To give your eyes a break, follow the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. Another quick fix is to work near a window with natural light, preferably one that is at a 90-degree angle to your screen. This is better for your eyes than the artificial light emitted from your screen. But if neither of these work for you, your next best option is to invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses. While our eyes have the ability to block and filter the majority of the rays from daylight, blue light, however, permeates almost directly to the retina which is super sensitive to light, therefore, damaging your eyesight entirely. Hence the need for blue light blocking eyewear.
your hips are tight
The Issue: Your back is actually supposed to recline 15 to 20 degrees to keep your hips open, not ruler-straight. When you’re sitting at 90 degrees, your hip flexors get super tight because they’re kind of squished, so when you go to get up out of your chair, it feels like you're a lot older than you are. Really tight hip flexors lead can lead to a lot of back pain.
The Fix: Recline your seat if your chair is adjustable, and if not, get up frequently. If you are working from a dining chair that has no give and you are hoping that this remote work situation is just temporary, keep your body moving. Break at least every 20 minutes and get out of that tight posture.
your back aches
The Issue: Back pain is one of the most common medical complaints in Ireland. The main culprit being work. Leaning forward to type, for example, puts a strain on your lumbar region, which can lead to back injuries. Another cause for your backaches is your chair, most dining room chairs, for example, seem to lean hard into style at the expense of comfort, and your back and bum will ache after a full day of sitting on one.
The Fix: The obvious fix is to get a decent office chair but with warehouses shutting down across the country and the fact your nearest furniture store being shut, this might be a little difficult. One option is to contact your employer and see if it's possible to have your office chair delivered to you. That, or see if it would be possible to go in and collect it yourself. If that won't work or you don't have the space for an office chair, stretches are your answer. While lower back pain and tightness can be aggravated from sitting for long periods, it could be due to weak core muscles impacting your posture. Here, BodyFit By Amy demonstrates exercises that are easy on your lower back, while strengthening your core.
your legs cramp
The Issue: Leg cramps are signs of poor circulation, and the ache is your body telling you that you are not working with good posture.
The Fix: Promote good circulation in your legs. One way to do this is to adjust the height of your chair so that your feet are flat on the ground. If that’s not possible, use a footrest. That way there is less pressure on your thighs and the position promotes good circulation. And just how getting up for breaks every 20 minutes will help your hips, it'll also do wonders for your legs.
your wrists hurt
The Issue: If your hands and wrists are straining and aren’t in a neutral position, that puts more strain on the tendons that go through a structure in your wrist called the carpal tunnel, and as those tendons become inflamed, they put pressure on the median nerve, and then you get a problem called carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome can result in tingling, numbness and muscle weakness in your hands and fingers.
The Fix: Keep your wrists flat and straight. You want your wrists to be as flat as possible and straight, so they are not bent left or right.
Editor's Note: The above is for advice purposes only. Always consult with your doctor if you are feeling unwell or are worried about any aspect of your health.
Main image by @emmalouiseconnelly on Instagram