It doesn’t happen overnight. Aching when working from home.
Neck pain, backache, shoulder pain, and hip pain all start from a twinge and niggle.
Home working injuries otherwise known as work-related or office-related musculoskeletal injuries occur with time. It could take weeks and months before they manifest.
They happen from small almost inconsequential working bad habits. Little niggles, twinges, and discomfort here and there. Then accumulate. Expand. Escalate. Until that small lower back niggle becomes a disc prolapse (type of back pain) or that elbow pain never stops tingling.
And before you know it, home working becomes a painful delight.
But you can stop that from happening.
You can stop aching when working from home. You can reduce your risk of injury by doing things correctly. By cultivating good working habits and doing them daily, without fail. They are easier to do than trying to treat work-related injuries.
Here are the 7 daily habits you must cultivate to reduce your risk of injury and stop aching when working from home all day.
1. Create a Daily Schedule
It can be easy to arrange your diary as the meeting or appointments roll in without managing your time to suit you. But you have to make sure you are giving yourself the best work plan to not only work productively but safely.
Creating a daily schedule or planner allows you to see your task for the day. And if you go a step further, you can even allocate a time frame for each task.
Now that you have that, review your schedule. Look at the tasks, where would you be or what posture would you be taking for each task? Let’s take for example, if you are in a meeting, would you be sitting at your workstation or standing? Or you are calling a client, would you sit at your desk or walk in the garden?
Do you get my drift?
Now do the same for all the other tasks. When you finish, look at your planner. How much time have you allocated for sitting, standing, reclining, or any other position?
You must plan out your tasks in such a way that you can alternate your position throughout the day. For example, sitting to finish that report, standing for a meeting, reclining to edit, and walking to call clients.
Alternating your tasks throughout the day makes you use different muscle groups. And that would give them time to rest, recover and repeat.
Know This: Fatigue is the Precursor of Injury.
So, if your body or muscle groups take adequate breaks after prolonged tasks, they recover fully.
2. Adjust Your Chair Regularly
You see, your chair is a very important tool to help you reduce your risk of injury.
I have talked extensively about working with an ergonomic office chair. Why? Because of its adjustability features.
But its one thing having an adjustable ergonomic office chair. And another, knowing how to use it. And another still, adjusting it regularly.
Why do you need to adjust your chair regularly?
Because you move and change your sitting posture frequently. For example, you lean forward. you recline, you sit upright, you sit on the edge of your chair, you slouch.
These are not all good postures. But we do them anyway for many reasons. But one major reason is that we get tired in one position. So, we do the most natural thing: Adjust and change posture.
Some of those postures can be detrimental to your health and give you neck pain or back pain (sitting on the edge of your seat). You need a chair that can go with you as you adjust. For example, if you start slouching then you need to adjust and tilt your chair forward too.
With the use of the adjuster, tilt your backrest forward so you lean forward. In this position, you can then lean into the backrest and still get the support your back and hips need. That would reduce the ‘slouch’ posture and put you back in the ideal sitting posture.
The same goes for sitting on the edge, instead, tilt your backrest forward and lean back into the chair. And if you choose to lean on your side, it means your elbows are too high. Lowering your armrest relaxes your shoulders and reduces strain on your elbows.
3. Bring Items Close
If items or furniture are placed too far away, you over-stretch to reach items. This increases your risk of shoulder and neck and back pain. For example,
– your desk further away from your chair.
– phone (frequently used) placed at the furthest corner of your desk.
– Lifting items with your arms outstretched forward
– carrying items away from your body would give you pain and injury.
The idea is that items bought as close to your body as possible, reduce the effort it takes for your body to work with it. Aching when working from home starts when we ignore the twinges.
4. Take Breaks
I encourage you to take breaks every hour. It doesn’t have to be big breaks. Small breaks will do just fine, e.g. standing from sitting for 30 seconds. reduces back strain accumulated from prolonged sitting.
Other types of breaks include toilet breaks, tea breaks, and eye breaks (looking away from your computer for 20 secs). Taking breaks gives your body a break too. You would have ‘down time’ which helps you think and process. (never a bad thing, right?).
5. Mind Your Posture
It’s important you maintain good posture when working from home. There are recommended ideal postures for every position. Be it in sitting, standing, walking, or lifting.
For sitting the major prompts include;
a. Work from eye level. It helps you keep your head straight and reduce neck pain.
b. Lean into your chair, which helps reduce back pain
c. Relax elbows and shoulders
d. keep your wrist at elbow level.
6. Stretch and Exercise at Least every 2 hours
The whole idea of a stretch is to relax your muscles. Working from a desk keeps you in a sitting position. Research has soon the devastating effect of prolonged sitting on our health. Therefore, stretching and exercising every few hours reduces your risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Stretching regularly, helps those working muscles relax. So, they don’t go into knots, kinks, and spasms resulting in pain and discomfort.
What Do You Stretch?
- Lean forward and touch your toes
- Twist from side to side
- Place your arms on your hips and lean backward
- Move your neck from side to side.
- Look down so your chin touches your chest
- Look up as far as you can go without going dizzy.
- Pull your wrist backward, extend your elbows
- Clasp your fingers together and with your elbow extended raise them above your head.
- Extend your arm across your chest and stretch.
- Push your shoulders back (square posture)
Keep your fluid level up. You’re at home, so take the liberty without asking for permission. Take teas, coffee, water, beverages, smoothies, juice, super juice, whatever. Just keep hydrated. That would also mean you take more toilet breaks (a good reminder to take a break).
Get into a Routine
Getting into a routine might seem hard but we have many routines we do daily with or without thinking. For example, brushing out teeth, bathing, or sleeping at a certain time. At first, you make a conscious effect to remember, even writing it down helps. But with continuous practice, it becomes second nature.
Taking care of yourself is paramount to stop aching when working from home and it starts with these daily tasks.