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Work from home vs. your spine

Here we are, 5 months into this quarantine and many people are looking at at least a few more months of WFH. And for kids here in New Jersey, many will be doing "SFH" (school from home) at least a few days a week.

Many offices have realized the importance of "good ergonomics" and have hence invested thousands of dollars in sit/stand desks, chairs with support and curved keyboards. Yet, here we are in our PJs sitting on the floor or sideways on the couch working off our laptops and cell phones. And while many of us may be happy about leaving the suit and tie or skirt and heels in the closet, our backs our less happy with the new arrangement.

Aside from the positioning of our workstation, something else to consider is how the workday has changed. At the start of 2020 many of us would walk out to our car, drive or get on a train, get out walk to our office. At lunch time we may walk down the block to get a cup of coffee or at least to the cafeteria and back. Even our bathroom breaks may have included a few hundred feet of walking.

Fast forward to this summer and we roll out of bed, make the treacherous commute to the couch/dining room table where we spend a good part of the day. When sometime mid morning we used to "go check in with Bob a few cubicles over" we are now able to make silly faces at our new "coworker" (child/dog/etc) right from our seat. When the workday is over we slide right over to the couch where we continue to sit. Our fit bits (hmm, wonder where mine is) are not nearly getting the 10,000 steps/day we are supposed to. Even if we may be getting out for walks more in the evenings, it is not the same as the little walks throughout the day when it comes to our spine health.

I have had countless coversations over the past few weeks that start something like "my back is killing me, I think I need to change my set up. What position should I be in? Should I get a stand up desk?" My response revolves around a concept one of my mentors shared with me many years ago, which is the concept of reverse posturing. What does that mean? Well, if you sit for a few hours and feel stiff, think about the positions of each of your joints and reverse them. If you stand a lot, then do the opposite.

I also have a lot of clients who tell me "Sara I understand I should sit and stand, but I forget to. Hours go by and I have not changed positions." Or, " I cannot stand up from my computer because I am working on real-time important projects." The best advice I can give is 1 - set a timer for an hour. When it goes off change positions. And 2 - remember that sitting and standing are not the only possible working positions, especially when we are at home and no one is watching us. Remember, lying on your stomach on the couch or on the floor is pretty much the same as standing. And if you cannot completely reverse your position, at least get a few joints switched up. When I get stiff from sitting to long, kneeling is one of my favorite positions to change to as it stretches the front of the hips.

The best part about kneeling is, if you lower the camera no one on the zoom call will even know you are doing it. So, make sure to practice reverse posturing this WFH season and if you are dealing with back pain click here for some more advice and to get on the path to being pain free.

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