Are you working from home because of Covid-19?

Home workstation under covid-19 outbreak
My desk at home under Covid-19 outbreak

I have joined the many working remotely from home for my office job. This might be the new normal for a while, so it is important to take care of your posture.

Adjust your work station

It doesn’t matter where you work at home. You might have a desk like me or you might work at your dining table. It is important that you adjust your sitting height to suit. You should be able to have your arms bent 90 degrees at the elbows and your forearms resting on a surface. If the table is too tall, put a pillow on your chair.

If your table is too low, you can go two ways: put blocks under the table legs to adjust or get a lower chair. The lower chair only works, if you still can sit comfortably…tall people cannot do this.

Check that the screen is at eye height. If not adjust the stand or put a box or a thick book under. If you work from a laptop, you should preferably get a separate keyboard, so that you can lift the screen to the eye height. It might not feel initially too bad to type on a laptop, but long time usage causes a ‘text neck’ – neck that is sitting forward and stacking the vertebrae undesirably. It excerts a strong pull on your neck muscles and other tissues in the area.

Check your feet. Are your knees bent 90 degrees with your feet on the floor? The knees should not hang, nor stick up. If you don’t reach the floor (like me, shorty legs) you need to get something under them. I have a children’s bathroom step. Anything will do; books, pillows, husband (just joking!)…If your knees are sticking up, you need to adjust your sitting height up. This might mean that you have to also adjust the table height.

Move!

You can sit in the perfect posture, but if you don’t move, you will start to ache at some point. You can get up and move, rotate your arms and neck or just wiggle. Wiggling is good for your lower back. Don’t forget to make yuse of your alloted once a day exercise outside. It helps both physically and mentally under the strained circumstances. Brisk walk is all that is needed unless you are used to do something else.

Take care, stay safe and hopefully see you soon!

Back hurting?

Not to worry, if it is a muscular cramp, it will pass by itself. Therapy can be used to soothe it, look why it happened and what you can do to prevent it happening again. Caution: There are cases of serious back cramping which don’t come under this category.

I have just had a spell of this myself. Last week I made an unguarded lift in a client session and was awarded with a fantastic muscular spasm to guard the right side of my lumbar back. When you move your body, the different parts work in a beautiful harmony creating motion. When I lifted, I did not engage my core muscles to stiffen the lower back area and my brain was of the opinion that I was about to compromise the integrity of my lumbar back.

You don’t need to consciously squeeze your core in a lift, if your body is working as it should. As many of us spend far too much time sitting, the core activation becomes easily compromised and needs more conscious effort.

In my case it felt as if the right side of my back was in a vice. I did stretch it immediately by bending forward. I also put some Cryoderm Cooling Gel* on the site to numb it down a bit. I knew that nothing drastic had happened and that I needed to convince my nervous system about it, hence moving and using cold gel. I could have used a pain killer, if I was inclined that way. This is the place where it is good to have one, if you are going to have it. You need to stop the pain cycle in its tracks. Obviously not the gel nor the pain killer is a licence to be stupid and load the muscle. The goal is to allow gentle movement.

I have relatively little problems with my back, so when something like this happens, I study it avidly ‘from the inside’. I got nerval pain down towards my sacrum and snaking around my hip and along my groin. Interesting how many nerves got tickled by this incident!

The only thing I did to ‘heal’ my back was gently massage the cramp away and keep moving/bending forward with good core muscle control.  I did amuse my office colleagues in the beginning of the week by starting my morning with weird stretches for all the lower back connective tissues that felt stiff. (I do work in an office a couple of days a week). I also threw in couple of myofascial releases as I have rather flexible body and can access my own lower back.

A week after I am fine. Yesterday I still felt the ghost of the cramp. I kept using the cold gel occasionally, so my brain wouldn’t get into habit of ‘knowing’ that the lower back hurts. Nothing was damaged as such, but the muscles got bit bruised in the process. Initially they were sore to touch and in the end they felt just internally bruised. It is actually very hard to properly damage your back in the course of normal day to day life. Back is a strong structure, so keeping yourself calm about it is a big part of getting better.

What can you do to avoid this type of lower back injury? Keep your core strong and awake! I have previously pointed towards this little five-minute routine. You do need to have relatively healthy joints to be able to benefit from this particular one.

*Cryoderm is a cooling gel that I use myself. I like it because it has really high menthol content capable of killing even neural pain. It does not have any ibuprofen in it, only essential oils and minerals. I do sell it as it is only available from therapists and some online retailers.

Warning! Do not buy from Amazon, the UK distributor has not sold the product to anyone trading through Amazon.