A Healthy Back for a Healthy Life

As we start this new year, let’s begin by changing some of our work and personal routines. Many companies have started encouraging their employees to resume working in the office. While working from home does come with benefits but it also limits physical movements and takes a toll on our postures. We are generally more active at the office then at home.

Recently, at ALTY Orthopaedic Hospital we started seeing a rapidly rising number of young Malaysian adults who are suffering with neck and back pain especially those working from home and who work for long hours on their devices. 

Consciously, we must remind ourselves to pay attention to the signs our back and neck is giving us so we can lower the risk of developing serious spinal conditions down the road. When working from home, the following things can help alleviate back and neck pain.

Create the best work area

The back and neck, albeit vital pieces of the body, are exceptionally delicate. A life with fewer backaches and pains can be achieved with simple and effective care.

The most crucial thing to do is invest in a proper desk and office chair to straighten the neck and back. Ensure that the chair and desk you’re going to be working on is comfortable, supportive, adjustable, and ergonomically sound. Consider the desk with an optimal height so that the neck, shoulders, and arms remain at a neutral position. Minimize the chances of visual eye strain from glares by setting up your workstation perpendicular to the window and away from direct light.

Work on your posture

While working away, we often find ourselves slumped in our seat or periodically leaning forward, hunched over the PC. By doing so, unconsciously, we are putting pressure on the neck and spine. Good standing or sitting posture involves having the body be symmetrical, weight evenly distributed and well aligned so it does not strain the neck and back muscles. 

Simple measures like using a monitor would be more ergonomic as a primary working computer instead of a laptop would help improve your posture. If there is no access to a monitor, you can use a book or laptop stand to raise it, so it is at eye level. While being seated, small things like placing a small pillow behind your lower back can help maintain an arch to lean back in the chair and relieves the back muscles. Try maintaining your forearms and hands leveled and straight by having the keyboard and mouse close to the laptop.

Relaxing the muscles

The issue isn’t sitting or remaining still while working; It’s being stuck in one place for too long. The body does accumulate stress between managing tight deadlines, budget demands, performance reviews, and even the everyday challenges of the day. To keep the mind and, by extension, body healthy, you can combine basic stretches with breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques while you work. 

Stretches, short walks, or even small bursts of exercise are a great way to get the muscles active and engaged throughout the day. One of the simplest ways to integrate exercises in between work is to set alarms or reminders throughout the day to get up and stretch. A 30-second “microbreak” is just enough to change your posture briefly and helps take the pressure off and relax. 

Back and neck related problems, more particularly, lower back related problems have been growing the past few years. There are several factors that cause back pain but there is no root cause that inflicts pain. Increased sedentariness and poor posture seemed to promote the onset of musculoskeletal disorders, particularly lower back pain and neck pain. With the information above, we hope that these few helpful tips can aid in improving our health and posture this new year.

By Dr Lim Sze Wei, Consultant Orthopaedic, Spine and Trauma Surgeon, ALTY Orthopaedic Hospital

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