Spine Health Tips

By Ehren Allen, DPT/Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist

The vertebral column protects the spinal column.

Image of the spine anatomy.

JOI Spine Health Tips

The coronavirus has changed our lives. COVID-19 has led many companies to have their employees work from home. But working from home may not always be the most comfortable. Not many people have a  home office set up with ergonomic considerations.  With all of these work changes, some Spine-health tips are in order!

Is Working at a Computer Bad for my Neck and Back?

As a physical therapist, I treat a lot of neck and back injuries.  But, most of my patients with neck and back pain did not have a traumatic injury.  They usually complain of neck and back pain from the repetitive stress of working as a computer all day.  The fact is, our bodies were not built to sit all day.  We were made to move!  But, advances in technology make it necessary for the vast majority of workers to stare at a computer screen all day.

The quick answer is sitting at a computer for long periods can cause issues with posture.  These may include:

  • Slumping in the chair.
  • Rolling the shoulders forward.
  • Sitting with a forward head.

All of these postural issues can lead to pain in some part of the spine.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.

What are Some Spine Health Tips for Working at a Computer?

Employee working at a laptop computer.

image of a person working at a laptop computer.

Since our world runs on computers, we have to find a way to use them without hurting ourselves.  Here are some tips to help to keep your back and neck healthy while working at a computer.

  • Sit away from the back of the chair. This will encourage a more erect posture and decrease abnormal stress on the spine.
  • Raise the Computer monitor to eye level. This will encourage a proper neck position while working.
  • Place the keyboard on your lap. This will limit the stress of reaching forward, which can hurt the neck and upper back.
  • Consider a roller ball mouse. This will limit the shoulder and neck stress from moving a traditional mouse.
  • Get a standing work station. Standing work stations encourage better posture while working at a computer.  The best option is to have an adjustable work station so that you can alternate between sitting and standing throughout the workday.  Your company may have a program in place to help get you a standing work station.
  • Take breaks. Get up from your work station and walk around every 45 minutes or so.  Do some shoulder shrugs and turn your head side to side 5 to 10 times during your break.

Bonus Low Back Tip 

Men and women both spend a lot of time at their sink in their kitchen or in front of the mirror in your bathroom.  To decrease the pressure of leaning forward into your sink, open your cabinet drawer below the sink.  Place one foot on the lower ledge of the cabinet.  This will cause you to go into a hip hinger position instead of leaning into the sink.  You can alternate which foot you place in the cabinet.  If you have back pain when washing dishes, shaving, putting on makeup or brushing your teeth, you will see that this tip really works!

Tip While Your at your Sink

Low Back Tip

How Do I Protect My Spine If I am Working From Home?

Working from home may become a long-term change for many workers.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this change.  Many companies are exploring the cost savings of having their employees continue to work from home, even after the Coronavirus restrictions are lifted.  If you are working from home, it is important to consider your work area and make sure you are mindful of your spine health.

Here are some things to consider if you work from home:

  • Have a set work station. It can be tempting to work from the couch or in bed.  This can lead to postural issues and pain.  It can also be distracting and decrease your work productivity.
  • Set up your work station as you would in the office.  If you are working at a table or desk, sit up, adjust the computer height, and take breaks as needed to keep your body moving.
  • Invest in a home standing work station.  Some companies may help with this expense.  But even if they don’t, it is money well spent.  If you cannot afford one, consider standing at a higher countertop for work if you have one.
  • Get an ergonomic keyboard and mouse.  Most people work from home using a laptop.  Laptop computers are great for working remotely on occasion but not for all-day use. An external keyboard and mouse can improve ergonomics and decrease the risk of pain.
  • Take stretching breaks.  Postural muscles need a break and can fatigue when you in the same position for long periods of time.  Take a break and stretch your neck, pecs, and hamstrings.
JOI Pec stretch

Doorway stretch for your pecs

To learn about 3 Common Injuries During COVID-19, this article may help. https://www.joionline.net/library/show/3-common-injuries-during-covid-19/

What if My Neck and Back Still Hurt When I Work?

Regular exercise and fitness are important for managing and limiting back and neck pain.  Sitting at a desk all day does not promote wellness so it is important to set up a structured exercise program.  Yoga, pilates, strength training, and running are all options to promote fitness and limit work-related spine pain.  Our spine physicians and therapists can help, give us a call.

Even with following these spine health tips, back and neck pain still happen.  The Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute is here to help.  JOI offers expert doctors and therapists to treat neck and back pain.  Our doctors and therapists are available in the office or with telemedicine.  We also offer ASAP Injury and Fracture Services so that you can be seen quickly.  If you have seen your primary care physician and he wants you to attend physical therapy, learn about JOI Rehab’s Fast Track Program.  We will get you in the next day!

To schedule an appointment with JOI, please call JOI-2000, schedule online or click the link below.

Book An Appointment with a JOI Physician.

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Ehren Allen, DPT, COMT

Image of Ehren Allen, DPT, COMT – Content Writer

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