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Wrong Setup Can Make Working from Home a Pain


Tuesday, May 3, 2022   

The pandemic has changed work forever for many people, with a larger share of the workforce staying at home. But there are perils, especially for people's backs, if their home offices aren't set up right.

According to a Gallup poll from last year, 45% of respondents said they were fully or partially working from home.

Dr. Viral Patel, an orthopedic spine surgeon at University of Washington Medicine, said people should remember to move around.

"Sitting actually increases passing the weight through the lower part of the back," Patel explained. "I suggest whenever you're having long hours, and you're working from home and sitting at the desk and working on the computer, standing and walking around a little bit and stretch yourself out is important."

Patel recommended people invest in ergonomic chairs and a standing desk, if possible. He also noted having a mattress to support the back also is important. About half of all Americans have a musculoskeletal disorder, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Dr. Russell Amundson, national senior medical director for UnitedHealthcare, said one downside of not being in the office is people might not have access to desks and chairs designed to support long periods of working.

"They're working from household furniture in a non-ergonomic setting, and with that, they lose some of that support," Amundson pointed out. "Research has shown that's contributed to a spike in low back pain among folks working from home."

Amundson added it is important to focus on posture, including sitting up straight with your shoulders, hips and ears in a line looking directly forward. Screens should be at eye level and wrists and forearms parallel with the floor when typing. He emphasized exercise outside the home is critical as well.

"We really want to focus on low-impact exercise," Amundson advised. "Such as walking and swimming, things like yoga and Tai Chi, which have actually been shown to improve and reduce even moderate to severe low back pain."

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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