Work from home Ergonomics to Prevent Neck & Back Pain – “Triple 90 Rule”

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Work from home Ergonomics to Prevent Neck & Back Pain - "Triple 90 Rule"

Article by Dr. (Mrs) Anshul Verma from PhysioEnturst, As this COVID-19 might force us to work from home for an extended period of time, slouching behind the kitchen table could cause some issues in the long term. Long working hours without enough breaks and in an uncomfortable position might cause lower back issues, tension in the shoulders/neck and headaches. Here are some tips that should help you to reduce the chance of having aches and pains using ‘Triple 90 rule’ invented by her.

While most people consider pain as a negative symptom, it is in fact the body’s method to let you know that something is wrong. Back pain has become the most common problem of present generation due to sedentary lifestyle, long working hours, bad posture and lack of fitness. It is no more just a problem of aged population.

Can young people get chronic back pain?

The answer is yes. Working for prolonged hours without breaks or strenuous work can often lead to chronic back pain. Fortunately, there are simple ways to prevent it.

Dr. Anshul Verma recommends “Triple 90 rule” to avoid back and neck pain for all working professionals.

  • 90° for your arms
  • 90° for your back
  • 90° for your legs

Work ergonomics for desk job:

  • Chair: Use chair with back rest up to your shoulder. Make sure that the back support is at 90 degrees to sitting surface. Always sit all the way back in your chair such that your hip is in contact with your back rest. Use chairs with arm rest so that your forearm can be supported. Chair with convexity near lower back area will give better support and comfort for sitting.
  • Feet: Preferably your feet should be touching the floor, not dangling in the air. Adjust the chair height accordingly or use a footrest.
  • Knee: Your knees should at 90 degrees angle.
  • Desk: Your desk should be at around your elbow level, so that you do not need to keep your shoulders elevated or lean forwards towards the table to work.
  • Computer: When using computer, place the screen at eye level. While typing or using the mouse, keep your wrist in neutral position.
  • Check your back posture every hour and correct it.
  • Take shorts breaks after every 2-3 hours. Use this break to change your position or walk around for few minutes. Simple spine exercises in sitting or standing position can help to relax the spine muscles and alleviate the strain.
  • Laptop: When using laptop, place the laptop on an ergonomic slant desk or stand so that the screen is at a higher height and in front of your eyes.
  • Avoid frequent bending and twisting. Do a pivot turn instead of twisting from spine. Those having sitting job may use swivel chair.
  • When carrying heavy bags, hold it close to your body. Preferably use backpacks instead of side bags.
  • When lifting heavy objects from the ground, try squatting instead of bending forwards.

How to know whether your posture is right?

Correct posture is one of the foremost essentials to prevent back pain. There are simple steps to know whether you are maintaining proper back posture. A physiotherapist can guide you about how to check and correct it.

Those having spondylosis or any other spine conditions, should seek additional medical advice for taking care of their spine.

How to maintain right posture for long duration?

Our posture is maintained by co-ordinated activation of postural muscles. It is necessary to have adequate strength in these muscles to keep up a proper posture.

Even young people may develop postural muscle weakness due to strenuous work, habitual bad posture, sedentary lifestyle or lack of exercise. As age progresses, spondylosis can further aggravate this muscle weakness.

Simple exercises targeting these muscles can help to build up their strength. You may consult a physiotherapist to assess your muscle strength and get a customized exercise protocol planned.

Stretches – what to remember:

  • Stretching should never hurt. Pleasant discomfort is enough for it to work.
  • Neck and head stretches – no need to pull hard. Just rest your hand on your head during stretching, that weight is enough.
  • General rule: 15-30 seconds per stretch is enough.
  • Repetition: 1-2 times per day, each movement 1-2 times.

Self-massage at home:

If you have headaches, discomfort and/or tightness somewhere, then the easiest way to help yourself is to massage the area with tennis ball or massage ball. In the picture below you can find some more common areas where you can use the ball. Gently start rolling around that area and if you find a painful spot, stay there until the pain starts to ease (if you feel pain radiating away from the point, it’s ok). Don’t roll on top of the spine! To counter tightness a hot-pack is another good way to relax the muscles. Put it on top of the tight area and keep it there for 15-20 min.

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Sources: PhysioEnturst

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Picture of Dr Anshul Verma
Dr Anshul Verma

Dir Physiotherapist & Co-Founder of PhysioEntrust

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