Stop back, neck, hip and knee pain - the working from home health problems

Working from home can have its advantages - but also brings health problems for some
-Credit: (Image: getty Images)

The way we work has seen a significant shift in recent years, with many of us now working from home. This trend took off in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and since then, a large number of Brits have chosen to work remotely on a permanent basis.

Data shows that before the lockdown, UK office workers commuted to their workplaces an average of 3.8 days a week. Now, this figure has dropped to an average of 1.4 days a week.

But what impact does this have on our health? Does working from home lead to discomfort and pain?

It can do, but it doesn't necessarily have to, and pinpointing the exact cause can sometimes be difficult. Many people who have swapped the office for their spare room have reported experiencing pain in their back, neck and other parts of their body, reports Gloucestershire Live.

Research carried out by the Work After Lockdown project found that in a survey of over 1,000 people, more than 40% reported increased musculoskeletal pain, such as backache, since switching to home-based work. Factors like incorrect posture and lack of movement while working from home could be contributing to your achy back.

Remote workers have suffered with pain in their backs, necks, wrists and legs
Shot of a young man clutching his wrist in pain -Credit:Getty Images

Similarly, if you're experiencing neck discomfort, it could be due to the setup of your workspace. Incorrect positioning of your laptop or monitor can often lead to neck problems.

If you're typing all day without proper keyboard placement, it could eventually lead to discomfort in your wrists. Despite the appeal of those soft wrist pads, they're not deemed necessary for optimal ergonomics.

So, aim to keep your arms flat on your desk to lower your chances of wrist pain.

Working from home and sitting all day might also result in tight hips, leading to discomfort. Additionally, leaning forward while seated could exacerbate any hip pain you're feeling, as this posture can sometimes shorten your hip flexors.

Likewise, prolonged sitting may lead to knee pain as it can reportedly put stress on the cartilage. This pain can manifest as stiffness and soreness, so it might be beneficial to correct your sitting posture or consider investing in an ergonomic chair for your home office.

What can you do to help yourself?

As reported by Holland and Barrett, one of the most effective ways to minimise the risk of muscle and joint pain when working from home is by optimising your workspace. This includes your desk, chair, screen, and overall work environment.

Aim to align your head with the top of your monitor, keep your wrists straight, and distribute your weight evenly on your chair. It's advisable to maintain a 90 to 110-degree angle for your legs and arms.

When it comes to your furniture, choosing a chair with a comfortable, ergonomic design can greatly aid your body during work hours. You may also find that placing a cushion under your seat provides additional back support, which is beneficial for prolonged work periods.

Maintaining proper posture at your desk involves three key elements. First, ensure your shoulders are relaxed and not hunched up towards your ears. Second, provide support for your lower back. Finally, keep your feet supported, either flat on the floor or on an elevated rest.

The bed might be comfortable - but it's not the best alternative to a desk
The bed might be comfortable - but it's not the best alternative to a desk -Credit:Getty Images

As appealing as it might be, particularly in the chilly winter, refrain from working from your bed as experts suggest that this isn't the best idea for your posture. If working from bed is unavoidable for you, try to limit your bed bursts and work in a more supportive setup for most of the day.

To attempt to decrease the amount of time spent in front of your screen, consider stepping away from your home office for anywhere between five to ten minutes, every hour. This not only gives you an opportunity to stretch your muscles, but it also gives your eyes a break.

If you have some extra money, consider investing in a standing desk to help alleviate the discomfort of working from home. This would allow you to stand up and stretch your legs while working, rather than having to sit all day.

Interestingly, a 2021 Japanese study found that participants who used a sit-stand desk reported less neck and shoulder pain than the control group.