Across the country and the world people are suffering unthinkable pains and traumas as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; from illness and death to loss of work and financial instability, people are undeniably struggling. Just as some regions or workforces are recovering, others are just entering into the early, terrifying stages of COVID-19 transmission. And if these circumstances aren’t physically stressful enough, we’re also experiencing the growing pains of progress with the BLM movement, perhaps spending lots of time at our computers as we educate and activate from home.
While we are in isolation and attempting to work from a makeshift home office, our bodies are also all suffering in smaller, less noticeable ways that can have a significant effect on our wellbeing. Case in point: Right now, at this very moment, pay attention to how you are sitting at your computer. Are you sitting up straight? Hunched over? Reclined on a couch or lounge chair? Crouching over a child-sized desk or huddled over a kitchen stool? We’re willing to bet that however you are sitting, it’s not doing your posture any favors.
Poor posture and related back pain are a very real and very annoying side effect of our new working-from-home, socially isolated reality. And it’s a reality faced by millions of Americans. According to data from States of Play, a joint CNBC/Change Research survey of swing states, 42 percent of respondents nationwide saying they are working from home — which is a huge increase compared to the 9 percent who say they worked from home prior to the pandemic and “safer at home” state guidelines.
When we all kissed our desks goodbye and said “see ya later” to our ergonomically designed office chairs, we also welcomed seriously uncomfortable back pain as a direct result of the less-than-ideal sitting situations. And to add insult to injury, we’re all sitting a lot more than ever before, which is not a good combination when you’re dealing with stress and awkward seating arrangements.
It’s clear that our posture is suffering, but what even is good posture?
According to health and fitness expert Stephanie Mansour, proper posture when you are seated begins with your feet flat on the ground and your legs bent so your knees form right angles. You also want to focus on the alignment both of your knees directly in front of your hips and the alignment of your spine, she tells CNN. And don’t forget about your abs — it’s important to keep your core engaged, supporting your back. It sounds simple enough, but most of us do not stick to these straightforward posture rules on a daily basis, especially if our at-home desks aren’t ideal.
Between the anxiety we all carry around in our shoulders and necks — clearly the current events we’re experiencing can lead to a whole lot of stress and anxiety — and the poor working and uncomfortable sitting arrangements many of us have to cope with, it’s no surprise that we can all add back pain to the long list of side effects of social isolation. Plus, in times of social distancing, even if we do suffer from back pain it’s not like we can go out and get a massage or see our chiropractor or acupuncturist for a little pain relief.
So, what’s a person to do when working from home becomes a real pain in the backside? Here are some expert tips and easy-to-use tools that can help you perfect your posture, reduce back pain, and perhaps even become more productive and more comfortable from the comfort (and safety) of your home office.
Invest in a Backrest or Seat Cushion
No need to buy a new desk chair or set up a permanent home office to fix your posture and seating habits. All you need is to embrace a little cushion correction to help improve your body position while you work. You can try out a back cushion, which provides support and extra comfort for your lumbar curvature. These cushions can also help with lower back support, and some of the best cushions are adjustable so that you can fit it to match the unique curve of your spine. Another option is to try a seat cushion that goes under your butt and provides added support to help keep you comfortable while sitting at a desk chair for long periods of time.
Try Out a Posture Bra or Posture Trainer
What if a tiny little device or item of clothing that you already wear (like your bra) could gently remind you every time your posture starts to sink into dangerous territory? Well this incredible posture trainer bra does just that; think of it as your undergarment that does double duty — it not only provides support but also cues your shoulders and back and lifts your bust wirelessly to encourage proper posture. Or for a more discreet option, this posture trainer device from Upright GO is a quick and easy way to improve your posture, support back strength, increase circulation and promote a healthy upright position.
Set Up a Standing Desk
If you notice that you’re sitting a whole lot more than you would if you were at your office (a common side effect of working-from-home arrangements) then you might benefit from trying out a standing desk. A standing desk not only allows you to get up and stretch your body as you continue to work at your computer, but it also allows you to adjust the height of your desk to match your size and optimize visual comfort while also supporting a strong back. And no need to invest in a totally new (and pricey) desk, you can simply try out a desk convertor stand to see if it suits your needs.
Set a Reminder to Move Around
Sometimes the real culprit of back pain and poor posture isn’t the way you are sitting or where you are working, but the fact that you are sitting for way too long and not moving your body enough. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up, walk around, stretch, and move your body throughout the day.
Do Exercises to Improve Core and Back Strength
Oftentimes if we’re feeling pain in our backs it’s not only because our back muscles are weak or our spine isn’t properly aligned, but also because our core is not engaged. Abdominal muscles are crucial in supporting your back and overall posture, even when you are in a “resting” (seated) position. Make sure to wake up your abs and engage those core muscles, especially when you start to notice you’re hunched over your computer or slouching in your desk chair. Try out some POC-led virtual dance classes to get moving, while also lifting your spirits and supporting professionals who may still be out of the physical workforce until we all get through COVID.