Working from home has gone from an impossible dream to a daily cause of frustration for former office workers around the world. Now, for better or worse, remote work seems to be here to stay. And, it hasn’t been an entirely painless transition. Every day, we get questions about dealing with work-from-home aches and pains.
Transforming our cosy homes into productive workspaces has been no easy task. This is doubly true in Singapore, where we have one of the highest population densities on the planet. The closest that many of us have come to a real office space is plopping a laptop down on the dining room table. Others have been on the sofa hunched over a laptop. For many remote workers, ergonomics is a distant pursuit.
Unfortunately, remote work has turned into a real pain in the neck as we try to adapt spaces that simply weren’t designed for work. One common issue that people experience is shoulder pain, which can result from poor posture or spending too much time sitting in one position. Another condition that can result from working from home is elbow pain, which is a type of tendinitis that affects the outside of the elbow. This can be caused by repetitive motions like typing or using a mouse for extended periods of time.
But, with a few tricks up your sleeve, there is hope. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to manage and prevent working from home aches and pains.
Backaches, especially lower back pain, are one of the top issues we see coming from home offices. Some of the most common questions we get these days are: how can I prevent back pain when using my computer? How can I support my back when working from home?
Ergonomics for computer use is entirely different from other types of desk work and sadly, the typical desk design was created long before laptops were a part of daily life. Likewise, most of what we’ve learned about ergonomics was focused more on an office environment than a makeshift space at home. It’s important to recognise these unique challenges rather than just looking at the old rules of good posture. So, let’s start with a closer look at how you can prevent back pain while working at home.
Working from home blurs the lines between work and home life. Having an office that you leave at the end of the day creates a very real sense of two distinct spaces. When you leave the office, you leave your work behind. When you’re working from home, the division is less clear and often forgotten altogether.
It’s all too easy to grab something from the fridge and rush back to your computer at lunch. You don’t need to come and go like you would in an office. There is no conference room to walk to and few people are going out to unwind in a cafe. While that can be convenient to work at home, it can also mean that you’re sitting in the same spot for countless uninterrupted hours.
We often take for granted the risk that offices put on our physical safety. While working on a computer might not be as physically taxing as manual labour, it can have a profound effect on your body. One of the best things that you can do to prevent work-from-home aches and prevent back and hip pains is to follow good home office ergonomics.
Insider Tip: Remember that good ergonomics isn’t about having a lot of space or top-of-the-line equipment. While it would be great to have a spacious well-equipped home office, the only thing that truly matters is having good alignment. Sometimes all it takes is putting a couple of books under your laptop or raising up your chair. Rather than waiting for when you’ve got the perfect office space, make small overhauls to your current space.
To improve your home office ergonomics, follow a few simple guides from the occupational therapists at Singapore General Surgery.
- Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle and close to your body when you’re using your computer. Got armrests in the way? Remove them. Avoid wrist rests while typing or using your mouse to prevent possible wrist injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome (those rests are meant for support during breaks and only during breaks).
- Sit with your back fully supported at a 100 to 110-degree angle.
- Make sure your seat cushion reaches your knees and your feet hit the ground. If your chair is too narrow, add lumbar support. If it’s too tall, get a footrest. Ensuring optimal sitting position is especially helpful when you have a torn meniscus.
- Adjust your monitor and chair until the screen is arm’s length away and directly at eye level.
- If you have a laptop, get a separate mouse and keyboard. If possible, add a monitor at eye level. If not, use books or a laptop stand to increase the height.
Talk to us today if you are looking for torn meniscus treatment to alleviate pain in your knees.
Do Some Stretches
Stretching exercises is an effective way to relieve lower back pain. Gentle stretches help to loosen tight lower muscles which cause discomfort, stiffness and muscle fatigue syndrome. It is important to listen to your body as overexertion can cause further injuries. Incorporating regular stretching into your daily routine can help to reduce lower back pain and improve flexibility and mobility.
You can check out this video by Ray of Health for some stretching exercises to relieve your lower back pain.
Why does my back hurt when I get home from work? Why is my neck killing me after a long day? Pain after work is common and certainly not exclusive to home offices. It’s crucial to have successful strategies for both working from home and the office. While you might notice the pain after work, it’s important to keep in mind that your back pain could be caused by any part of your daily routine. Here are a few things to look out for:
Whether you are working, commuting, or just relaxing, pay attention to your posture. Try to always sit with your lower back supported. Knee arthritis is another condition that can result from prolonged sitting or inactivity. Balance your weight across both feet. Don’t sit on your wallet. Take a deep breath when you’re stressed and pull your shoulders away from your neck to prevent neck and shoulder pain. You can do some stretch exercises to prevent shoulder injuries. Make sure that you aren’t craning your neck to look at your phone. Do this type of full-body assessment throughout the day to keep on the right track.
Being overweight puts strain on your body and causes a host of aches and pains. Burning fats and building muscles can reduce and prevent such problems. Likewise, stress, vitamin deficiencies, and smoking will all affect your overall wellness. If you don’t regularly work out, start a new fitness routine. Try the popular F45, bouldering or HIIT workout. You might also consider deadlifts to strengthen your back. Be in touch with your inner zen by practicing yoga or pilates. Just make sure to do some stretches before doing these routines to prevent muscle cramps. Keep in mind that everything in your body is interconnected. Having a weak stomach and back muscles can cause pain across your body.
You might be interested in our discussion of how to prevent bouldering injuries if you are new to the activity.
If you prefer lighter workouts, check out this video by Ray of Health to manage your neck pain.
Dealing with nagging back pain? Now is the time to review a few crucial DOs and DON’Ts when you’re in pain.
- Don’t lie in bed all day. While rest is the remedy for sudden pain, limit it to two days. After that, it’s essential to keep moving
- Don’t use your laptop for hours. If you are going to work for an extended time, use a monitor or, at minimum, an elevated laptop stand with a separate mouse and keyboard.
- Don’t type long messages on your phone. Maintaining a good posture while scrolling on your phone is possible. When you’re typing, however, it’s challenging to avoid curving your spine and craning your head. Stay aware whenever you’re got your phone in hand.
- Don’t wear high heels. Stick to flats, kitten heels, court shoes, or other options with a heel under 2,5 cm. If you have to go high, limit your walking and bring a pair of flats.
- Don’t put a load all on one shoulder. Shopping totes, briefcases, shoulder bags, and other bags that keep the weight all on one shoulder cause unbalanced stress
Should I work with back pain? While it might seem like the answer is an immediate yes, it’s important to stop and think. If you are in so much pain that you are debating staying home from work, something is probably wrong. In this case, it’s a good idea to get a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan .
You can never be too careful. In the best of cases, you can take a sick day, visit a specialist, and walk away with a clean bill of health. At a minimum, you will get some physical therapy tips that will help you manage and prevent pain.
It’s vital to keep in mind that these problems can go from bad to worse. It is common to see patients with poor posture that leads to degenerative cervical spine issues and pinched nerves. I’ve had patients with neck pain that escalates and becomes more frequent.
They’ll think it’s a neck strain until they realise it’s not going away. It will expand into tingling and numbness in their upper arms and forearms. It can be a simple case of bad desk ergonomics that leads to ongoing persistent pain. Fortunately, these issues can be solved with physiotherapy or orthopaedic surgery. While physiotherapy can resolve these aches and spins in many cases, others will require surgery if they’re not dealt with soon enough.
Consult a Trustworthy Orthopaedic Doctor in Singapore
Managing and preventing aches and pains while working from home is important to maintain your overall health and productivity. However, even with regular exercise and movement, you may still experience pain or discomfort due to a pre-existing condition, a sports injury or knee injury. At Ray of Health, we specialize in managing sports injuries and musculoskeletal conditions to help you stay healthy and pain-free with a wide range of customized treatments including platelet-rich plasma injections.
Are you dealing with chronic shoulder discomfort? It’s time to get tested for shoulder mobility. Your issue could be something minor and easily fixed, or it could be more serious like shoulder dislocation or even rotator cuff injury. Whatever your age or fitness level, you don’t have to live with limited mobility. A simple test and consultation with an expert will get you on a path to a brighter, healthier future.
Before looking for an ideal expert, learn about the differences between a Chiropractor, Osteopath and Physiotherapist, and the differences between an Orthopaedic and Chiropractor to receive the best treatment.
Ready to chat? To get started, you can book an appointment online with our orthopaedic doctor in Singapore.
If you’d like to find us directly, visit one of our clinics below:
1 Orchard Boulevard, #09-06
Mount Alvernia Hospital
820 Thomson Road
Medical Centre D #05-60
We can help you with anything from serious chronic pain to a nagging distraction. Call us now to get started.
Check out our other articles:
- How To Reduce Bruising Quickly
- Will ACL tear on its own?
- When to Apply Ice or Heat to an Injury
- Understanding Rhabdomyolysis (Rhabdo) – A Real Risk Of Spinning Classes
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About the Author
Dr James Tan is a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.
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