My Top 4 Tips to eliminate pain when working from home!
Photos supplied by members of The Gym Sydney getting creative with their standing desks
In recent weeks, some of our gym members have reported a variety of ‘niggles’ with the main culprit being lower back pain.
Injury rates at The Gym have always been low due to a careful mix of science based program design, high level coaching and member adherence, yet injury or niggles can of course still occur. It’s natural for us to presume that joint or muscular pain is related to weighted movements being performed, especially recently, when exercising from home has changed the training process.
During the Covid-19 crisis, knowing that our lives were about to become more sedentary than before, our mission at The Gym was immediately defined and documented. Our goal was to improve member strength and stability, whilst preserving mobility, prevent injury and lastly, do our best to maintain general fitness. We have always placed high importance on programming via our collaborative process with our specialist programming coach but now this is more important than ever.
In spite of all of this, we know, that injury is far more likely now due to the increased lack of movement and less than ideal seated positions. With this in mind, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that pain and niggles are possibly related to the 23 hours during the day where we are not hitting the gym.
Here are our 4 top tips to avoid and eliminate pain brought on by working from home.
TIP 1: CHANGE THE WAY YOU SIT
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times lately, ‘sitting is killing you’. It’s one of those throw away lines most people probably don’t pay much attention to. The fact is that sitting for long periods of time will cause permanent change to your anatomical position irrespective of your position. Sitting can result in reduced range of the hip flexors, shoulders, hamstrings and ankles, change to the curvature of the spine including the neck and last but not least, a forward head posture.
While some people may think the line ‘sitting is killing you’ is an over reaction, the anatomical changes mentioned can cause a plethora of injury and illness that could definitely lead to an early grave. To me, even worse than the possibility of dying early, is living for a bloody long time with a body that doesn't work. The thought of not being able to walk or get up and down from the toilet when I’m old is the main driver for my daily training and movement routine. It’s also the reason I choose to stand when I work at my computer.
Safe Work Australia recognises that sitting for more than 30 mins without a break can cause:
poor mental health
If standing is just not possible (although I’m sure where there's a will there's a way), then make sure your seating arrangements are optimal.
Lose your lumbar curve (lower spine) Slouch your shoulders Move your head forward from a neutral position Work from the lounge Cross your legs Sit on your feet
Purchase a lumbar support ($50 from Officeworks) Sit on an ergonomic chair with wheels Tilt the chair forward so your hips are as open as possible Wear a headset or hands free if you are on the phone a lot Set up the keyboard so it is perfectly aligned for typing with relaxed shoulders Set an alarm for every half an hour to get up and move
TIP 2: INCREASE STANDING TIME
The evidence of the benefits of standing vs sitting are undeniable. Everything from reduction in pain, reversal of negative anatomical changes as well as cognitive improvements and productivity increase have all been well documented.
If your employer is reluctant to provide a standing desk then visit your GP and request a certificate to pass on to your HR department. If you are your own ‘at home’ HR department then there are many ways to fashion a standing desk.
Lean on the desk Stand on one leg Slouch Stand on a squishy surface, resist the urge to purchase a standing mat Wear any sort of heel (this includes men’s dress shoes)
Build up to standing an entire day over time, start with ½ hour increments Have a separate keyboard set at the optimal height for typing Set your computer screen to eye level to reduce head tilt & keep your spine neutral Go barefoot or wear a flat shoe with a rounded toe box
TIP 3: CHANGE THE WAY YOU SLEEP
Poor sleeping positions can lead to shoulder, back, hip pain and dysfunction just to name a few. Keeping a neutral spine whilst sleeping is really important.
Let your underneath shoulder roll in when side sleeping, align your shoulders Allow your pelvis / spine to twist by putting one leg in front of the other when side sleeping Have a really soft mattress that you sink into Sleeping Do’s
Do what you need to in order to maintain a neutral spine Sleep with a pillow between your legs Use a pillow that allows your neck to remain straight
TIP 4: MOVE REGULARLY AND TRAIN SMART
With our largely sedentary working habits, most people have lost some range of movement through their joints and soft tissues. Many assume that performing weighted movements for an hour per day will counteract that, but in many cases it may actually make the situation worse.
If you sit with limited movement for an eight to twelve hour day followed by sleeping in a compromised position for several hours at night, your body will become used to those positions. After this, you hit the gym and ask your body to find completely the opposite positions and while under some sort of increased load. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the issue here!
Add load to movements without first preparing via muscle activation and joint mobilisation Attempt movements your body is unable to perform without pain or restriction Advocate speed and volume over movement quality and time under tension
Do it regularly, every half an hour when sitting plus daily structured weighted movement Learn how to move effectively, efficiently and safely within your bodies capabilities Move through a full range of motion for your body and add load slowly
I urge you to move better and more often during any period of working from home which will assist to avoid pain and injury now and into the future. If you are not confident doing this on your own, find a gym, coach or personal trainer that understands and cares about these concepts and considers them a top priority when designing a program.