Updated 27 July 2020

How to deal with aches and pains while working from home during lockdown

Working from home during the pandemic might be placing strain on your joints and muscles. Here’s how to overcome the problem.

  • In an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, many people are working from home
  • Inadequate desk stations and poor posture may, however, place strain on our muscles
  • One of the easiest ways to relieve this tension is through simple, but frequent, stretching

Since the start of lockdown, thousands of people have had to suddenly adjust to working from home, and many of our work-from-home setups aren't ergonomically sound. According to Health24, good ergonomics means maintaining a correct posture, and that the correct equipment, such as your desk and chair, helps you to do this.

Poor ergonomics can strain your muscles and cause weakness, and may even lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Most people are physically less active during lockdown, and we're spending more time seated than we normally would. If this describes your situation, you may be experiencing unaccustomed aches and pains.

Prolonged sitting, poor posture, and muscle tension

After long periods of sitting, you may start experiencing uncomfortable, and even painful tension in your body.

“Sitting all day will make the front of your body tighten up, especially your hip flexors, rectus femoris, pectoralis, upper traps, and anterior scalenes (the front of your neck),” David Reavy, a Chicago-based orthopaedic physical therapist told Runner’s World. “When these muscles tighten up, it creates musculoskeletal imbalances.”

To counteract long periods of inactivity, Rachel Straub, a certified strength and conditioning specialist told the magazine: “If you put your body into full drive after it’s been at rest for an extended period of time, you are simply setting yourself up for injury,” but simply warming up by doing gentle stretches will do the trick. 

Get stretching

Our bodies aren't made to be still for 8–10 hours per day, Cape Town-based physiotherapist Najmeera Parker told W24, adding that when we maintain a slumped posture, it puts uneven pressure on our spine, leading to wear and tear of the spinal discs over time.

"When in the sitting position, more strain is placed on the spine than when standing. Often, when sitting in front of a PC, the most common posture is of one's head poking forward, rounded shoulders and a hunched back.

"This places tension on the entire spine and shoulders, resulting in pain and stiffness. The majority of lower back pain sufferers have a history of prolonged sitting postures," Parker explained.

However, more importantly, and much more effective is to set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes to do a few stretches for at least five minutes. This Health24 article explains the 12 best stretches to minimise muscle stiffness, including head and neck, shoulders, and back stretches. If 12 stretches are a little too intimidating, try these three easy deskside stretches that can help keep muscle pain at bay. 

READ | What is ergonomics and could it make you a happier worker?

READ | How to get better sleep while working at home

READ | Using the wrong painkillers?

Image: Sincerely Media on Unsplash