Taking care of the spine while working long hours from home

AS Malaysians continue the work-from-home (WFH) culture as a result of the rising COVID-19 cases, everyday activities such as working, shopping, and entertainment have been restricted to the confines of one’s home through digital means or makeshift spaces and routines.

While the new norm definitely brings certain benefits, it also introduces issues such as a sedentary lifestyle and prolonged bad posture, which could lead to severe issues in both adults and children if left unattended.

When discussing poor posture, one tends to think about the tendency to slouch – a habit where a person does not sit upright and maintains a drooping posture.

Slouching happens due to a plethora of reasons such as boredom, distraction, and fatigue. Left unchecked and uncorrected, problems such as headache, neck pain, back pain, hunched back, reduced circulation, and other spine-related problems could arise.

With the WFH culture that is ever so prevalent amid the pandemic, it goes without saying that we sit for hours on end to get work done.

What isn’t discussed often enough is that remaining sedentary for long hours on poorly built furniture, from an ergonomic standpoint, could also lead to musculoskeletal issues. Furniture that isn’t designed to meet our individual ergonomic requirements could lead to bodily complications such as headaches, stiff neck, shoulder pain, backache et cetera, which as a consequence causes reduction of work performance and induce unnecessary stress.

With the increasing popularity of digital classes and online learning, children are having more screen time than ever before. While digital tools such as computers and phones definitely make the transferring of knowledge easier, issues stemming from remaining sedentary for extended periods of time will surface. Before we know it, something as correctable as poor posture could lead to reduced productivity, poor blood flow and eventually, stunting the normal growth of the children during their growing phase, preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Thus, parents have to pay an equal (if not more) amount of attention to their children. Like it or not, they have to be more vigilant to spot any early signs of poor posture and ensure that their children’s backs are well protected.

While space to move around in our houses is limited, we should at least strive to ensure that our physical health is addressed regularly and not neglected. For those in Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) areas, where even the simple act of jogging or walking outdoors is prohibited, there is almost an urgent need to make the best use of tools and space at home to maximise physical movement in order to prevent sedentary related postural problems.

Both adults and children can get the necessary physical movement from some simple exercises such as basic stretches, jumping jacks, rope skipping or even yoga and tai chi. Making sure that your body moves for a while at least every hour is essential to help alleviate body stiffness whilst reducing the risk of postural related problems such as neck pain, back pain and scoliosis.

Besides regular exercises, ensuring proper desk ergonomics is also crucial in preventing musculoskeletal problems. Simple adjustments such as ensuring the proper height of the chairs, having a stool or box to support the feet, having a pillow for lumbar support, propping the laptop screen to eye level and using an external keyboard and mouse for the laptop can significantly support your body to work in a comfortable and ergonomic manner. Many people spend hours on end getting work done while being desk-bound, making little adjustments can go a long way in reducing the stresses on your body, especially the spine.

It is also important to maintain a good sitting posture at all times. To achieve a good sitting posture, a person should sit with the ear, shoulder tip and hip stacked on top of one another in one straight line when viewed from the side, so that all the muscles of the body can support the posture evenly without straining. Additionally, the shoulders should be relaxed with elbows hanging at the sides of the body, while the thighs and feet should be parallel to the floor so that the body weight is evenly distributed on both sides of the hips.

Last but not least, regular visits to your local certified chiropractor could also help to improve your poor posture and musculoskeletal aches. Besides being able to correct subluxations – misalignments of the vertebrae short of a dislocation – and through that a plethora of other pains and strains, a trusted and certified chiropractor can also provide proper lifestyle advice and best applications for you and your family to practice on a daily basis to prevent further bodily issues.

Our nervous system, which for a major part is housed in our spine, communicates and controls most of the critical functions in the human body. As such the spine is considered one of the most important parts of the body because it protects the delicate yet vital communication system. Therefore the spine, along with it our nervous system should be well taken care of. Extra steps should be taken to ensure healthy posture and habits so that our body can function at its peak potential – free of any hiccups and slowdowns, as well as reducing the risks of back pain and further postural related diseases in the future. – Sept 5, 2021

Dr Matt Kan, is Founder & Senior Consultant of Chiropractic First Group of Clinics

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