When working from home can misalign your spine

Laptops are not ergonomically-designed, frequently causing us to adopt poor postures while using them, which can result in spine issues. — San Francisco State University/dpa

Working from home (WFH) has been one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of Covid-19, while maintaining daily productivity.

However, while WFH undeniably presents its own set of benefits, it has its shortcomings as well.

According to Chiropractic First Group’s patient profile, adults aged 26 to 45 represent the highest age group looking for chiropractic care in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur.

It is no secret that working long hours throughout the day is detrimental to one’s body, and this has been further escalated by the new norm of WFH.

Not suited for work

The first and most obvious culprit may be our own home, as it might not be well-equipped with furniture that meet our ergonomic needs.

Hence, WFH with improper working stations is one of the most common causes of health issues observed during the pandemic.

Truth be told, even the chairs and tables that we normally use at home are not necessarily designed for prolonged periods of sitting.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that people tend to sit at dining tables, on sofas, on the bed, and even on the floor, while attempting to get work done from home.

On top of that, many also usually slouch and adopt an unhealthy posture, especially while working on the laptop.

This causes unnatural stress and distortion on the spine and at the neck, shoulder and lower back, when it occurs for long hours throughout the day.

We have to understand that laptops are not ergonomically-designed.

As such, the spine tends to be strained from the onset of working on them, and the only prevention is to change or improve the design and arrangement of your home office and equipment.

Thus, it is a must to have a monitor or keyboard extension when working on laptops.

You should also ensure that the table and chair you use have a proper height ratio for your body.

Otherwise, you might develop problems with your spine.

Spine problem

Subluxation is a misalignment of the spine.Get up and do some stretching every couple of hours during your workday if you are using the computer or laptop the whole time. — FilepicGet up and do some stretching every couple of hours during your workday if you are using the computer or laptop the whole time. — Filepic

When we don’t maintain proper posture, misalignments might occur, causing pain, stiffness, restricted motion, swelling and nerve compression.

Most subluxations start with symptoms like stiffness, muscle tightness, mild restrictions on movement and the occasional ache.

However, many people tend to go for quick, temporary fixes such as pain-relief patches, deep heat applications, massages, stretching, painkillers or muscle relaxants.

Indeed, some people will ignore them altogether and hope that they will go away on their own, which rarely happens.

Most people are unaware that subluxations can cause distorted posture, long-short leg length and an abnormal gait, all of which usually don’t cause pain in the early stages.

However, over time, more severe symptoms such as low back pain, stiffness and aches in the shoulders, and headaches, will develop.

These symptoms will eventually lead to more serious problems like chronic headaches, and tingling and numbness along the extremities, if not attended to.

In the long run, these issues might cause fatigue, impair concentration and reduce productivity, among others.

The degeneration of the spine will also be sped up, eventually causing nerve compression, formation of bone spurs, and even fusion of the vertebrae.

Aside from slouching and having bad posture, there are three other major ways our spine can be injured:

  • Trauma at birth or childhood injuries
  • High force or high impact incidents, e.g. slips and falls, sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents
  • Carrying unnatural or heavy loads.

Professional adjustment

Structural misalignment of the spine is not easily remedied and cannot be rectified by drugs, massage or acupuncture.

Chiropractors are specialists who focus on spine and nerve issues, especially spinal misalignments.

The moment people hear of chiropractic care, they immediately think of lying on a table and hearing their bones pop and crack.

While the popping and cracking does happen, rest assured that these adjustments are painless and the noises are indications that the treatment is working.

The sound heard when the chiropractor is applying sudden pressure to the spine is air being released from between the vertebrae, allowing for a greater range of motion along your spine.

When your spine is aligned, the nerve roots exiting your spinal cord are free of any compression or pressure.

Thus, they are able to send signals to your major organs, including the gut, intestines and heart, smoothly.

This means that chiropractic care can also help ease symptoms like headaches, neck aches, dizziness, stomach problems and other nerve-related issues.

Keep it moving

It is now more important than ever to take care of our bodies as we practise physical distancing and WFH, especially for those who rent a room in an apartment or live in a house without much space to move around freely.

Make sure that you are sitting with the correct posture while working or studying.

Remind yourself every few minutes to ensure that you are sitting up straight and not slouching in order to avoid any musculoskeletal issues down the road.

This is especially important for expecting women.

Oftentimes, pregnant mothers might slouch because of the child’s extra weight in the womb, which may result in back pain or strain.

Whether at home or in the office, take frequent breaks every one-and-a-half to two hours and do some stretching exercises or move about.

This can be as easy as walking around the living room area or going up and down the stairs.

Making sure that your body moves every couple of hours is essential to prevent body aches and pain.

Simple exercises such as yoga or some jumping jacks could also help, as long as you ensure that your body is not in the same position for hours upon end.

Seek chiropractic help if it gets to the point where your back pain interferes with your daily routine and work productivity.

A chiropractor might be able to help relieve the pain and return your physical state to the best possible condition.

Remember that we only have one spine and it has to work for us until the day we die.

It holds two-thirds of our body weight every day from the moment we wake up till we go back to sleep, and so, we need to take better care of it.

Dr Matt Kan is a senior consultant chiropractor. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this article. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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