Even as the Pandemic recedes in the US, and we are ready to embrace the world as we have known it, the work from home option is still here to stay. Many of us will likely choose it over a long commute and the flexibility of working from home.
But is it really the best?
As my husband clicks away on the keyboard and sits in on meetings, I see the impact of WFH first hand. First off, there are very few breaks; second, there is very little real socialisation. Both of which play into the health of your neck and back, in addition to your emotional well being.
Neck pain and back pain are on the rise. I see that first hand in my office. People often are stuck to the computer over extended peirods of time, taking very few breaks to introduce some movement in the spine to ward off the effects of prolonged static posture.
Breaks are important. Our spinal discs are avascular structure. They do not have circulation of their own. They get their nutrition through the process of imbibition. Just like a sponge, when they are pressed they expell the waste and when they are allowed to expand they absorb their nutrition. So if you are sitting in same posture for longer than an hour, the discs are not getting its nutrition and over a period of time if can loose its water content and thus elasticity. When this goes on for a long period of time it can make your spine prone to macro and micro injuries leading to neck pain and back pain. In addition, unlike an office, most people do not have a good ergononmic set up when working from home. Being in prolonged static posture when your posture is not good is doubly harmful. A good understanding of posture that can be adapted to your new work environment then becomes essential to prevent neck pain and back pain.
Lack of real socialisation has a dual impact on emotional and physcial well being. When we meet people, talk and interact, we are taking a break from work. Our spine is moving and is released from static posture. In addition our body is releasing feel good chemicals that contribute to a feeling of well being. It is not suprising that people with chronic back pain often have a psychological component in their pathophysiology. If one is feeling axious, sad or depressed, their neck pain will not get better sooner than someone who is feeling emotionally well. The isolation is worse for people who are single and do not live with families or friends.
While WFH has its challenges it is not without rewards. In addition, different people will react to it differently. Some may thrive and find it is the best thing that happened to them. It is important to bring your awareness to what impact it is having on you. If it is creating more neck/back pain issues please seek care and make modifications to your work station and work patterns. If it is causing anxiety and emotional stress. Reach out to your friends and connect a little. A little will go a long way!