The negative effect of teleworking on health and its impact on the back

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The negative effect of teleworking on health and its impact on the back

In recent years, largely due to the confinement caused by the pandemic, the hybrid work modality and teleworking have been consolidated, bringing consequences. One of the aspects that directly affected the worker's human body was spending more time sitting down and reducing physical activity; which brought physical and mental health problems and mainly conditions in the vertebrae of the spine. Here we will make a complete summary of the impact that teleworking had on people's backs and we will give some key tips to avoid pain.

Most common back pain during teleworking

Episodes of back pain are very common, especially in workers whose position requires sitting for many hours a day, the usual average being between 6 and 8 hours. Ergonomic risks give rise to musculoskeletal disorders in the worker, mainly from forced postures and lack of elongation and/or exercise that lead to suffering an occupational injury.

 Low back pain is one of the possible conditions that a worker may suffer as a result of carrying out their tasks. Low back pain and teleworking go hand in hand as many workers spend long hours sitting down. With little muscle activity, neuromuscular control is impaired and spinal stability is lost.

 On the other hand, neck pain caused by teleworking is a frequent pain that affects the cervical region of the person and is mainly caused by stiffness and lack of movement. In turn, text neck syndrome occurs more frequently, cervical pain is caused by tilting the head down when using digital tablets and mobile phones.

Tendinitis as a consequence of teleworking is also very common. The tendons responsible for generating mobility in the fingers can become inflamed by the repetitive activity of the wrist and fingers. The so-called trigger finger can also occur, in which the functioning of the finger is blocked and it remains fixed in a flexed position, and, in the same way, carpal tunnel syndrome, a trauma generated by the repetitive movement of the hands that presses the median nerve at the level of the wrist.

Tips to prevent back pain from teleworking

Telecommuting and back pain are closely related. If a worker squirms in his chair unable to find the correct posture or feels that his muscles have stiffened a bit, he is likely prone to spinal injuries.

Maintaining good postural hygiene helps prevent low back pain and other pathologies. It is important to follow our advice and look for the ergonomics that best suit your physiognomy. In the same way, leading an active lifestyle helps to strengthen muscles so that they do not suffer in the workplace.

Improve the ergonomics of teleworking 

Ergonomics is the discipline in charge of designing workplaces, tools, and tasks to match the physiological, anatomical, and psychological characteristics and capacities of the worker involved. The first step to having an ergonomic home office is to be aware of this key aspect and follow a series of useful recommendations. 

First of all, one of the tips for working at home is that the work table must be large enough to place the necessary elements for the activity to be carried out on it. The computer must be placed in such a way that there is enough space to support the wrists and to be able to work with them in a neutral position (without forcing them laterally or vertically).

Another ergonomic tip when teleworking is to use a keyboard and mouse independent of the laptop to maintain a more relaxed posture of the shoulders and arms. Also remember that the most prudent thing to do is to keep your hand, wrist, and forearm aligned and supported.

Likewise, it is recommended to do some sport in your free time or walk at a brisk pace for at least half an hour a day to counteract the prolonged static posture maintained during work. It is essential to promote non-sedentary behaviors, both during traditional working hours and outside of them.

The correct posture to avoid back and/or neck pain 

In the same way, to avoid postural pain at work it is essential to learn how to sit to prevent back pain. In these terms, there are a series of important tips and measures to take into account:
  • Keep your back slightly reclined and fully supported on the back of the seat, and sit facing the screen.
  • Form a 90° angle with the legs, keeping the legs and feet supported to facilitate lumbar rest and avoid leg compression.
  • Keep your head in a straight position, without tilting it forward or backward. It is recommended that the screen is at eye level.
  • Adjust the height of the chair to be able to rest the arms on the table, without detaching the shoulders
  • Take frequent breaks complemented with postural exercises and stretching.

Stretching before, during, and after the teleworking day

As a general rule, leading an active lifestyle helps strengthen muscles so they do not suffer in the workplace. In this sense, we recommend doing sports such as Pilates, yoga, or swimming to mainly strengthen the lower back and cervical area. In the same way, stretching and breaks when teleworking are essential.

It is prudent to take short breaks during the workday to rest your eyes, mind, and spine. Although some recommend micro-pauses every ten minutes to keep the body active, we know that in the work environment this is almost impossible, so we suggest taking at least a break of 5 to 10 minutes every hour to help the body fight stiffness and fatigue. 

In turn, prioritizing stretching to prevent back injuries before, during, and after teleworking is highly beneficial for removing tension from the areas that are affected by spending many hours sitting. You can see some exercises to relieve back, cervical and sciatica pain that will allow you to perform your tasks with greater peace of mind. Also, you can try this video to relax your entire body by doing a full standing stretch.

Physiotherapy and home office treatment

In some more severe cases in which the necessary precautions are not taken, the pain can remain in the body for days, months, and even years, which already makes the condition a pathology that must be studied and analyzed by a specialist. so that this indicates a treatment to follow to cure the disease and that the worker can return to carry out his work without discomfort and with less stress.

Treatment of back pain with physiotherapy is clinically proven to help restore mobility, relieve pain, restore physical function and improve overall fitness. Physiotherapy almost always includes a series of exercises to increase flexibility, strength, resistance, coordination, and balance, which will favorably help improve postural hygiene. In some specific cases, electrical, heat, cold, water, and/or ultrasound stimulation techniques are also used.

The priority in life is always the health of our body. Following these recommendations to take care of your back during the teleworking day will help you avoid the appearance of possible back injuries such as neck pain and low back pain. If you have any symptoms or pain that prevent you from carrying out your activities normally, you can request a private appointment at the Advanced Column Surgery Institute, which has the Elgeadi Traumatology team of experts, to have a professional diagnosis and start treatment.

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Book your appointment with our team and get a specialized diagnosis of your spine.