Physical therapists seeing increase of patients with neck and back pain while working at home

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Over the past several months, physical therapist Scott Carley said he’s seen an uptick in patients complaining of neck and back pain while working from home.

“I think when the pandemic started we thought this may be temporary. I’ve had a lot of friends and family members sitting up on kitchen bar stools, hunched on their countertops and tables,” he said.

If you are working from home, he strongly recommended improving your home office set-up by making sure you are choosing a chair with a chair back and adjusting your computer screen to eye level.

“Your gaze should be pretty neutral at the screen,” he said. “Your elbows should be nice and comfortable at your side, bent at 90 degrees, and in that position your hands should rest right at the keyboard.”

To help you practice good posture, he recommended first rotating your hips forward and sitting up straight, then placing a lumbar pillow in the small of your back.

If you do not have a lumbar pillow, he recommends grabbing a beach towel and rolling it up, then using duct-tape to secure it. To make sure your makeshift lumbar pillow is the right width, he said to sit with good posture, then reach back and feel the curve in your lower back.

“It should rest comfortably between that curve and the back of your chair. If it’s too big, too wide of a roll its going to feel like its pushing you forward into your chair. If it’s too small, you will sink to the back of your chair.”

Carley also strongly encouraged people working from home to take a quick five to ten minute break every hour by getting up and moving around the house in order to relieve aches, pains, eyestrain and headaches.

While taking those breaks, he recommended doing 10 neck stretches by reaching up with your hand, grabbing the side of your neck and relaxing your neck. He said to gently pull down until you feel a “nice stretch” and hold for 20 to 30 seconds.

Alternatively, he recommended doing ten shoulder stretches, using a resistance band tied to a leg of a chair or table. He said to pull the band back, squeezing shoulder blades together and holding, then relaxing.

If you have pain that persists for several days even after following this advice, Carley recommends reaching out to your doctor for an in-person therapy session and cautions people not to ignore pain.

“We have seen these issues snowball into a more permanent condition, and we don’t want to see any muscular or skeletal injuries or asymmetries,” he warned.

Bon Secours St. Francis is offering physical therapy sessions in-person by referral from doctors. For more information, click here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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