How to prevent neck, back pain while working from home during the lockdown

neck pain
Dodgy home office set-ups can lead to aching necks and backs. Photo credit: Getty.

With New Zealand now firmly in the grip of the COVID-19 level 4 lockdown, many of the country's employees are getting used to the new daily routine working from home. It's led to some creative at-home office set-ups as living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms all getting converted into makeshift offices. 

But along with the 'new normal' has come a wave of back and neck pain from many people used to working in offices with desks and ergonomic chairs. 

One Newshub employee says hers got so bad, at the end of every day it felt like she "had done a full-body workout" just sitting in a chair. 

"It feels like my whole body is on fire," she says. 

She's not alone.

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Rahul Shah told Boston CBS that working off our couch or bed means we "tend to have a more rounded posture". 

Dr Shah says we should all be working on a flat surface - no bed desks in sight - and have our computers on a higher surface. 

"The neck is basically taken care of by looking straight ahead or looking down about 10 degrees," he says. 

"For the lower back, you want to try and sit up in your chair as best as you can, and taking breaks every 20-30 minutes if you can." 

If you're working from a laptop, change up the positioning. Take it to the kitchen, stack it on some books and work at the kitchen counter for an hour, in a makeshift 'standing desk' set-up. Too long sitting in one position is not good for the neck and lower back, and can lead to tight hip flexors. 

Standing or taking regular breaks to walk around helps keep blood and oxygen moving around your body to avoid tension building up. 

Nichola Adams, a specialist in back pain disorders, told People Management we should also be preparing our chairs in better ways. 

"Ideally, you'll be mostly using a chair, so if it's a dining chair, rather than an office one, use a cushion or rolled-up towel for extra support," she advses. 

"If you only have your sofa to work from, mimic a good setup. Build a supportive back using cushions (deep sofas cause slouching). 

"Put a cushion under your laptop to protect yourself against heat and raise it up."

So while that bed or couch might be comfy, if you're aching all over it's not doing you any favours.