It’s no secret that this pandemic has caused us to notice quite a few new things about ourselves and about life in general. Me and many of my colleagues have noticed a sharp rise in spinal issues in our workload.
My fella is one such case. When the first lockdown hit he was forced to stop commuting to London and to start working from home. Not long after this, he began to notice that his lower back and neck were becoming extremely niggly and painful. This did ease to some extent with Osteopathic treatment, but we were noticing that his symptoms would, to a greater or lesser extent, always persist in the background.
Whilst Matt usually works with his office door pulled to, on one particular day he didn’t and as I sauntered past I caught sight of how he was sitting and the chair he was using. ‘Not good’ I thought, as I watched him slumped and round shouldered. The chair was far from ergonomically sound. Within a week this issue had been rectified with the purchase of a new chair boasting a decent back support.
A few months down the line and there were still issues with Matt having increasing trouble finding comfort at night and often waking in pain, which would continue to grumble on throughout the day. Until this time I’d never had any cause to venture into his office (too much tech type stuff for me to accidentally break!) I had never really seen Matt in full on work mode before, until I took him a cuppa.
To put things into context…Matt is 6ft 4 with legs that go on for days. To my horror he was sat with his legs wedged under his desk, his knees pointed to the floor in order for him to fit under it – his lower back in extreme extension. It was painful to look at.
As practitioners we are always playing detective and when faced with straight forward mechanical issues that simply won’t resolve we have to start asking ourselves what is going on to prevent the patient from recovering fully. In many instances we find that ill suited chairs/cars/desks/mattresses are the culprits. Needless to say…words were had about it and my opinion made clear on the matter.
At Christmas Matt was presented with a Shakti Mat – basically a padded mat with a plethora of tiny, round and very spiky discs designed to help with aches an pains and allowing for a greater sense of relaxation. Faced with the prospect of having to use this nightly, he promptly investigated standing desks, which we had both previously discussed anyway.
Within a week of using it on a daily basis, I’m pleased to report that his aches and pains completely resolved.
I write this with all those who have been put under the same working constrains in mind. Having previously fallen victim to poor seating myself, I cannot iterate enough the importance of checking that you have the correct desk setup, especially if you are spending the majority of your day at it. As a species, we are simply not designed to sit all day at a computer or desk. Our bodies are designed to run and walk and leap and jump and stretch – we are designed to be dynamic. In this deeply unnatural situation that we have created for ourselves, where we are expected to be chained to a desk, we really must make sure that we take as much care as possible to look after ourselves. Remember to ask yourself:
- Is my desk at the right height – is it adjustable? Are my legs at right angles when I sit down?
- Does my chair offer me enough back and pelvic support?
- Is my computer positioned correctly?
- Is my mouse causing me wrist and arm strain?
- Do I need a foot rest?
- Am I taking enough breaks to move and stretch and drink water?
- Is my core engaged enough?
Be mindful of all of these things.
I have attached a couple of photos of Matt’s desk (3D printed Lego Stormtrooper included – because you always need one of those) and will include a link for more information on this.
In the coming weeks the website will be building, with more content being added, which will be geared around this subject. It will include videos on specific stretches and exercises, which I hope you will find useful.