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Even perfect posture can cause pain without proper office set-up, says Barrie chiropractor

'With adults working from home and kids doing online school, we basically have our whole population who are working from home,' Dr. Leah Lawson

The last 14 months has seen the majority of Simcoe County residents working from home and trying to find a quiet and comfortable place to get their work done.

Like Goldilocks realized when visiting the three bears, finding that perfect spot can be a challenge. The bed is too soft, the kitchen table is too hard, and finding the place in your home that is “just right” may be close to impossible. 

“A bed or couch is obviously much softer than a typical office chair. From a couch, you’re not going to get as much support through your lower back and likely you’re going to be working on a laptop, and that’s actually quite low,” Barrie chiropractor Dr. Leah Lawson told BarrieToday.

The top of the monitor should be at eye level when you’re sitting up straight, she says.

“A lot of times with laptops, that’s hard to do because they’re one piece," Lawson said. "I tell people who work on laptops to raise the screen up a little bit and then even get an external keyboard and mouse if possible so it can be down at elbow height or lap level.”

While we all look forward to crawling into bed at the end of a long day, using your bed as a place to work can actually cause harm, she noted.

“Working from a bed is even worse, because you basically have no support. Your legs either have to be straight out or folded beneath you and neither of those positions are optimal for the lower back,” Lawson explained. “In these cases, I am most concerned about a patient’s lower back, which could potentially lead to a chronic lower-back pain issue, depending on how long they’re in these positions for.”

Lawson has had lots of clients ask her about the benefit of using a yoga ball instead of a chair, and while she said it may be good for building core strength during an at home workout, it’s not the best idea to use for hours on end.

“They have this idea that it’s good for you because you’re kind of working on your core muscles while sitting on it, but the problem is there’s no support for your low back," she said. "While this is a great thing for exercise and building your core strength, it’s not something I really recommend for my patients to do as an all day, everyday thing because your abdominal muscles can fatigue pretty quickly, especially if they’re on demand all day.

“When your core muscles get tired, all that support for your body is shifted back on to your spine, and that can lead to some lower back issues," Lawson added. 

Maintaining the same posture for too long, even if it’s a perfect posture, she noted, is not good for you, either, which is why she suggests getting up to move at least once an hour.

“With adults working from home and kids doing online school, we basically have our whole population who are working from home. I am finding a lot more headaches as well as neck and back pain,” she said.

Lawson believes that is also due in part to a general decrease in exercise over the last year.

“Our bodies are meant to move, and when we are not moving that can cause a lot more pain and dysfunction. … So even if you have the perfect set-up, which very rarely people do, you still need to get up and move.

"Whether it’s walking to the bathroom, to go get water or go get a coffee… doing some kind of gentle stretching or movement while you’re doing (those things) is a good idea to prevent these hazards of working from home.”