Improving physical and mental well-being when working from home should be a priority for us all. Working from home can be challenging, especially now where households are busier than ever. One such challenge can be muscular and joint pain, which can be aggravated due to a lack of activity during the day and home workstations not set up correctly. Our mental well-being can also be challenged. Humans are social creatures so remaining indoors for extended periods without seeing friends and family can be increasingly difficult.
Research says that how we perceive, understand and worry about pain and other external issues in our lives can lead to the pain becoming exasperated and/or persistent. Therefore Physiotherapy can play a key role in maintaining physical and mental well-being. We’ve outlined our top ten tips on improving physical and mental well-being while working from home below. As always, if pain persists then get in touch with us. We’re now offering online video consultations as well as urgent in-clinic appointments. You can also now book your appointment online.
1. Change position every 20 – 30 minutes
Did you know that sitting is the worst position for your back and causes an increase in pressure on the lower back? The key here is to regularly change position every 20 to 30 minutes to avoid aggravation. Movement does not have to be excessive. It could be standing up to take a call, if you’re reading something, or get up every time you take a drink. You could try setting a timer on your phone until you get into the habit of getting up regularly.
2. Set up your desk correctly
Sitting for hours with poor posture and support is highly likely to cause a great deal of discomfort. Ensuring your desk is set up correctly is important to remain pain and injury-free. Here are our starter points for desk setup:
- Your back should be fully supported on the backrest of the chair
- Place the keyboard directly in front of you and have the mouse nearby to avoid overreaching
- Adjust the monitor so your eyes are level with the top section of the screen
- Use a footrest if your feet are not comfortably touching the floor
Further information on how to set your workstation correctly can be found on the ISCP (Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists) website: Working From Home.
3. Stretch regularly
Include simple exercises in your repertoire for the neck, shoulders and back that you can do regularly throughout the day. These exercises should be simple and not time-consuming. For example, rolling your shoulders both directions, looking over each shoulder, bringing your ear to your shoulder. For the back, lean over and touch your toes; put your hands on your back and push your hips forward or slide hands down the side of your legs. Aim to do one of these every time you stand up. For more information and specific exercises check out our blog posts on How to Treat Neck Pain at Home, Physiotherapy Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Pain and How to Get Relief from Back Pain with Physiotherapy.
4. Keep moving
Head out for a walk at lunchtime or at the end of your workday. This does not have to be a long walk, at least 30 minutes would do. Keep your walk brisk and you will get the rewards from it mentally and physically. Using an exercise bike or doing a HIIT session in your home would be great alternatives if you can’t get outdoors.
5. Apply heat or ice to aches
Heat and/or ice can be useful to reduce muscular pain. Pick the one you prefer and use this for 10-15 minutes. If you have any altered sensation or numbness, it is not advisable to use these as it could unknowingly damage your skin.
6. Think positive
Don’t worry, be happy! Research shows that how we understand and think about pain, can make it feel better or worse. If you have worrying or negative thoughts about your pain, then it will likely be worse and increase in intensity. However, if you have a positive outlook on your pain management and recovery, the pain experienced will be less. Check out the Irish Pain Society’s FAQ section for further information on pain, if it becomes persistent lasting longer than three months.
7. Seek help when you need it
If the pain is constant (every minute of the day), disturbing your sleep or causing a “pins and needles” sensation then get in touch with us as you’ll likely require specialist help to resolve the pain. We discuss signs and symptoms to look out for in our blog posts on neck pain and back pain. It’s important to take note of these signs as they might indicate something more sinister that needs urgent medical attention.
8. Make time for hobbies
All work and no play is not good! Make sure you have a hobby and do this at some stage during your working day, the more active the better. For example walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, or Pilates are all great for improving physical and mental well-being. If your hobby is more sedentary such as listening to music, or reading this is still good but try to mix with an active hobby too, if possible.
9. Do regular physical activity
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of physical activity a week to keep healthy. This needs to be at a pace that increases your heart rate up and makes you a little sweaty. If you have any medical conditions, such as respiratory or cardiovascular disease, you should contact a health professional first for further advice before engaging in more intense physical exercise. Check out this fact sheet from the WHO for more information on recommended exercise guidelines for adults.
10. Quiet the mind
Try mindfulness tasks to promote mental health and well-being. This includes meditation, tai chi, yoga and colouring, to name a few. These activities can help distract and empty the mind from the stresses of everyday life. More information on mindfulness and its benefits can be found on the NHS website.
Working from home can be a challenge and cause discomfort at times. However, being proactive and following the tips outlined above can help you on your way to improving your physical and mental well-being. If you would like to get in touch to make an appointment or want further advice you can contact us here. We also offer appointments online via video consultation for your convenience. Check out our online physiotherapy page for further information on this.