Your Home Office and Your Back

Your Home Office and Your Back
I am taking lots of pain medication for my back. My doctor has also prescribed physical therapy. The last thing he prescribed?

Get a real office set up.

I am a writer. It has taken me several years to admit that. Up until now I have always said I was a stay-at-home-mom (which I am that, too). But I never felt my writing actually justified itself as a career, because I only wrote for a few hours a day.

I realized the other day however, that my husband is leaving for work after I’ve already started typing and walking back in the door before I finish. That is about 9 – 10 hours a day I am on my laptop. I think that qualifies as a full-time job.

The problem has arisen from where I am doing my work. I usually just sit on my bed with my laptop in my lap (I figure that’s where it got its name from, right?) I’ll sit cross-legged, I’ll slump over it, I’ll stretch out beside it; basically I will break over rule of good posture my Mom ever taught me. Now I am paying the price with severe back pain.

Approximately half of the cases of back pain in the U.S. are caused by poor posture, not traumatic injury. Since the office is where adults spend most of their waking hours, this is where it is the most important to pay attention to how you are holding your body. Slumping over a computer in a soft bed obviously is not conducive to good posture.

The really bad part is that most of us tend to get so caught up in our work, that we do not realize how bad our pain is until we get up - or try to. Then the pain hits. We put off going to the doctor for months at a time, because after all, it is just a little back ache, nothing serious; so by the time we do go, we are barely able to stand and screaming for Lortabs!

All of this can actually be prevented, which is so much better, easier and cheaper than being fixed.

The first step – get a real desk.

It doesn’t have to be anything big. There are some great little desks out there made specifically for laptops. I found mine at Office Max, but I have seen them at Wal-Mart, Target, and Office Depot, too. Or you can look online. Just type in “laptop desk” into your search engine – and you will get a whole slew of choices. The great thing about laptop desks are that they flip open and closed. You open it and set your laptop on it when you are at home. Then when you get ready to leave, pack your laptop up to go with you, and flip the cover down on the desk and it looks like a cute table - not like an empty computer desk.

The second step, and the most important – get a good chair.

When I was looking for my chair I literally sat in every single chair in the store until I found one that was comfortable for my back. It helped me to sit up straight but did not push me forward like some with lumbar support do. My husband was with me and he encouraged me to not look at the price tags to begin with (because I would have automatically gone for the cheapest thing there). He said choose the one that works. I laugh every time I think about my chair because it cost more than my desk!

The chair was $100, the desk was $80. My husband (who works in the corporate world) said that was not unusual at all.

A good chair is going to cost a little bit extra, but it is worth it. This is the item you do not want to skimp on. The chair will give your back, neck, and legs support. You don’t want the cheapest one, but you don’t necessarily want the most expensive one, either. You want the chair that is going to be the best for your back. I do not recommend shopping online for a chair. You need to go sit in the chairs and test them out to see which one is best for you.

A couple of other small things that will help your back out:
1. Do not hold the phone by pinching it between your shoulder and your ear. Get a speakerphone or a Bluetooth device for your cell phone.
2. Take breaks every 1-2 hours to stretch and walk around.
3. Do not eat at your desk. You need at least some time away from work. Stress can be as big a factor in back pain as posture or injury.

These are all things that you can do to make your home office more back friendly, but I have one tip for when you finally get away from that desk each day; invest in a large exercise ball.

Stretching out over one of these balls is one of the best ways to relax your back and pull out all those tendons, ligaments, muscles and even the spinal discs that you have been compressing all day by sitting on them. You can also use the ball sometimes as a chair at your desk. It will help you learn to retain your posture on your own.

May you have a pain free workday.

**Guest Author Michelle Taylor is a fellow editor here at BellaOnline. You can read more of her articles at the Spirituality or SF/Fantasy Movies sites.

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