How to treat and prevent back pain for remote workers

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Advice from UnitedHealthcare expert Dr. Amundson to help Ohioans stay healthy as their working conditions change.

CLEVELAND— Editor’s note: This video is taken from a previous article on improving home setups for remote work published on April 6, 2022.

The pandemic has forever changed the way Americans spend their days getting things done at work. According to a Gallup study, 45% of Americans work from home full or part time. In this time of heightened remote working, many workers have overlooked one of the most important aspects of the traditional office work experience: how an ergonomic desk design can help keep their backs healthy.

Many makeshift home offices have been outfitted with non-traditional desks, chairs, sofas, and even beds. These non-traditional setups can, over time, contribute to a wide variety of health issues, including back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and/or tendonitis.

According to sciencedaily.com1 in 2 people is affected by musculoskeletal disorders, which represent 10% of annual medical expenses.

Dr. Russell Amundson, UnitedHealthcare’s National Senior Medical Director, outlines tips below to help prevent and treat back pain that has become an unintended consequence for many Americans who have moved to a more remote work schedule.

  • Focus on posture. Whether you’re now working at the kitchen table or on the couch, focusing on good posture can help. Make sure you are sitting straight with your knees at a 90 degree angle, your shoulders in a straight line over your hips, and your ears directly over your shoulders. If you work at a computer, set the screen height to eye level and consider raising the keyboard to help keep your hands, wrists, and forearms aligned and parallel to the floor.
  • Stay active. While some back pain sufferers may be tempted to rest, staying active in many cases may be the best option. Low-impact activities to consider include walking and swimming, while research indicates that strengthening leg muscles can also be helpful. You can also try yoga and tai chi, which have been shown to relieve moderate to severe back pain. If time is a factor, a short walk at lunchtime or up and down stairs a few times can help keep you active.
  • Consider your options. The American College of Physicians recommends exercise-based therapies first, including nonsurgical options such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, and acupuncture. To make access even more convenient, new virtual physiotherapy options have emerged, including those that provide users with on-demand, 24/7 exercise feedback, powered by the artificial intelligence. These non-invasive options, which in some cases may be included in your health insurance plan, can help 95% of people with low back pain recover after 12 weeks.

Editor’s note: This video is taken from a previous article on remote work published on July 11, 2021

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