CHICAGO, Ill. — When we started the whole work-from-home shift, many of us set up desks at the kitchen table or the spare bedroom thinking it would be temporary. But for many, nearly 10 months later, hard chairs and makeshift work desks are taking their toll.
For Zach Stack, working out of his bedroom means extended periods at his bedroom computer.
“Initially, it was just kind of like, move the desk from the other room into my room, just kind of find a chair around the house,” said Stack.
But months in and all that time in a make-shift home office has become a pain in the neck – literally.
“Like hurts. My back, my leg sometimes, my wrists from like typing or like moving my mouse,” he said.
Without trips to the watercooler or a walk down the hall to a colleague, Americans are sitting at home hunched over laptops for extended periods of time. And experts say that can be dangerous to your health.
“I'm sitting cross-legged on my couch or I'm working at the island in my kitchen and you know I'm propped up in some pillows in my bed. You know these kinds of things are not ergonomic at all and are not conducive to good posture,” said Dr. Grant Garrigues is an orthopedic surgeon and team physician for the Chicago White Sox and Bulls.
He says he’s seeing an increase in work-from-home patients dealing with shoulder pain.
In addition to stiff neck and shoulders, experts warn that too much sitting can also lead to weakening of leg muscles and hip joint issues. Poor posture can cause compression in the discs in your spine.
All that might subside when you’re done, but eventually it can lead to long-term problems.
“My shoulder started hurting. So, it was like everything was hurting from my top of my shoulders all the way down to my back,” said remote worker Veronica Muncy.
For the mother of three, the pain became increasingly intense. She changed her workstation, did physical therapy, cortisone shots and now needs shoulder surgery.
“The effects from it look like something that would have been coming from a trauma or a fall or anything like that,” she said. “And it was completely from just being at my desk working.”
Dr. Garrigues recommends taking a break from sitting every 30 minutes. If you work at a desk, try a standing desk — or improvise with a high table or counter.
“Everything's kind of bringing you in. You’re on your smartphone, you're driving, you're on a laptop. Open things up. Right? Get those shoulder blades back and stretch out the muscles in the front,” he said.
Most importantly, if you’re experiencing any pain, it’s best to seek medical attention before it aggravates enough to require surgery. It’s something Muncy wishes she would have done.
“I should have listened to my body way sooner than I did.”