Coronavirus prompts people to work from home: How is posture affected?

As health officials across the world urge social distancing to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, many Americans who are able to have begun to work from home.

Though working in pajamas may be a small perk, the lack of a “predefined” workspace may be affecting your posture, an orthopedic surgeon told Fox News.

“When working from home, the issue that most people face is that they don’t have a predefined workspace like they might in their office. Because of this, their body is accommodating differently than it does in a traditional work setting,” Dr. Rahul Shah, a board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon, told Fox News. “Just as you adjust your space to be comfortable at work, it is important to adjust your space at home.”

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Poor posture can affect your health in a variety of ways, causing headaches, back, neck, hip, knee, and even foot pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. Shoulder pain and impingement, jaw pain, and fatigue and breathing problems can also result from poor posture, as can incontinence, constipation and slow digestion and heartburn, according to a Harvard review on the topic. 

As of now, it’s unclear when life in the U.S. (and across the world, for that matter) might return to “normal.” So with your home likely doubling as your workspace for the foreseeable future, below are a few tips to ensure your posture is as correct as possible.

Mimic your normal workspace environment the best you can 

“Learn from your workplace environment. If you can, try to mimic your space at home to reflect what works for you in your regular setting. Find a harder/softer space based on what your body is used to at work,” Shah advised. “For example, if you have a harder surface at work, your body will react differently if you’re working from a softer space at home, like the couch.”

Make sure you’re ensuring your posture is correct while working from home. (iStock)

If you work from the couch, switch it up for part of the day 

“One’s natural tendency is to be sitting on the couch or bed hunched forward. If you’re working from a space like this, you need to try to fight that tendency and work to find some time to sit upright and change your position to combat being rounded,” said Shah. “It also helps to do some back stretches.

Stay active 

“Many people don’t realize that the time they spend moving their bodies outside of working hours has a direct impact on how your body will feel while sitting and working,” reminded Shah. “Those who are moving and getting their heart rate up outside of their workspace tend to have more relaxed muscles that are not as fatigued.”

Try standing up 

If you find yourself sitting most of the day, switch it up and try standing, he said.

“While many people find themselves stuck in one working position all day, another thing that can be extremely helpful is the switch between sitting and standing every half hour,” advised Shah. “If you are changing your position in addition to taking breaks every 30-40 minutes, this can be helpful as well.”

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Be mindful of how you are sitting 

“The position that you sit in is another important component. Ideally, when sitting you want your head to be slightly pinched forward, and not resting your chin to chest. This will help to relax your head and shoulders,” said Shah. “Additionally, the eyes should aim to be 10 degrees off of the horizontal. This will benefit the way your shoulders rest and allow your elbows to sit at ninety-degree angles.”