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Doctors say sofas prevent us from sitting in the right posture. (Photo: iStock)
Doctors say sofas prevent us from sitting in the right posture. (Photo: iStock)

Work from home is becoming a pain in the neck, literally

Realising that work from home is becoming the norm and may stretch on indefinitely, some firms have allowed employees to take home office chairs and monitors and provided allowances to invest in ergonomic equipment or organized online yoga and exercise training sessions to help employees cope

After three months of working from home, Abirami Subramaniam started suffering from constant back pain. It reached a point where she couldn’t even stand straight, let alone walk. “This was mainly because of my sitting posture," says Subramaniam, 25, a communications consultant. She would spend 10-12 hours a day on her laptop, stationed on her bed, sofa, dining table, even the floor. “There was a lot of pressure on the spine and the discs tightened, causing severe pain that spread to one of my knees."

Finally, she invested in an ergonomic chair and desk. “I have made conscious efforts to sit in the right posture and take breaks in between," says the Bengaluru resident, adding that exercise has become a part of her routine. “I practice the ones my physiotherapist recommended and also other simple workouts just to keep my back flexible and running."

While some offices have reopened, for many the temporary work-from-home arrangement has become the norm and it is resulting in a surge of posture-related injuries and discomfort stemming from hunching over laptops for hours.

A recently released survey by telemedicine app Practo shows that between March and August, there was a 680% growth in online consultations for orthopaedic issues. “Back pain is a problem that people of all age groups suffer from, but is largely prevalent in people aged 50 and above. After work from home, a lot of youngsters have been consulting us online for lower back pain problems," says Chandrashekar P., senior consultant and head of orthopaedics, at Bengaluru’s Sakra World Hospital, in the report. According to the report, 45% of complainants were in the 21-30 age group, while 35% came from the 31-40 age group.

Chairs are a big culprit. When we make sofas desk chairs they prevent us from sitting in the right posture. The right posture, according to Gurinder Bedi, director and head of orthopaedics at Delhi’s Fortis Hospital, is when your legs should be at the same level or slightly lower than your seat. “Both your feet should be flat on the floor. In case required, you can use a foot stool. Your spine should be in line with the back of your chair which should ideally be tilted back slightly," Dr Bedi explains.

It was the chair that aggravated Debopam Rakhit’s back pain. “Though I have a study table at home, I’d often move to the couch or bed and work for hours sitting or lying down there," says Rakhit, 31, who suffers from a spinal condition called ankylosing spondylitis. Unable to bear the pain, he finally bought a special ergonomic chair, besides following exercises recommended by his physiotherapist.

“The niggling aches and pains should not be ignored as it can turn out to be a serious one in a matter of time," warns Roshini Gilbert, vice-president (services and fitness), HealthifyMe. She blames household chores like sweeping and mopping or unsupervised online exercise classes for the pandemic of back and neck pain. “More severe cases like disc bulges, frozen shoulders and cervical spondylosis, stem from the poor posture and tightness in muscles that have been unattended to," she says.

Office to the rescue

Realising that work from home is becoming the norm and may stretch on indefinitely, some firms like Uber and Ingersoll Rand have allowed employees to take home office chairs and monitors and provided allowances to invest in ergonomic equipment or organized online yoga and exercise training sessions to help employees cope.

Rajesh Ganjoo, who has been working with Ingersoll Rand India for the past 25 years, has taken advantage of the company’s virtual yoga sessions. The 49-year-old, who started suffering from neck pain within a few months of remote work, has bought a laptop stand and semi-ergonomic chair online. “I have created a timetable that includes everything from waking up and exercise to calls and breaks in between. After two months of working from home, I realized it’s important to give some attention to your body too. I am also planning to bring home an ergonomic chair from office soon."

Shruthi S., 31, a senior software engineer with Intuit India, meanwhile, has bought an ergonomic table with monetary support from her company. “I used to work from my bed or dining table until I developed pain in the elbow and back. Now, it’s easy now to stand and work with the ergonomic table. This way I avoid sitting for hours and this has greatly helped alleviate back pain."


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