- Many people are working or studying from home amid the coronavirus pandemic
- Follow these suggestion from an orthopaedic expert about how to lessen the effects of staring at your smartphone or laptop for too long
Spreadsheets on your bed, emails at the kitchen table: Laptops might help you work from almost anywhere at home, but health experts say you may soon start to feel the difference compared to working at a proper monitor at the right height.
There are precise rules on what a back-friendly a workplace looks like and companies in some countries are even forced to ensure employees have a desktop monitor, preferably height-adjustable, and a supportive chair.
But the reality when working from home during the pandemic is often far from that, as millions around the world sit at makeshift desks with work laptops.
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This brings with it the risk of “text neck” - when your neck is gradually injured from constantly tilting your head downwards toward the screen.
But don’t panic, says Professor Bernd Kladny from the German Society for Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery. That head tilt is not as pronounced when working on a laptop as it is on a smartphone.
However, don’t get too comfortable either. “Hours a day, for a long period of time, means an overloading the muscles, because they have to support the head in this unusual position,” says Kladny.
If you are working from home, you may not have a proper desk or monitor.A head weighs about 4 to 5 kg - so in the long run, this will definitely affect the muscles and the spine. “In addition, when working on a laptop, the keyboard is different - this also puts strain on the shoulder-neck region.
Tension and pain are therefore inevitable for some. Your levels of stress and fitness, as well as any other burdens on your body will play a role on how bad your text neck is by the time you head back to the office, Kladny says.
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So what should you do if you don’t have a screen at home? Kladny says move, move and move.
A great way to prevent text next is with a quick round of sport or exercise after work, or also some simple neck, shoulder and back exercises while you’re sitting at your desk.
Try not to sit still for too long either. “As a matter of principle, you should not sit in the same position permanently when working at a desk,” says the expert. Two to three changes of position per hour would be ideal. “You have to actively do this - otherwise it’s easy to forget when you’re concentrated.”