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How to improve back pain while working from home.

How to improve back pain while working from home.

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
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4 ways to prevent your lower back pain while working from home.

Working from home has become wildly popular over the past couple of years. I can’t blame people for loving it. Why not work and get some household chores done at the same time! Not to mention avoiding wasting your life in traffic? There are many perks to working from home. My favorite being donning comfy clothes you can wear all day long! The definition of business casual.

Some of the cons of working from home not only range from the lack of human interaction but the sudden increase in sedentary behaviors. Sitting is the new smoking and it is one of the worst things you can do for your body. It leads to weight gain and even early mortality. When we sit for hours, we can notice an increase in stiffness and ultimately an increase in discomfort. The most common areas of stiffness when working from home include your lower back, hips, upper back, and neck. Sometimes a gentle rub or hot pack can help but persistent discomfort is worth addressing. Let's explore this some more. 4 ways to improve your lower back pain while working from home: 

  1. Breaks every 30 minutes.Your goal should still be 8-12K steps a day. Your body is not biased towards your job and you need to take care of yourself despite the change in scenery. We are built to move people!  Sometimes it is easier said than done, especially when you’re a busy parent or in discomfort. Eight to 12,000 steps a day is the goal. I will admit, I often don’t reach that amount. More is always better so if you move more than yesterday consider that a win. Movement trackers such as Apple watches or Garmin wearables (my personal favorite) are great options. Garmin even has a setting where you can look at your stress and recovery. This can provide great insight into you health.
  2. Strengthening for a few minutes everyday. Strengthening is a recommendation by many organizations to improve health and reduce mortality. That’s right! Moving your body and improving its strength can help you live longer! Mobility then strengthening is my favorite combination. We gain range of motion of your spine then we strengthen it. Your spine is fully capable of flexing, extending, and even rotating. We just need to work into those areas especially if you have been working from home. Movement and exercise is widely recommended and highly encouraged by many providers!. This is for prevention of back pain and stiffness as well. Exercise alone and exercise combined with education can prevent episodes of lower back pain and life missed from lower back pain.
  3. Mobility work including lumbar and thoracic spine. Mobility is like stretching but more focused on joint movement rather than muscle. There is a reason you wake up a little stiff in the morning. Your joints build up with fluid as you are not moving. That results in that weird or stiff feeling until to move. When we do, we feel better. Mobility focused at your spine and hips is important, especially if you are sitting a lot. This can be done multiple time through the day while you are working from home!
  4. May consider a standing desk. A standing desk allows you to vary your positions and change up your posture throughout the day. My standing desk has helped a lot with my lower back stiffness. I have really enjoyed owning an Autonomous desk. It is very sturdy, easy to assemble, and is rated for 200lb or more. I believe it is well worth the cost. I have had many successful experiences recommending them for clients and their employer paying for the desk.

2 great routines to address back pain and stiffness while working from home.

  1. A quick and easy exercise routine. We are limited in our time and energy so let's do what is the most effective the first time through! 
  2. Movement snacks! I recommend that people sit no more than 30 min straight without getting up. Set the timer on your phone or watch and make sure you get up and stretch/move. Motion is lotion baby! I know that we all have the best intentions moving throughout the day but sometimes work gets in the way! Here is a schedule you can follow: Set your timer for every 30 minutes.

What else you can try to improve your body throughout the day! 

  • Set your timer for every 30 minutes! Once that goes off, you need to walk or move your body! 
  • Mobility exercise. Move your spine and decrease the stiffness building up from sitting.
  • Walking. Walking 20 minute is about a mile! If you can’t go outside then walk in your home or up and down the stairs. You just have to do something!

The best back stretch for working from home.

The standing prayer stretch s a variation the prayer stretch or child’s pose. There are many ways to do it but trust me, once you dial it in, it is very effective. 100% of my patients really enjoy this stretch. You can do it anywhere as well.

Standing lower back stretch, Prayer stretch for the upper and lower back
L Stretch

How to do it: @3:45 Essentially you place your arms on a sturdy surface (a high counter top works best) and then step back while keeping your knees and back straight. You will end up with your head between your arms and the intent is to sink into the stretch and bring your chest toward the ground. Where you should feel it: The trick is to feel the stretch in your upper back and once you are in the position, breathe out to obtain an even greater range of motion.


Improving your back pain at home isn’t terribly difficult. It comes from forming good habits and giving your body some love. This attention includes mobility and strengthening that is focused at your hips and spine. Sure, posture plays a small part but I would much rather strengthen the back of your body so you are able to fight gravity longer and more effectively. Sitting makes us round our upper back and can cause tightness in many areas. I focus on moving the joints in our spine into the opposite direction to open you up and provide that relief you are looking for. You imporve your back pain when working from by scheduled movement breaks and building strength and resiliency of your spine.

Check out my 5 minute mini lower back workout that does all of it and my favorite mobility exercises for those who work from home. Don't be worried, these are very good for lower back pain pain! Here is my latest review about stretching and how to be safe when exercising your lower back.

If you have lower back pain or hip pain, check out this free webinar I did discussing diagnosis, treatmnets, and best evidence to help you get better on your own! 

Sign up to be notified about future blogs and check out this free webinar I did on hip and back pain!

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

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