Wellness
Think your headaches are caused by too much screen time? It could be something else entirely...

Think your headaches are caused by too much screen time? It could be something else entirely...

Rounded shoulders, back complaints and stiff joints have been rife over the last two years as we’ve made the move to working from home. And it's even weaved its way onto social. To date, #badposture has an incredible 92 billion views on TikTok, while #badposture has >60 million videos, #roundedshoulders has >30 million, and #badback is currently sitting on 18 million. And this is just the start.​

You don’t need us to tell you the benefits of home working and how it can positively impact our lives, but there are, of course, downsides, too. And one of those is how our posture and backs have suffered.​

We all know that having a good work set up is key to maintaining a healthy body, but did you know it goes deeper than that? Sitting in strained positions for long periods of time can result in a myriad of other health issues.

In a bid to find out more, and get som

Rounded shoulders, back complaints and stiff joints have been rife over the last two years as we’ve made the move to working from home. And it's even weaved its way onto social. To date, #badposture has an incredible 92 billion views on TikTok, while #badposture has >60 million videos, #roundedshoulders has >30 million, and #badback is currently sitting on 18 million. And this is just the start.​

You don’t need us to tell you the benefits of home working and how it can positively impact our lives, but there are, of course, downsides, too. And one of those is how our posture and backs have suffered.​

We all know that having a good work set up is key to maintaining a healthy body, but did you know it goes deeper than that? Sitting in strained positions for long periods of time can result in a myriad of other health issues.

In a bid to find out more, and get some help and advice, we’ve teamed up with osteopath and owner of Solihull Osteopathic Practice, Jeremy James.

The Importance of Good Posture

A person with good posture sits at their desk typing on a laptopA person with good posture sits at their desk typing on a laptop

“Bad seating and bad posture would be one that does not allow someone to sit in a number of different comfortable positions. There is, in fact, no one correct sitting position, but a good chair should allow options for different comfortable sitting positions,” Jeremey stated. He also said that whatever seat you opt for should be fully adjustable as prolonged static posture causes stiffness in muscles by restricting blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscle, resulting in fatigue in certain muscle groups. This then results in pain in the back, neck and shoulders, starting soon after.

Although most of this on the surface is short term, there are longer term issues this can cause. “Over time, discs may become compressed, which can lead to disc degeneration. Muscles may become tight due to lack of movement, while prolonged positions leaning forward looking towards a screen at the wrong angle may cause muscle tension in the neck and shoulders – especially if the workstation does not allow enough room for movement. Over time, muscles fatigue and can become sensitised to pain, which can then cause long term problems.”

It Goes Beyond the Back

A woman sits in a dark home office on an office chair at a desk while on her computer.A woman sits in a dark home office on an office chair at a desk while on her computer.

But it’s not just our backs that are suffering. Jeremy’s practice regularly sees people with a lot of neck and shoulder tension. “Sedentary people are prone to muscle tightness in the trapezius muscle which can become very painful,” he added. And from there, it can cause a surprising side effect. You might think that your headaches are as a result of looking at a screen for long periods of time, but in fact, it could be due to something else. “Neck tension from peering at a screen can cause headaches,” Jeremy added. “Headaches which come from the neck are very common and are often wrongly thought to be an issue with vision.”

You may be thinking that we’ve been desk workers for years, so why now are we focussing on it? Well, it’s gotten worse – those videos on TikTok are there for a reason. Jeremy has seen a huge rise in the number of patients since we’ve been working from home en mass. “We have noticed a big increase in the number of patients with lower back, neck pain and headaches since people started working from home,” he said. “This is not surprising, as at home people often have unsuitable chairs and desks, and are forced to work in cramped spaces which does not allow enough chance to change position.

“The most common complaint we see in clinic is lower back pain. There are many causes for this, and they do vary widely from person to person. Prolonged bad sitting posture can be a real problem for the lower back, as well as the neck and shoulders. Stress and tension at work is also a big cause of neck and shoulder pain. So, take steps to manage stress levels, and make sure you get enough sleep.”

So, what can you do to combat these issues?

Changing position, surprisingly, is one of the most important things you can do for your posture. “Use the adjustments of the chair to allow you to change position while still sitting at the desk to allow muscles to recover,” says Jeremy. He also suggests taking frequent breaks from sitting and stretching your body to allow the blood to flow.

“A small thing you can do is simply turning your head from side to side whilst at your desk in order to stop muscles from stiffening. Likewise, reaching up to the ceiling a few times to get the blood flowing into your shoulders and neck muscles, then bend over and touch your toes a few times to get the blood flowing into your lower back.”

You can even go further and do a few squats, or go up on your tip toes a few times to loosen your body up. Furthermore, he suggests that investing in a desk that allows you to stand for a while to ensure blood is flowing. 

The issue with bad backs is, often, they aren’t just a short-term problem. Jeremy says they can easily become a long-term issue with poor sitting position and poor sitting habits; muscles can easily become sensitive when they start to fatigue and stiffen and can sometimes be hard to reverse.

Make sure you’re keeping as healthy as possible when working from home with dedicated office furniture, including ergonomic furniture and orthopaedic chairs.