Since the outbreak of the pandemic, many people are working from home more regularly. Dr Manoj Kumar Nair, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialist at the Dubai Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre, DHA, says that often home environments are not as ergonomic as traditional offices and that this can lead to poor posture.
“The common complaints we receive in our clinic are neck pain and back pain because of poor posture,” he says.
“It is very important for people who work from home to look at their environment. Many people do not have an optimal posture for preventing posture-related injuries. Work stations at home don’t tend to be as ergonomically refined as those they tend to get in the office.”
It is very important for people who work from home to look at their environment. Many people do not have an optimal posture for preventing posture-related injuries.
Dr Nair says that poor posture can lead to a number of health issues and it tends to affect people more as they age but that he also sees children with posture-related issues. “It’s when people reach their thirties that they can start to experience back problems but we also see children with back pain and I think this is attributed to their lifestyles where they are watching too much TV or spending too much time on their mobile phones for example. This can cause the muscles on the back of the neck to strain and become tired.”
He also says that regular breaks should be taken when possible during the working day. “I would suggest people who from home take breaks from their desks and stretch when possible. Rather than taking long breaks, I would recommend a short break every 15 to 20 minutes. When you keep moving and warming up the muscle tissues, your movement becomes more fluid.
“I think standing work stations are an excellent solution because there has been a lot of research and studies that have suggested using this method for improving posture works and achieves good results.”
The importance of exercise
Dr Nair believes that regular exercise is key to avoiding many posture-related injuries and that people should start at an achievable and safe level before increasing the intensity of their workouts. “There are plenty of exercise activities available during this month’s Dubai Fitness Challenge. For somebody who is new to exercise, I usually suggest they start with brisk walking and jogging rather than running.
"When people start to workout we don’t know their limits. As a ball park figure we calculate people’s maximum safe heart rate during exercise by subtracting their age from 220. We then initially set a target heart rate of 50 to 70 per cent of this for moderate exercise. Then we gradually increase the intensity of the exercise and we often see this causes people’s resting heart rate to come down significantly but this depends on how much exercise people are able to do and the fitness levels they can achieve.
“People should be exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes, with five to ten minutes of warm-up followed by five to ten minutes of cool down exercise.
“When you warm up your body it increases your circulation and prepares your muscles and tissues for exercise. If you are running for example, you can start by brisk walking and then gradually increase your speed.”
Dr Nair also reiterates the importance of stretching both before and after exercise to reduce your risk of injury. He also says that people with health concerns should consult a specialist prior to exercising to rule out any potentially dangerous underlying health problems. “When you are exercising, stretching is very important. If you stretch after your warm-up you will get more benefits than when you first start your exercise.
“If you have doubts about your health condition it is best to seek a medical opinion before carrying out vigorous exercise so they can rule out any serious problems with your heart and other organs. Everyone has to start exercising somewhere so I always recommend starting with minimal activity and seeing how much you can tolerate.”
Dr Nair encourages people to be conscious of their fitness levels and says that while it’s never too late to improve your health and well-being, it’s beneficial to start regular exercise at a young age. “I suggest people should start exercise as early in their lives as possible as once you reach a certain age it becomes very difficult to change your habits.”