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Create an Ergonomic Workspace During COVID

5 ways to prevent backaches and neck pain while working from home

A man working at a desk sitting causally in his office at home.

5 ways to prevent backaches and neck pain while working from home

Working from home has become the new normal for many San Diegans, but trading your comfy office chair and standing desk for a coffee table or kitchen counter can be a real headache… and neckache and backache.


While COVID-19 has prompted an increase in telecommuting, companies are looking at it as a long-term option. Take the time to make your work-from-home space more ergonomic and switch up your routine to be more conducive to your overall health.


“During this time, I have been home-based for many of the activities I previously did in the office, too,” says James Bruffey, MD, Scripps Clinic orthopedic spine surgeon. “So, I have to practice what I preach. Setting up my home office correctly was extremely important to avoid symptoms and aggravations of my baseline arthritic conditions.”

5 easy ways to keep your telecommute pain-free

These practical tips from Dr. Bruffey and his colleagues — Dan Keefe, MD, Scripps Clinic orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, and Scripps Clinic orthopedic hand surgeon Lorenzo Pacelli, MD — will help you stay healthy while you’re homebound.

1. Change positions frequently

This is important for your back, neck and shoulders. A simple tip: Set a reminder on your phone to stand up and do a quick 30-second lap around the house every 20-30 minutes. This will relieve pressure in those parts of your body.

2. Sit up straight

Be mindful of your sitting position. Adjust your keyboard and monitor to allow you to sit more upright. Prop your laptop on a book or two if needed.

3. Stop and stretch

Stretch your back, legs and neck before you start your workday and during frequent breaks. Perform these stretches slowly and in a comfortable range of motion.

4. Boost your blood circulation

Wearing compression socks is a good idea for people who must sit for prolonged periods of time (both at home and in the office, once we go back!). Compression socks reduce venous stasis, or the pooling of blood in the veins, which can lead to problems like skin ulcers or blood clots in the legs.

5. Concentrate on your core

Keep up with your regular exercise program and do exercises that strengthen your core. There’s not just one correct exercise or program — find one that you like doing on a regular basis. 

Learn more about designing a home workspace that promotes good posture and movement while reducing back pain, neck pain and eye strain.

San Diego Health August 2020 Issue

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.