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How to Keep WFH From Messing Up Your Back

Men’s Health features a physician’s guide according to HSS physiatrist Naimish Baxi, MD detailing how to care for your back when working from home.

Dr. Baxi discussed his desk set up, which he keeps his monitor at eye level and the keyboard underneath, to ensure his elbows are flexed at about 100-110 degrees. For those using a laptop, he suggested getting a separate keyboard and mouse to better position the screen, to prevent hunching, which causes rounding of the shoulders and a bent-forward neck (which result in pain, knots and spasms in the neck and upper back).

To prevent neck knots, Dr. Baxi mentioned he does chin tucks and neck rotations to activate the muscles that surround and support the cervical spine. “The stronger these muscles are, the easier time you’ll have holding your head, neck, and back in the right position,” he explained. Additionally, being consistent with performing core exercises that work the abdominals, obliques and hip flexors “is like building stronger scaffolding around your spine, protecting your precious discs,” he cited.

Up to 2 percent of adults are diagnosed with herniated discs each year. Dr. Baxi advised not to rush into surgery right away. Speaking from his personal experience, he never considered surgery as he has been able to recover with treatment. There are a few instances when to undergo surgery - when bladder or bowl function is compromised because the nerves in the lumbar spine are compressed; neurological weakness (like foot drop where you can’t lift your foot or ankle); and debilitating pain that doesn’t respond to physical therapy, injections or treatment.

As a CrossFitter, Dr. Baxi underscored the importance of doing lifts right. The most common error is rounding of the back during moves like deadlifts, kettlebell swings and wall balls. Additionally, lifting too heavy at first is a mistake. “The minute I can’t maintain good form, I change something, whether that’s reducing the load of modifying the movement,” said Dr. Baxi.

Read the full article at Menshealth.com. This article also appeared in the print March 2021 issue.