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Deborah German, MD Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, UCF College of Medicine

How many of us are using our dining room table and chair as a remote home office? That may be why your back hurts.

So we’re turning to William Hanney, associate professor of physical therapy at UCF’s College of Health Professions and Sciences and an expert in back and neck pain, for guidance. He authors this week’s COVID-19 health tip:

As we work from home during the pandemic, we’re more sedentary. These changes in activity levels and working in a less ergonomic environment can cause back pain. To address the discomfort, it’s important to identify which of these three general types of back pain you are having:

 1. Pain that increases while you sit and usually causes discomfort in one leg

2. Pain that increases when you stand and causes discomfort in both legs

3. Pain that varies – occurring at times when you stand and other times when you sit  

William Hanney,
Associate Professor of Physical Therapy UCF College of Health Professions and Sciences

For the first type of pain, avoid sitting as much as possible. You can do many office tasks while standing. For example, try attending online meetings with your computer on a bookshelf so you can stand and be at eye level with the screen. Stand or walk around during phone meetings. If you do need to sit, make sure you take frequent breaks to stand and walk.   

If your back hurts while you stand, avoid prolonged walking.  If you need to go grocery shopping, for example, organize your shopping list by where foods are located so you don’t have to walk back and forth across the store.  See if there is a bench or place to sit and take frequent breaks. While sitting, lean forward toward the ground to help take pressure off your back.  The key is to sit or take a break before you feel a significant increase in your pain. If you wait until your back hurts so much that you can’t walk anymore, it will take longer for that inflammation to subside and provide you with some relief.  

If you suffer from variable back pain, you need to move and change your position frequently.  Sit for a while, then stand.  The key is to pay attention to your symptoms.  If you’re sitting and your back pain starts, then stand.  Conversely, if your pain increases when standing, then sit.  If you’re working from home, try setting up several workstations so you can quickly move your computer/work location to a new set-up depending on your pain. 

Always pay attention to what increases or decreases your symptoms.  Often your body is telling you what to do.  While low back pain is very common, it is a medical condition. So if your pain is hurting your quality of life or is causing more than just mild discomfort, don’t just “deal with it.” See a medical professional who can provide more treatment options for your specific condition.  

COVID-19 health tips are brought to you by UCF’s Academic Health Sciences Center (AHSC), which includes the Colleges of Health Professions and Sciences (CHPS), Medicine, Nursing and Student Health Services. 

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