Since the outbreak of the corona epidemic, numerous employees in Germany have been working from home.

Without colleagues, without customer appointments, without a canteen - and without the usual ergonomic office chair.

No wonder that the back hurts even more than usual at work, from the neck to the tailbone the back of the body feels tense and warped.

Many who have to go to their normal office also suffer, because you should move around less in the building, sometimes eating at your desk, in order to avoid contact with colleagues and thus the possibility of infection.

How can you - without a good office chair or the accustomed freedom of movement - prevent major damage?

There are tips and tricks that will take the strain off your back, no matter where you work.

Disconnect the monitor from the keyboard

Source: WORLD infographic

This is common in the office, but not at home at work.

For many people these days, working from home means working on a laptop.

The changeover had to be quick and not everyone was able to set up a real office at home.

With the laptop you can type from bed or lounge on the sofa, that sounds cozy on the first day.

Even the hunched posture you have to adopt suggests that it is not healthy for your back.

Better: you put the laptop on a stable table.

Even better: you add “external input means” to it.

Sascha Wischniewski from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA), for example, advises this.

"The classic laptop with its small keyboard connected to the monitor and integrated touchpad almost provokes a hunched posture, which has an unfavorable effect on the back." So it would be better to have a separate monitor or - if available - a device with a detachable screen (detachable laptop ) use.

If that doesn't work, you should at least use a mouse and keyboard.

The keyboard should not be a Bluetooth mini, but rather have the dimensions of a classic PC keyboard.

Upper edge of the monitor at eye level

Source: WORLD infographic

The following rule of thumb applies to the position of the monitor: Its upper edge should be at eye level as a maximum.

Higher or lower positions lead to unfavorable loads in the neck area.

“The optimal head posture is tilted slightly downwards,” explains Wischniewski, who heads the “Human Factors / Ergonomics” specialist group at the BAuA.

When it comes to the monitor, please note: The screen should be aligned so that no sunlight falls on it.

Because that tempts you to twist your upper body unfavorably in order to avoid the reflex on the screen.


attention to

right angles

Source: WORLD infographic

Sitting in a back-friendly manner means that you strive to maintain right angles in the starting position.

Specifically, this means that the knee joint, the hip between the thigh and trunk and the elbow joint between the upper and lower arm should reach halfway a 90-degree angle.

This relieves the strain on muscles and joints.

“However, you don't have to approach the set square,” says Wischniewski.

The 90-degree requirement is only a guideline, especially for the home office, because the seating furniture in the apartment is usually not so flexible.

In addition, it is at least as important that you do not remain statically in one position while sitting, because that increases the risk of tension and is also at the expense of concentration.

Don't freeze in the chair

Source: WORLD infographic

A central principle of office ergonomics is: The next sitting position is always the best.

Ligaments and muscles do not harden and one-sided strain is avoided.

The posture should therefore be changed again and again.

Which can also mean that you sit right up front on the edge of the chair or lie around on the chair like a bored schoolboy for a while to read a long email.

Even completely twisted positions, such as one in which you hold your crossed legs sideways to the table, are allowed.

Provided that you do not take it for more than 20 minutes and then get up briefly.

Before you sit down again - in the right-angled starting position or a new position.

The sitting ball is not a permanent solution

Source: WORLD infographic

For so-called flexible sitting, retailers or trainers like to suggest sitting balls and inflatable seat pads.

But studies have shown that the back needs a chair that offers stability for longer periods of sitting.

“I would rather see sitting balls, inflatable pads and the like as fitness and training equipment,” says Wischniewski.

They can be used to bring movement into everyday sitting for a few minutes, but with continuous use they tire the muscles too much to protect against problems in the back.

"If you sit on a moving surface all day, you set a training stimulus all day," warns the occupational medicine expert.

And that promotes muscle tension rather than relieving it.

Create inconvenience

Source: WORLD infographic

Telephone, laptop, files, coffee cup, chocolate bar - everything they need during the day can be found on the table of many home office users.

Those who go to the office also like to place snacks and documents around the computer.

And then sits there for hours.

Instead of running to the meeting, most people, no matter where they are currently working, switch on the video conference program.

Henner Hanssen from the Department of Sport, Exercise and Health at the University of Basel therefore advises “deliberately adding to the inconveniences in the home office”.

For example, to put your phone, printer and files in places that you have to get up and stretch to reach.

This also applies to the office - the water bottle should at least be at the other end of the desk.

Sascha Wischniewski suggests imposing rituals that encourage movement: “For example, you can generally make calls while standing or walking.

Or that you can occasionally print out e-mails with longer text attachments in order to read them while standing. "

Sprinkle sports

every two hours

How can you prevent major damage without a good office chair?

Source: WORLD infographic

The best remedy for lack of exercise is taking breaks for "real" sporting activities.

Small exercises that can be sprinkled in with little effort.

Preferably every two hours - set a reminder in the computer.

“You can do strength exercises with your own body weight,” says Henner Hanssen.

You don't have to learn Pilates or yoga straight away, it is enough to remember the exercises from school.

Classic squats are good for the leg and gluteus muscles.

The arm and upper body area can be trained with push-ups, which can be adapted to individual fitness.

"For example, you can support yourself with your knees instead of your feet on the floor to reduce the strain," says Hanssen.

Stretching exercises can be performed with the chair as a training partner.

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For example: You stand with your face to the chair, put one straight leg with your heel on the seat and either bend your upper body over the straight leg.

Or you bend the knee joint of the raised leg, as in a one-legged squat.

You hardly need any space for this.

"If the entire family has to find their place in about 80 square meters, there are of course limits to being able to move around in the home office," says Wischniewski.

Therefore another stretch that can be performed while sitting: Spread your legs, carefully lower your upper body forward.

If even that is too demanding for you, you can shake and loosen up while standing.

This is also possible in the office - hopefully the colleagues are currently at a distance.

And what if the past few weeks have left back pain?

Or the pain suddenly shoots in the back?

Important in both cases: don't panic.

The fear exacerbates the pain and is usually unfounded.

"In the majority of all back pain patients, neither a circumscribed disease nor a pathological process nor a reliable anatomical source can be found as the cause of the pain," says a report from the Robert Koch Institute.

At least 80 percent of all back pain is considered "non-specific", often only tension or hardening of the muscles can be identified as the cause.

These can be alleviated - through physiotherapy, exercise.

And better, more varied sitting.

This article was first published in May 2020.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG.

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