5 Ways Your Home Can Help Relieve Back Pain

From the kitchen to your home office, the design of your spaces can effectively reduce back pain.

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Ever since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been spending more time than ever in our homes. This has greatly increased attentiveness to our homes, resulting in a mass “nesting” in which décor sales have shot through the roof (for example, according to Business of Home, Wayfair’s stock jumped 754 points in 2020) and homeowners are wondering how their spaces can make them feel healthier and happier.

Home design back painHere's how your home's design can influence back pain.

Apart from the mental and physical benefits home design can offer, you might be surprised to learn that your interior spaces can actually lessen your back pain.

This idea stems from a relatively new approach in the design world called wellness design, which has made its way over from workplaces to private homes. In 2017, the Global Wellness Institute reported that wellness real estate was becoming a booming sector valued at $134 billion, and this was before the pandemic.

Two experts are here to share their tips for alleviating back pain right in your own home, from overhauling spaces—if you have the budget and the time—to simple fixes,.

1. A Home Gym to Exercise Away Back Pain

Studies have proven that exercise is effective in relieving low back pain. Since many gyms are still closed, or perhaps you’re not comfortable returning to your regular gym, many people have been creating home gyms instead.

Jamie Gold, Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach and the author of Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness, (Simon & Schuster/Tiller Press, September 1) says that one should contact a physician before starting an exercise program, but she does have recommendations for a home gym if you’ve gotten the go-ahead.

“If you’re going to be doing any high impact or plyometric work in the space, I highly encourage forgiving flooring,” she says. “You don’t want to land hard and repetitively on tile or concrete for sure. Some options could be rubber, cork, or linoleum tiles.” 

Theresa Marko, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist in physical therapy and owner of Marko Physical Therapy, PLLC in New York City names a few must-have home-gym items to combat back pain. They include:

  • Foam roller
  • Physio exercise ball
  • Yoga strap
  • Light hand weights
  • Exercise bands

2. An Ergonomically Correct Home Office

Many of us have found ourselves working at home for the first time this year, oftentimes in makeshift home offices. If you’re finding that your back is sore at the end of a workday, now is the time to implement ergonomics into your space.

“An ergonomic desk chair is a huge benefit for anyone who spends hours sitting on the job,” Gold says. “If possible, adding desk risers or an adjustable desk to your workstation that allows you to work part of the day standing up is also ideal. If not, design the space with an area that you can move around in at regular intervals.”

She also suggests task lighting, “otherwise you might find yourself hunching over to read papers or books on your desk.”

3. A Bathroom to Soothe Backaches  

As it turns out, a poorly designed bathroom can easily lead to back pain.

Dr. Marko says, “You definitely need space to turn around, move, and dry yourself off after showering.” She adds that a wide bathtub, shower controls at chest height instead of shin height, grab bars, and a raised toilet seat and sink can be helpful features.

home design back pain bathroomA well-designed bathroom can really help your back.

Gold emphasizes safety in the bathroom, saying, “Some safety elements that should be included are slip-resistant floors, nonskid rugs, shower seats, and handheld showerheads one can use while seated. I also recommend barrier-free shower entries and integral linear drains in a protected spot that make tripping less likely.”

4. Kitchens Designed with Back Pain in Mind

When you’re in the kitchen, bending down for things in the refrigerator and blocks of time spent standing can absolutely lead to back pain.

“Homeowners should look at organizers that pull out so that they don’t have to bend as far to get what they need out of their base and pantry cabinets,” Gold says. “They should also look at more ergonomic appliances like wall ovens installed at comfortable heights rather than ranges. I also recommend an anti-fatigue mat for anyone who spends long hours on hard floors.”

Dr. Marko advises raising the counter heights along with the stove and sink heights. “Also, have the plugs at an easy height to reach,” she says. “The heights of things matter so much.”

5. Pain-Relieving Seating

You can also look at your living and dining rooms when implementing pain-reducing elements throughout your home. Dr. Marko points out that seating is key.

She says, “For couches, you would want a rather firm couch, not a big, thick, fluffy one. You want support. Often, I recommend pillows behind the back on the couch. For dining seating, I don’t recommend the very popular benches, but again, a chair with a back is best. Also, you don’t want that chair to be concave, but rather, supportive with a firm back.”

The Big Picture

Gold stresses the importance of looking at our homes in a holistic way rather than “just a collection of rooms or furnishings.” This is something to keep in mind as your home design lends itself to back-pain relief and overall safety in the long run.

We’re not suggesting you go out and buy a new house, remodel your kitchen, or rip up your bathroom if your home isn’t perfectly ergonomic. But, keep our experts’ tips in mind when you’re looking at your living and working spaces. Chances are, you’ll be able to tweak some setting here and there that your back might thank you for in the long run.

Updated on: 02/01/21
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Theresa Marko, DPT
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