Rise of the Covid Spine: The migration from office to home.
This blog is not intended to cause fear, I just made the title a little grabbing so you take a few minutes to read it! A bit sneaky, but it’s for all of our own good :)
I have noticed a big increase in neck and back pain patients over the last year. Most of the people are office workers who have migrated from the coffee swilling offices to their sofa, dining room table, and even on a floor with a cushion (with Netflix playing in the background). Ever noticed you get a backache when you sleep on another mattress? It’s very common to get an achy back. Why? Adaptation. I have written about adaptation so many times I feel well adapted. Imagine holding a 10kg weight in a flexed position for an hour. It’s going to hurt, it’s something we are not used to. Hence, so anything new we are not ready for, or have not adapted to will result in pain, an ache, a throb, a sharpness, take your pick. Giving pain is the brain trying to protect you. It’s also telling you something new is happening and does not necessarily mean there is damage either. Most pain we see in patients is non-serious but chronic. Chronic pain is the pain that lingers and often needs intermittent to regular treatment with the right education and movement.
It’s not just the new environment causing pain, it’s also the stress, extra working hours, more takeaways, less exercise, emotional trauma from covid, such as a death of a loved one. Time apart, apathy, sluggishness, and fatigue. I have definitely not felt as spritely as I did a year ago. Some days I have talked myself out of doing exercise and watch a new tv series instead. Hey, I’m only human! So it’s really just one thing causing neck and back pain, it’s a combination of poor motion, poor nutrition, poor sleep, and stress. Many of my patients are working way more hours than before. That means sitting in the same position for long hours, without breaks, good hydration, and also proper breathing.
People are complaining of aches and pains in the back of the neck, middle of the shoulder blades, and lower back. Sometimes pins and needles and A LOT of headaches. A few have even gone to the hospital because of a simple muscle spasm. (Yes they can be THAT painful). As mentioned, another reason we are seeing more people is because of fatigue. This lockdown has not been easy. Stress has hit us from every direction. Solitude, fewer friends and family around, for some financial stress, poor sleep, and overworked. It’s no fun! Pressure is a fun word, but not really. We are all under a lot more pressure. Some of us have good coping mechanisms and others do not so much. When things get on top they can implode. Often this can result in aches and pains.
What is the answer to these aches and pains?
1. Have a good office setup. Ergonomics is key. You can see how to set up your workstation here:
2. Drink a ton of water, or 2 litres is better
3. Get back into a routine. Humans are hard-wired for routines. Have breakfast at the same time, lunch and dinner. Go to sleep at the same time and get up and the same time EVERY day.
4. Take regular breaks. Get up every 40 mins, have a drink, look outside, and up to the sky to switch off for a few minutes.
5. Have a stretch and mobility routine each day. It stops the build-up of tension.
6. Try mindfulness. Science shows it’s great for mental health and relaxation.
7. Speak to friends and family where you can. We are built for contact. Unless you are an introvert, introverts are doing very well mentally in lockdown.
8. Go and see someone. Preferably me! We can loosen you up, get the joints moving again, and advise in a bit more detail. Not to mention some great exercises sent to your email for ease.
This is a short one today. It’s sunny and I need that Vitamin D!
Stay safe, healthy, and mobile.