Ever since we re-opened our physical doors on June 1st, 2020 (during the initial lockdown, we were only available for virtual therapy!) some cases have stood out more than others…
- A lot of neck / upper back / shoulder / arm pain as people are working exclusively from home
- Injuries resulting from people taking advantage of being home to exercise more, specifically by running (e.g. Achilles issues)
- Chronic issues resurfacing because people have not being able to work out regularly at the gym (e.g. back pain)
1. Neck / upper back / shoulder / arm pain
The first issue has been directly as a result of the change in ergonomics and working longer hours! Think about it. If you didn’t have a home office, you probably ended up working at the kitchen table, or from the couch. Sitting for eight hours in a kitchen chair, or sinking into the couch the whole time, can get quite uncomfortable.
Plus, at home we don’t have meetings in conference rooms… we don’t drive to see clients… we don’t get up to go talk to someone at another desk… There are lot less breaks from sitting and a greater opportunity to work longer, especially when there is no commute back home!
So… we end up spending longer time in positions that are less than ideal, and end up putting stress on certain muscles or joints.
Not to mention the stress associated with a pandemic! You don’t know how long it’s going to last and it affects your life in so many ways both work and non-work related… And stress causes us to tense up, raises our heart rate and blood pressure, reduces our adaptability and immune system…
It’s no wonder we start having pain!
So what can you do about this?
The pandemic is not going away any time soon. If you haven’t already, it might be a good time to invest in your workspace at home. Here are some suggestions about how to optimize your workspace:
- Desk and chair height should allow for your forearms to be parallel to the ground while keyboarding and mousing
- Ideally, chair height should allow your feet to comfortably rest on the ground
- Seat depth and distance from desk should allow for you to sit as far back as you can, so that you are taking advantage of the backrest
- Backrests for the full back are preferable to backrests that only go up halfway
- Backrests with adjustable lumbar support are preferable
- Screen(s) should be at eye level so you are not constantly looking down
- If you use a laptop only consider getting a riser table so that the screen is at eye level, and a wireless keyboard so that your forearms can still be parallel to the ground
- Consider setting up reminders on your phone to get up to move and stretch, or get a drink of water
- If possible, consider switching for half an hour to the kitchen island with your laptop so you spend some time standing instead of sitting. Or, when you have conference calls, taking them standing.
These ergonomic modifications can make a difference over time. But if your pain has been worsening, let us know so we can help! We are considered an essential service and remain open during lockdown for all of our services: physiotherapy, massage therapy, yoga therapy, chiropody, and acupuncture!
2. Injuries from exercising more
A lot of people have been walking more, especially in the past Spring and Summer. There have also been a lot more runners and cyclists. This is great news! These are activities that don’t require much (or any) fancy equipment and can be done alone, or with family.
However, when you are adding a new activity for exercise, overdoing it is a concern.
Here are some tips when adding in new exercises to your routine:
- Do not go from 0 to 100! If you never used to run, start with 2-3x week, not every day.
- Do not push yourself right off the bat! Start with light jogs, or a run-to-walk ratio. Think more about endurance (pacing yourself) rather than speed. Same goes for biking.
- Fit bits and 30-day challenges are great motivators. However, pushing yourself to the limit for the sake of hitting a mark can cause more issues than it’s worth. If you are getting pain, do NOT push through it! If you really don’t want to skip the day, replace or modify the activity.
- Recovery days are just as important as workout days. Whether it’s a full day of rest, or a lighter activity like yoga, recovery days are important to let your tissues recuperate and adapt. What’s more, exercise normally increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. Recovery activities are meant to reduce these metrics so your system is in more balance. This reduces the risk of injury.
If you’ve taken up running have you been having any foot, ankle, knee, hip, or back pain? If you’ve been cycling, any wrist or elbow or shoulder pain?
Let us know so we can help! If you’re not comfortable coming in due to COVID-19 concerns, we continue to offer Telehealth services (video calls). Click here for more information.
3. Chronic issue resurfacing because we are not going to the gym
Do you have any chronic neck or back issues? Did you have a regular workout routine prior to the pandemic? Was this routine interrupted as a result and you’ve been noticing your old issues creeping back in?
If so, you are not the only one!
A lot of people manage certain conditions with regular exercise. They usually notice that if they are not as diligent about their exercises, their pain and mobility may worsen.
Unfortunately, access to gyms has been spotty. Even when lockdown restrictions were lifted in Summer and Fall, gyms were operating at limited capacity and by appointment-only. Unless you have all or most of your workout equipment at home, you were likely affected.
While investing in a new desk or office chair is cheaper and more pressing, investing in workout equipment is not. You may buy some free weights, or splurge on a stationary bike, but you likely are not replacing all the equipment you used to use at the gym.
Or perhaps it’s not the equipment that you miss, but the dynamic and instruction of group exercise classes.
So what can you do?
Even if you don’t have chronic pain but would like to get back to being active, here are some ideas:
- Accept that your workouts do not have to look like what they used to be. A lot of shoulder, core, and leg exercises have equipment-free alternatives that rely on body-weight resistance only!
- If you have some free-weights but you used to use machines, the free-weights are still better than nothing!
- If you miss the group classes, a lot of places have online classes. It may not be the same but it’s still better than nothing! Sometimes, it just takes a while to get into a new routine.
- Take the opportunity to try a new form of exercise that doesn’t require gym equipment (just make sure you follow the tips outlined in the previous section!)
- If you find it hard to get motivated at home, consider what puts you in the right state of mind… what kind of music do you like working out to? Is there a time of day that works best? Do you like having the motivation of peers? Then ask if some friends want to join you in a remote challenge! Are they free 2-3x week to attend an online class with you? Do they want to check in at the end of each week or each day to make sure everybody is meeting their activity goals?
- If you need 30-60 minutes on your own 3x week for your health and well-being, have this conversation upfront with family members about helping you do this and how it’s going to work! You don’t have to do this alone!
If your chronic issue has flared up because of the lack of maintenance, let us know! We are here for you whether it’s an in-person appointment or virtually!