Between quarantine and shorter winter days, we’re all moving less. In this blog post, we explore how that’s affecting your body.
It’s been nearly a year since our world changed. Many of us were suddenly forced to work from home, give up the gym and fitness classes, and now colder, winter days have us huddled up at home. When you pile on the stress from the current state of things, it’s a recipe for orthopedic disaster.
When Working From Home Works Your Nerves
Picture it. A kitchen table. A kitchen chair. A laptop. Now imagine you’re the person sitting at this makeshift workstation. Your shoulders are likely curved forward, your head is jutted out in front of your body to look at the too-low computer screen, and your hips are thrust in the antithesis of ergonomic positions. Meanwhile, your wrists and forearms aren’t properly supported and likely resting on a table height that is all wrong for your needs. You maintain this position for several hours every workday — and for more hours than you would in an office.
The simple thing to do is to create a proper workspace, but that takes money and planning. Many people who were suddenly pushed into working from home lack basic ergonomic equipment that’s common place at the office — like adjustable chairs, desks and monitors. Because many people have lost work or taken pay cuts, they also don’t have the money to buy a more ergonomically healthy setup. They also have spouses and children working from home leaving little space to dedicate to it.
All said, ad hoc workstations like these are wreaking havoc on our bodies. Orthopedists across the country are seeing increases in neck and upper back pain complaints as well as repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, pinched nerves, and hand and forearm tendinitis.
And that’s just one of the curses of what quarantining is doing to our health.
Getting active in the time of COVID is difficult, too. Many have said goodbye to their gyms, fitness classes, and exercise buddies. The depths of winter with shorter, colder days keep us inside. Finding motivation through all of that can prove to be a difficult struggle.
And so, we sit.
Even though it’s been said by more than just one health professional that sitting is “the new smoking,” and right now, it’s easier than ever to be sedentary. The American Cancer Society shared in a 2018 article, “studies have linked prolonged sitting time with death from cancer, heart disease, and ‘all other causes.’”
Less activity certainly leads to more orthopaedic-related injuries as well. Take your muscles for instance. If you aren’t using them, their mass drops — and strength and flexibility decrease, too. Throw in poor posture and a lack of ergonomic support, and it’s a lot more understandable when our hips or back suddenly lock up in the midst of a menial task.
All is Not Lost — Let Us Help You Help Yourself
Let’s start by saying that the physical ramifications of quarantine will be temporary or likely reversible. However, there are efforts you can make now that your body will thank you for.
Ergonomic Workspace Improvements
Make your work-from-home setup more comfortable with a few adjustments. Prop up your screen to get it eye level. Use an office chair if at all possible. If not, there are seat cushions that cost far less than a new chair and can really help. If all else fails, find a good pillow to put behind your back for lumbar support.
A Little Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes Action
To give your body some much needed TLC, we aren’t suggesting a whole new exercise regime. Start with simple steps to get back in motion. Schedule breaks into your day — not just to the fridge. A quick walk around the block, is not only good for your joints and muscles, but it’s also mentally beneficial. Be sure to also find some basic stretches that limber up your whole body.
Most importantly, be gentle on yourself. We’ve all found different ways of managing our new norms and getting back to those healthier coping techniques is something to ease into. It may not be something you’re always able to do either. Do what you can each day, and remember every morning is a new chance to make healthy decisions.
New Normal Bringing You New Pains?
If you are experiencing unusual discomfort or pain, our specialists are available to help. Schedule an appointment to find out more about how we can get you back to living with less pain. Same day appointments are available. As always, we have your safety in mind when it comes to the latest in COVID-19 practices.