The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed numerous challenges on all individuals around the world, with one large change being the transition from working in a large, shared office space to working remotely from home. As of June 2020, approximately 42% of the United States workforce was found to be working from home as opposed to near 17% prior to the pandemic. (1, 5 ) Though many have found working from home to be more convenient or less hectic due to the lack of a commute, another major issue has emerged: neck and back pain. (3)
The change from office to dining table, bedroom, or home office has resulted in employees spending prolonged time sitting in an uncomfortable position for hours at a time due to a lack of consistent movement from meeting to meeting that they would have on a normal day. In addition to little regular movement, employees also lack ergonomic office equipment that many companies are required to provide for their employees. Natalia Ruiz, a physical therapist at NYU Langone Orthopedic Center, explained that “in the office, people work for eight or nine hours, but now they find themselves working 10 or 12 hours at home just because there’s no commute time.” (2) These extended hours stem from a heightened propensity for individuals to feel the need to be productive while at home, resulting in not only back and neck problems but other problems such as “carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis in the hands and forearms, and pinched nerves in the elbows.”
All of these rising health problems have influenced an increasing number of individuals to turn to physical therapy in an effort to alleviate the pain they’ve been dealing with for months. Though the initial months of quarantine saw a decrease in the number of patients visiting physical therapy clinics, in recent months many physical therapists are reporting an equal or greater number of patients compared to before the pandemic. (4) Extended periods of time sitting at a desk are also coupled with a lack of overall physical activity for individuals which, in conjunction with the closure of thousands of gyms across the country, has left millions of people to find other means of remaining active and in good health.
In an effort to combat these periods of sedentism, professionals from NewYork-Presbyterian Och Hospital shared some simple movement exercises to provide some form of activity for those working from home. (3) Dr. Evan Johnson and Dr. Riew suggested not staying in one position for more than 45 minutes and taking a 15 to 30 minute break in the middle of the day. In addition, they recommend straightening your back and improving your posture every minute to preserve back health and prevent back stiffening, an issue that many people have been complaining about.
Despite these short exercises and small plausible work habit changes, thousands are already dealing with physical pain that requires care from professional physical therapists, many of whom are completely booked. (2, 4) These therapists provide patients with customized exercises that can help ease much of the pain they face over time. Esurgi’s Biostabilizer product improves these exact physical therapies for lower back pain by using digital feedback to provide real-time graphical representations of pressure readings and to detect if a patient is outside the proper range for their exercise. The Biostabilizer heavily improves the quality and outcome of physical therapy for patients, relieving them of the pain they started having trouble with from something like working from home extensively.
Though the exact end of the pandemic and work-from-home era is not entirely defined, physical therapy, simple exercises, and appropriate breaks ensure the wellbeing of all individuals. Implementing proper ergonomics and working conditions will not only maintain and even improve the health of all employees, but will also allow for far more comfort while working from home during this stressful time.
- Hedge, A. (2020, April 15). Getting Back Pain While Working From Home? An Ergonomics Expert Offers Advice. TIME Magazine. https://time.com/5821252/back-pain-work-from-home-tips/
- Mull, A. (2021, January 14). Yes, the Pandemic Is Ruining Your Body. The Atlantic.https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/01/quarantine-giving-you-headaches-back-pain-and-more/617672/
- Riew, K. D., & Johnson, E. (2020, July 8). How to Prevent Back and Neck Pain While Working from Home. NewYork-Presbyterian. https://healthmatters.nyp.org/prevent-neck-and-back-pain-while-working-from-home/
- Schencker, L. (2021, January 19). ‘Your body just can’t handle it.’ Working from home has created new demand for physical therapy. The Seattle Times. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/your-body-just-cant-handle-it-working-from-home-has-created-new-demand-for-physical-therapy/
Wong, M. (2020, June 29). A snapshot of a new working-from-home economy. Stanford News. https://news.stanford.edu/2020/06/29/snapshot-new-working-home-economy/