Lower back pain (LBP) presents a universal threat to human health and prosperity. Affecting at least 80% of the population at some point during their lifetime, LBP is the leading musculoskeletal disorder arising from job-related conditions (7). The consequences of LBP threaten one’s sense of normalcy; for sufferers, simple movements are painful, pursuing active hobbies can feel impossible, and navigating this chronic pain can be mentally burdensome (7). Now try adding in a global pandemic to the mix. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened human normalcy by necessitating social distancing laws and quarantine mandates. Though LBP sufferers are unfortunately familiar with making lifestyle modifications for their health, they may find this transition even more taxing than the average healthy adult; the pandemic has made LBP symptoms increasingly prevalent while making treatment incredibly sparse. 

Government and business regulations have made it clear: the way to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 is to stay home. However, staying home means remaining sedentary for hours on end, and with the pandemic keeping gyms and offices closed, physical activity is even more restricted. A study done in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia reveals that the prevalence of LBP in the region went from about 38.8% before a strict quarantine period to about 43.8% after the quarantine (7). Though a 5% increase may seem minuscule, keep in mind that the strict quarantine period, in which Saudi Arabia was on domestic lockdown, only lasted about a month. In addition, the study reported that a population of individuals with preexisting lower back pain increased their body mass index (BMI) over this quarantine period, meaning they gained weight. Specifically, the researchers concluded that the percent of BMI increase was positively correlated with reported lower back pain intensity (7). The human body is designed to be active; without frequent movement, people may experience severe weight gain and muscle loss, resulting in stiff, painful back joints and muscles (3). In addition to weight gain, sedentary behavior can cause individuals to acquire a static posture when working at a desk for long durations of time, which in turn can invigorate LBP symptoms. A study in Kuwait proved that pain and disability in the lower back are associated with longer work hours as well as being older (5). Social distancing has removed individuals from their bustling office environments and instead, has kept them hunched over at a desk for long periods of time while working virtually. 

Working from home due to social distancing not only limits mobility and hurts posture, it also promotes the development of LBP by increasing technology usage. Over time, extensive computer use has been associated with musculoskeletal disorders. In the past decade, technological innovation has boomed, aiding the lives of many, yet increasing musculoskeletal disability by 25% (2). To confirm the link between increased technology usage and lower back pain, a 2018 study evaluated students and employees without a history of LBP that used technology for more than 3 hours a day. After filling out a questionnaire, 46% of participants reported having musculoskeletal pain (2). The study also found a positive correlation between participants who reported musculoskeletal pain and used technology closer to 6 hours a day (2). The Applied Ergonomics journal confirms these findings, reporting that people who use technology more than 7 hours a day are at an incredibly high risk for developing lower back pain (1). Considering the average work day is 8 hours, and that a majority of people are working virtually on their computers during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that working virtually greatly increases one’s susceptibility for acquiring LBP. 

Not only has social distancing increased LBP symptoms, it has also prevented individuals from accessing proper treatment. Social distancing efforts are not limited to businesses and schools; medical centers are reducing and/or postponing medical services in light of the pandemic. Around mid-March in 2020, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) called for non-essential procedures and medical visits to be pushed back until further notice (6). This has introduced an era of telemedicine in which virtual doctor’s office visits are held over the phone. Like anything else, Telemedicine has its benefits and repercussions, one of the latter being that LBP patients are struggling to receive stretching assignments that will successfully alleviate symptoms (4). Esurgi’s Biostabilizer was created to maximize lower back pain treatment, and with the pandemic increasing LBP prevalence and severity, this technology is needed more than ever. The Biostabilizer uses a scientifically proven Pressure Biofeedback Unit (PBU) that provides clear biofeedback to patients during stretches using visual and auditory cues. This cutting-edge technology gives LBP patients awareness of what adjustments are needed to successfully treat their symptoms. 

Sources:

1. Bontrup, C., Taylor, W., Fliesser, M., Visscher, R., Green, T., Wippert, P., & Zemp, R. (2019, July 15). Low back pain and its relationship with sitting behaviour among sedentary office workers. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003687019301279

2. Borhany, T., Shahid, E., Siddique, W., & Ali, H. (2018). Musculoskeletal problems in frequent computer and internet users. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 7(2), 337. doi:10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_326_17

3. Carlson, J. R., MD. (2020, July 30). Why Being Less Active During the COVID-19 Quarantine Can Make Your Back Hurt. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.osc-ortho.com/blog/why-being-less-active-during-the-covid-19-quarantine-can-make-your-back-hurt/

4. El-Tallawy, S. N., Nalamasu, R., Pergolizzi, J. V., & Gharibo, C. (2020). Pain Management During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Pain and Therapy, 9(2), 453-466. doi:10.1007/s40122-020-00190-4

5. Hanna, F., Daas, R. N., El-Shareif, T. J., Al-Marridi, H. H., Al-Rojoub, Z. M., & Adegboye, O. A. (2019). The Relationship Between Sedentary Behavior, Back Pain, and Psychosocial Correlates Among University Employees. Frontiers in Public Health, 7. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00080

6. Rosen, A. (2020, October 22). Stories Of COVID-19: The Fine Line Between Essential And Non-Essential Care: Health Affairs Blog. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20201020.866160/full/

7. Šagát, P., Bartík, P., González, P. P., Tohănean, D. I., & Knjaz, D. (2020). Impact of COVID-19Quarantine on Low Back Pain Intensity, Prevalence, and Associated Risk Factors among Adult Citizens Residing in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia): A Cross-Sectional Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,17(19), 7302. doi:10.3390/ijerph17197302

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