Spinal Problems during COVID-19 lockdown

work from home

At a time when we are all battling the coronavirus pandemic, there are several areas of the world which are placed under lockdowns and restriction of movements of people in public places. Millions are staying home and many are working from home to help us fight the spreading pandemic. There could be multiple causes for a spinal pain but the most common cause is an overstrain of the structures in the spine including spinal muscles, ligaments, facet joints and discs.

Staying home and working from home is invariably associated with a lot of time spent in sitting position, mostly in wrong or harmful postures leading to back/neck pain. Back injuries at home due to bending or lifting weights in the wrong way is another common cause. Those with pre-existing disc degeneration and age related wear and tear of the spine may be more prone to episodes of back pain during the times of restricted mobility and the disruption of the usual daily routine, including their exercise regimes.

Work related back pain is a common reason for sick leave all over the world. With a number of people working long hours in sitting posture on desks and in front of computers, there is a rise in prevalence of significant back or neck pain, even among the youngsters in the prime of their health.

work from home

I come across many professionals who have opted to work from home due to the back pain, thinking that resting at home and avoiding travelling to the office, while continuing to work, can relieve their pain. Although you may feel better for a few days, the pain returns soon to trouble again. 

Working from home, one may actually find themselves in a much worse posture than working in the office chair !.

Most of them working form home work on a laptop, sitting on a sofa or in the bed or sitting on the floor. While it may be okay to be in those position for few minutes at a time, long hours in such postures can overstrain the spinal muscles and lead to upper or lower back pain and neck pain.

Lying prone and working on the laptop is another common position. The spinal muscles, discs and joints are over exerted to maintain the head and neck in extension for a long duration and can result in neck or upper back pain.

Being on smart phones or tablets for long duration involves looking downwards  and holding the device in hand. It strains the neck and arm muscles continuously and can cause severe neck, upper back, arm  and hand pain, feeling of fatigue, sometimes associated with tingling sensations or numbness.

Here are some tips to avoid overstraining of your spinal muscles while working from home.

work from home

  1. Make a sitting arrangement on an ergonomic chair and a comfortable desk or table like in the office.
  2. If you want to work on the bed, sit upright leaning your back up against the wall or the headboard of the bed. Use pillows to support your lower back and under the knees. Avoid sliding down or sidewards. (which eventually happens if you don’t correct yourself frequently).
  3. Take a break and walk around every half an hour and stretch your muscles. 
  4. Avoid slouching or hunching your back. 
  5. The head and shoulders should be in line with the back while working.
  6. Keeping a small table or pillow or another form of support under the laptop is essential to bring it up to the eye level. 
  7. Make sure your arms are not lifted away from your body and wrists are well supported.
  8. It is better to avoid lying prone and working on the bed. 
  9. Use additional supporting tables or stands to hold the weight of the laptop that trying to hold it in place yourself.
  10. Exercise regularly to keep your spinal muscles strong.

Have a great “Work from home” time!. 


About the author

Dr Phani Kiran Surapuraju is a practicing Spine Surgeon in Chennai, India. Trained in one of the top three Medical colleges (Maulana Azad Medical College) in the country. National Board of Examination certified Spine Surgeon. 12 years of Post-MS experience in Orthopaedic Surgery, with 9 years of exclusive experience in Spine Surgery. Special interest in spinal deformity correction and Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. Fellowships in Spine surgery, including management of complex spinal disorders. (FNB, Univ Of Hong Kong and Univ of Bonn, Germany. )

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