Top 3 Lockdown Aches and Pains

Updated: Sep 8, 2021

The lockdown hurts, socially, economically but also physically. At Muscle Medicine, we’re seeing a rise in people desperate for treatment with three main specific complaints linked to the lockdown.

There are a number of reasons we are kept busy in a lockdown;

Firstly, many of us don’t have an ideal work-from-home environment. People may be working off the coffee table, the sofa, dining table, or god forbid, from bed! Apart from your desk setup, what really doesn't help is the laptop. With laptops, your screen and keyboard are too close together, so typing at a normal desk height level, you are required to look down at the screen all day.

Another issue is that we don’t move as much. In the office we may stand up or turn to speak with a colleague, we have meetings we have to walk to, toilets that could be a little further away. Incidental movement helps us much more than we realise and it’s not until we remove it from our lives that we understand how good it is for us.

These ADL (activities of daily living) movements help us activate muscles we have been neglecting when we are sitting at the desk, changing postures, swinging our arms, general movement we don’t usually have to think about are all great for preventing body aches.

Here are the top three lockdown complaints we are setting and how you can prevent them;

In at number three is upper back and shoulder pain

If you’re working with the screen too low, slumping while you sit will be exaggerated. If you are working from a laptop on a desk or on your lap on the couch this will also contribute to poor posture. The first thing to do is to sort out your desk setup. Ideally, purchasing a separate keyboard, mouse and monitor will help you turn your laptop into a desktop. Separate keyboard and monitor and ensure the top of the screen is at eye level.

Take regular breaks and try moving in the opposite direction to how you have been sitting by including some simple exercises like backbends, arms overhead, and hip thrusts into your day.

Now is about the only time you can drop down beside your desk and do 15 hip thrusts without your colleagues looking at you strangely!

Release the muscles that have been contracted all day, stand with your arm stretched out in a doorway, and stretch your pecs, you can move your arm up and down so you’re stretching different muscle fibers. If you have a massage ball, lie face down and place the ball under your pecs (the muscles at the front of your shoulder), place the arm with the ball under out at right angles, and roll into it. You can also lift the opposing leg off the floor to get more pressure into the area.

Do some exercise, I love yoga in these situations as you build strength in the arms and shoulders holding them up and over your head, and also create some good back strength with all the sun salutations.

The Muscle Medicine YouTube channel has some fantastic exercise options.

Number two is the dreaded lower back pain

Lower back pain is normally the most common body complaint, however, right now it is coming in at number two. It is still very common during lockdown, it’s just our work-from-home setups are taking upper back pain into the top spot.

There is no definitive answer on what causes back pain, probably because there are various causes, but what is agreed upon is that complete rest is bad, movement is good.

Complete rest is the antithesis of what is required for back pain. Movement is good.

So it is no surprise that lower back pain is a major complaint when we’re less mobile. As mentioned we’re missing a huge amount of incidental movement through the day so we’re rarely breaking up that bad seated posture we’re in.

There was a study a few years back by a NASA scientist who found that the most important thing for our health was interaction with gravity. She recommended using an uncomfortable wooden chair to work with so that you will want to move regularly. I wouldn’t necessarily subject you to that, but setting an alarm to go off every 20 minutes to remind you to stand up and do a quick couple of movements could really help. This is where a sit-stand desk brings many benefits.

And our top lockdown complaint is….. A painful aching neck and headaches

Looking down at your screen all day, as well as affecting your shoulders, is also a killer for the neck as you jut your neck forward and down to see the screen at a better height. Some people may also be twisting a tiny bit to look at their screen locking their neck in a slight rotation all day long. We’ve even had clients coming in who are working from a desktop and zooming from the laptop to the side - all day. This is causing major twisting through their body.

All that tension in your neck can cause tension headaches, so often when people come in with neck pain, they’re also reporting headaches.

Like shoulder and lower back pain, the best way to avoid neck pain is to improve your work set up and move! Make sure your monitor is at eye height, but also limit your mobile phone use (yes your social media time has increased recently) as looking at your phone often puts your neck in a terrible position. Check out this previous blog post to find out what happens to the weight of your head when you are looking down at tech.

A good exercise to try at home is lying over a rolled-up towel, place it along your spine and gently drop the neck back behind you whilst you open your arms. This should feel great, if there is any pain stop immediately and get book an appointment to have it looked at.

Neck pain takes a good few days to subside, massage provides some immediate relief, but full return to your normal state takes time, this is because the body likes to protect the neck and so it hates sudden change. Be patient and while you seek treatment make sure you also fix what caused it in the first place, otherwise you will be right back where you started.

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