WFH-Related Musculoskeletal Injuries: How Physiotherapy Can Help
COVID-19 has turned the entire world on its head, effectively changing the way most things are run. Where once remote working was unrelatable to many of us, this pandemic has forced us to convert our homes into make-shift workspaces in view of health and safety. While this helps curb exposure to the novel coronavirus, it cannot be said for musculoskeletal injuries. Homes that double as workspaces are hardly equipped to support an ergonomic work environment, one that prioritises maximum comfort and optimises the effectiveness of work. This leads to an increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries, some of which can be familiar to you – stiff neck, back pains, and shooting pain in the wrist, among many others. Fortunately, these injuries are not permanent, provided you address it early on.
Musculoskeletal Injuries Explained
The musculoskeletal system consists of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and intervertebral discs, alongside their associated nerves and blood vessels. This complex system relies on the complex interrelationship between these separate structures, each dependent on one another to function properly.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 and the remote working arrangement has compromised the function and overall effectiveness of the system. Due to an unergonomic workspace, strenuous and repetitive activities, and the drastic decrease in physical activity levels, musculoskeletal injuries have been on the rise. Postural strain and prolonged immobilisation will lead to poor body mechanics, which leads to muscle shortening. This not only translates to increased strain and tension within a muscle fibre, but it also means decreased mobility. Muscle shortening may also cause other muscles to be misused, which will only lead to pain and discomfort. If this is not addressed at an early stage, the symptoms will exacerbate and lead to a debilitating and long-lasting problem.
It is not only those who have subscribed to a sedentary lifestyle. Those who engage in sudden participation in high-intensity workouts, such as HITT and long-distance running, are also not spared and are more susceptible to training injuries.
Fortunately, you can rectify these issues and alleviate the musculoskeletal symptoms by way of physiotherapy. Discover some of the common WFH-related musculoskeletal injuries and how physical therapy can help.
The neck, shoulders, and spine are all connected – it is safe to say that when one area is affected, the other areas will also follow suit. Improper posture maintained over long hours every single day can cause chronic muscle tension and fatigue. Unsupported poor posture can also cause the loads on the spine to disperse incorrectly, weakening the tissues in your lower back. It can even lead to nerve damage as the nerves can get compressed.
Physical therapists can help you alleviate these symptoms by employing spine care and spine physiotherapy. By correcting movement patterns and posture, it redistributes the weight on the spine, effectively decreasing the pain and stiffness in the neck and back. Such treatment plans will also incorporate exercises to strengthen the back muscles and improve joint mobilisation.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that arises from increased pressure within the wrist on a nerve known as the median nerve. CTS often develops with extensive keyboard and mouse usage. This median nerve controls the movement and feeling of your thumb and the movement of all your fingers except your pinky. Early on in the condition, you may feel numbness and tingling sensation in your hands, and these symptoms may flare up when you are holding something with your wrist bent. However, as it exacerbates, you may have less grip strength due to the muscles in your hand shrinking. You may also experience increased pain and muscle cramping.
Physical therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome includes guided exercises to glide the nerve within the healing tunnel. Stretching exercises will also be employed to improve mobility of the wrist and fingers, and improve their overall function. If such a conservative treatment does not yield results, you may need to consider surgery to rectify it.
Pinched nerves are not limited to only back-related injuries, but also in other areas of the body as well. A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, tendons, and muscles. This pressure will disrupt the nerve’s function, which will cause pain and weakness not only in the affected area, but can also spread to other regions of the body. For instance, a herniated disk in your lower spine may put pressure on a nerve root, causing pain that radiates down the back of your leg.
Physiotherapy stretches and strengthens the muscles in the affected area by way of manual therapy that includes joint mobilisation, massage, and exercise therapy. Such treatments work by manipulating the surrounding tissue, helping to decompress the nerves and, in turn, decreasing the pain and discomfort. For those experiencing chronic symptoms, your physical therapist may suggest shockwave therapy to stimulate healing.
Reclaim Your Quality of Life
Unfortunately, with the way that things are progressing, WFH will continue to be part of our lives and the risk of musculoskeletal injuries will not wane anytime soon. Prevention is better than cure, so be sure to equip your home with the right tools to promote an ergonomic workspace. This, however, does not guarantee that musculoskeletal injuries will not happen.
At Rapid Physiocare, we can give you the much-needed reprieve. Following a client-centric methodology, our team of professionals will help you not only alleviate the symptoms, but also improve your body’s condition such that the risk of musculoskeletal injuries is kept at a minimum. We will tailor your treatment plans according to your needs so that you can achieve optimal physical wellness. Book an appointment with us to find out how we can help you.
Bernard, B. P., & Putz-Anderson, V. (1997). Musculoskeletal disorders and workplace factors; a critical review of epidemiologic evidence for work-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, upper extremity, and low back.
Bachtiar, F., Maharani, F. T., & Utari, D. (2020, November). Musculoskeletal Disorder of Workers During Work From Home on Covid-19 Pandemic: A Descriptive Study. In International Conference of Health Development. Covid-19 and the Role of Healthcare Workers in the Industrial Era (ICHD 2020) (pp. 153-160). Atlantis Press.