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Was “During Lockdown” A Pain?

As we enter Lockdown V2, we thought it would be useful to get some input from our Physiotherapist Mike, who was able to offer continued support for over 94% of all referrals we received during the first lockdown. Mike had a unique insight into habits people picked up working from home, how the restrictions impacted on their normal day to day activity, and in turn had an effect on their health and the trends seen across the industry. Here is what Mike had to say:

By way of introduction I am Mike Hodgson the Lead Physiotherapist with Schools Advisory Service, working with the Schools Advisory Services Nurse and expanding Wellness Team.

Now, I am no historian but there seems to be two new date lines in 2020, namely “Before COVID” and the more commonly heard, “During Lockdown” . Certainly, the latter applies to the way sufferers of Musculo-skeletal pains described the onset of their problems when seeking help from the Ask Mike service, namely it “started during lockdown”.

Ask Mike was launched by SAS just prior to “lockdown” offering advice, support and an e-mailable exercise regime (complete with picture / text and video) to the teaching Staff and School employees on a range of Musculo-skeletal conditions. In the absence of any “face to face” clinics being available at that time due to COVID closure, this has proved extremely well received with many positive feedback comments.

Six weeks into the Ask Mike service, Mandy the Lead Nurse at SAS, asked me had I noticed any patterns of referral behaviour as result of COVID. I replied there had been 2 noticeable types of referrals.

Firstly was a very definite pattern of Neck or Back pain from Home working “during lockdown” in less than idea postural positions, which varied from working on kitchen tables, to perched with Lap tops on Knees, and even iPads balanced on window ledges, creating increased pain in necks, mid and lower backs.

Secondly was what I termed the “Joe Wickes’ effect”. Namely people using “during lockdown” as a chance to increase fitness by trying to keep up with a 30 something fitness instructor when possibly not quite ready for that intensity of exercising and resulting in injuries to muscles and joints!

Now there’s not a lot I can do about the millionaire, super fit force of nature that is Joe but I can offer advice that might alleviate the Pain of Home working!

Poor posture and the lack of a good working station massively increases the pressure in the spinal discs (up to 300 psi or 10 times that of a car tyre) and causes an over stretch of the supporting soft tissues of the spine, resulting in pain. If one spent 7-9 hours a day bending your finger back it would eventually hurt, the same applies to a poorly supported spine.

Also bear in mind the Head is a heavy object, weighing around 5 kg (11lbs). If you were holding a similar weight at arm’s length the muscles would soon tire and become painful, compared to if the weight was held to your chest. The same applies to the poor relatively weak neck muscles if the head is hung forwards away from the body so keeping it in line reduces stretch and therefore pain markedly.

Tips for Good Posture:

  • Find a chair with good back (lumbar) support to prevent slouching
  • Ensure the chair fits right under the desk and if there are arms in the way, apply surgery (remove them!)
  • Avoid perching on edge of the chair
  • With your elbows tucked by side you should be able to reach the mouse and keyboard.
  • Use a wireless mouse
  • Use a lap top raiser to elevate the Lap top screen, prevent “peering into it” or separate keyboard with a raised screen.
  • Take regular breaks from sitting
  • Perform simple Chair based exercises
  • See SAS Resources section for further information
  • Use the SAS Ask the Physio if additional help required.

SAS has a long and trusted relationship with NAHT and SAS is continually striving to improve its range of Wellness services and I look forward enhancing the Physiotherapy Service available to its members.

Click here to learn more about our Ask Mike Physiotherapy Support, which is inclusive to SAS, GBS and NAHT Wellness and Protect policies.