Pandemic inactivity causing rise in injuries, say Alberta practitioners
'They're coming in with more headaches, more shoulder pain, more back pain from hunching forward.'
Pandemic-related injuries and demand for treatment are on the rise as more Albertans work from home and move around less, say practitioners who treat them.
"There are a lot of injuries that are cropping up in my clinic that are related to inactivity, more so than before," said Joey Mo, owner and physiotherapist of Honest Physiotherapy Clinic in Edmonton.
"We're seeing a lot of injuries related to stiffness, low back pain, disc problems for people sitting all day, headaches associated with being hunched at your computer all day."
Mo said current restrictions mean Albertans are no longer getting out as they once did to shop, see friends or go to the gym. Others, he said, who were once active at work — in a warehouse, for example — are now relegated to desk jobs.
"People are getting their backs injured and having nerve pain down their legs," Mo said. "But these are things that could be avoided with proper ergonomics, making sure that you're getting up every once in a while, taking a bit of a break."
Since returning to work after the lockdown in the spring, Mo said he's faced a massive backlog. Increased demand for physiotherapy is also likely due to restrictions imposed on other services such as massage therapy, he added.
Working on the bed, sofa
The impact of poor ergonomic conditions as more Alberans work from home is also something being treated far more often by Calgary chiropractor Jamila Abdulla, a council member with the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors.
"People are working on their bed or on their sofa," Abdulla said. "And of course they're coming in with more headaches, more shoulder pain, more back pain from hunching forward … I'm seeing a lot of carpal tunnel because they're working on their small laptop instead of a nice big desk with a real keyboard."
Abdulla said there are multiple measures Albertans can take to protect themselves from injury including trying to avoid working exclusively from their laptops. Ideally, she said, people should use a docking station with a monitor around eye level and the keyboard just where the elbows hang naturally.
"Lots of patients are saying that they're getting into projects and because they don't have people coming to their desk and interrupting them, they're working through the day and they'll work a full eight hour day without getting off their desk," Abdulla said.
"Even in a good ergonomic position, that's not ideal. You want to get up and walk around."
For people looking for simple exercises to improve posture, she points to the College's recommended website: Straighten Up Alberta.
Mo said easy fixes can go a long way for those working from a computer, such as making sure your feet are flat on the ground or, for those without adequate lumbar support, sticking a rolled-up towel underneath your back.
He also recommends using a standing desk or placing your laptop at counter height, as well as downloading one of a number of free apps that remind you to get up and move.
"Just make sure that instead of being hunched over and sort of squishing our disks all day that we get upright and we stretch out parts of the body that have the tendency to get really tight, such as our chest wall or hip flexors and our hips, because we're always in that folded position," Mo said.