Increasing wear-and-tear on bodies and work from home job injuries are calling on chiropractors to address new patient care approaches
When COVID-19 hit and the nationwide quarantine began, millions of people who had never done so began working from home. While this may have saved them commuting time, gas money, and wear-and-tear on their vehicles, it begun increasing wear-and-tear on their bodies and work from home job injuries.
We interviewed Brad Weiss, DC, founder of Performance Health Center located in Natick, Mass., about what he has seen as a chiropractor, what’s causing these work from home job injuries, and what advice DCs can give to their patients about avoiding these injuries.
The following is an edited version of our interview.
Now that a lot of people are working from home, chiropractors have been seeing a lot of work from home job injuries. What type of injuries?
Since COVID-19 began, at least 50% of the complaints I have been receiving stem from working or learning from home. Patients are mostly experiencing neck and upper back pain, often radiating into the shoulders.
They are increasing for a variety of reasons:
- People don’t have the kind of ergonomic furniture that they have at work.
- They’re spending hours at a time in virtual meetings with incorrect posture.
- They’re exacerbating problems with longer work from home job hours, since there is no separation between work and home.
- Not everyone is using a desk — they may be giving the desks to their children who are learning from home. Patients tell me stories about standing over a bar in the basement or working from the sofa all day, which is among the worst pain triggers of all.
My interest in this is twofold: First and foremost, the impact on patients’ health, and secondly in many industries, remote work will be common even after a vaccine is available. Patients who feel better will have more energy to perform better — helping themselves and their companies.
What kind of corrections do DCs make to help make these patients feel better?
We provide everything from active release techniques to massage therapy. We also give ergonomic advice to optimize the equipment they have and specific stretches.
How can DCs get the word out that they are treating these types of injuries?
There are many opportunities — including company lunch-and-learns, virtual speaking engagements, digital marketing, and media relations. This is a subject that everyone relates to so it’s worth exploring many different approaches.
Are there specific exercises that DCs can give to work from home job patients?
Absolutely; as I tell my patients, “Life is motion.” We are all meant to move.
I advise them to break every 20 minutes or so and stretch or exercise. Two of the stretches I favor are the sitting posture stretch (Bruegger’s Position) and trapezius stretch.
Is there any way that people should set up their home offices?
Ideally, they should be sitting at a desk with a desktop computer, using a supportive office chair. The chair’s lumbar support should be upright, putting pressure on the low back (just above the beltline). If possible, the seat should tilt slightly forward. Workers’ eyes should be level with the upper 1/3 of the monitor. Their elbows should be close to 90 degrees and their wrists should be neutral — not flexed or bent.
I like to go beyond injury prevention and foster longer-term health, and I think that remote work gives us an opportunity to do so. One of the areas that I’m passionate about is the right chair. I’m a big believer in the heart-healthy benefits of active sitting — especially newer chairs with seat rockers to keep you constantly in motion and a very slight back to facilitate the right posture.
What are the biggest mistakes the people make while working from home?
The wrong laptop positioning is a big one. Laptops are not optimum for long-term computer use because the screen is so close to the keyboard. This causes your neck to be flexed forward, putting stress on it and upper back muscles and joints. Raising the screen height with a notebook is a good way to prevent neck strain.
Working from the couch is another big one, and sometimes people have no choice. In those cases, I advise patients to put a pillow behind their back for support and another on their lap to raise their laptop to a better height. Otherwise, they’re straining their necks looking down again.
Are all ages having these issues? Kids aren’t working from home, but many of them are attending school virtually
All the same problems apply with children, and I recommend the same solutions that I would for adults. Many children are learning from the kitchen or dining room.
Depending on the chairs they’re using, they may need pillows behind their backs for lumbar support. They may also need to raise their screen height using a laptop stand. If they are studying from bed, which I don’t recommend, they should be sitting up with pillows on their legs to raise the laptop height again.
I’m also using this time to warn patients about the dangers of text neck! We chiropractors know that the common practice of looking down at your phone puts significant stress on your neck —easily relieved by keeping the head upright and the phone level with it.