06 Apr Pandemic strains and pains: How to sidestep the side effects of working from home
The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way millions of Americans do their jobs. Since the beginning of the outbreak, roughly 30% to 40% of the American workforce transitioned from daily in-office work to a remote work-from-home model. Although remote work has eliminated commuting, allowed for more family time and offered more flexible work hours, these things have not come without a price and a real pain in the neck — literally.
“We’ve seen a 20% to 30% increase in the number of patients with neck and lower back pain and a rise in repetitive hand and wrist injuries since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dr. James Sanfilippo, chief of Spine Section for Virtua Health. Likewise, Dr. James Cahill, orthopaedic surgeon for Hackensack Meridian Health, has noticed a substantial increase (as much as three to fourfold) in pandemic-related neck, shoulder, lower back and wrist/hand pain cases over the past year.
For the most part, the spike in these injuries can be linked to working from home under less-than-ideal ergonomic conditions. “Early in the pandemic, employees were handed laptops, sent home and forced to work in living rooms, bedrooms or kitchen counters for hours on folding chairs and couches,” said Daniel Wu, a physical therapist at Virtua Health. “It’s not surprising that we are seeing more patients with neck, shoulder and lower back pain because of these poor working conditions,” he added.