The Covid-19 pandemic and consequent lockdowns led a shift in lifestyle habits with a majority of people being confined to the limits of their homes. This sudden shift to a sedentary lifestyle, combined with increased stress from balancing life at home, lack of regular exercise, social activities have together led to an increase in incidence of spine related problems. One of the most common complaints that people have been reporting in the last couple of months is back pain.
The tension on your neck and back can be relieved with proper posture. Sitting for lengthy periods of time causes your spine’s normal ‘S’ curve to become a ‘C’ curve, putting additional strain on your muscles, ligaments, discs, and tissue. If you’re using a desktop computer, make sure your eyes are 3 inches below the top of the screen, or tilt your laptop screen back to 120 degrees, just off vertical. Even if you have excellent posture in your seat, your body will constantly attempt to find this position. When you’re working, try to keep as mobile as possible. Instead of sitting continuously for long hours, get up every 45 to 50 minutes, even if it’s simply to take a quick stroll around the room. To be healthy, your joints need to move. To circulate blood throughout the body, you must move. This substantially aids in the reduction of pain and stiffness. Also, don’t overlook the significance of stretching. It might help improve your flexibility and mobility. Yoga exercises like child’s pose and cobra are helpful for getting your spine moving.
3 principles for a healthy spine during ‘work from home’
1. Maintain correct posture
2. Take frequent breaks
3. Regular exercises for your core muscles
Tips to ease back pain while at work or at home
1. Rest in bed to a minimum– you experience lower back discomfort, your initial impulse may be to lie in bed or sit for lengthy periods of time, which is counterproductive.
2. Be active– Back pain may be treated and prevented by maintaining a healthy level of physical activity. At its most basic level, this entails standing, walking, and minimising sitting and laying down during the day.
3. Use cold or heat treatment– Using these treatments has been shown to help relax muscle tissue and alleviate back discomfort.
4. Pay attention to what you consume– Excess weight in your midsection can be very taxing on your lower back. Sugary beverages, processed snacks (potato chips) and baked goods, constant restaurant take-out, fried food, high-fat dairy items (ice cream) are all foods to avoid eating in excess. Instead, aim to include as many fruits and vegetables, beans and lentils, lean chicken and fish and healthy fats as possible.
5. Enhance your posture– When standing or sitting, remember to keep your back straight (and prevent slouching!), while sitting, keep a cushion or rolled-up towel behind your lower back, keeping your feet raised on a low stool or a stack of books can reduce back pain during lengthy periods of sitting and keep changing the seating postures often and on a regular basis.
6. Avoid carrying heavy things– Lifting heavy things will simply add stress and pressure to your back and should be avoided.
When to seek help- If your lower back pain has gotten so severe that you are unable to function, and you are also experiencing any of the following symptoms: leg ailment, incontinence (the inability to regulate urine), pain at night, fever, chills, a shivering sensation and below-the-belly numbness.
Treatment for back pain- Rehabilitation is frequently used as part of the therapy for low back pain. In general, there are three stages of low back pain rehabilitation.
1. Acute stage– During this first phase, the physiatrist and treatment team devise a strategy to alleviate the initial low back pain and source of inflammation. Ultrasound, electrical stimulation, or customised injections may be used.
2. Recovery stage– Once the initial discomfort and inflammation is under control, the rehab team concentrates on assisting you in returning to regular daily activities while beginning a specific exercise programme to recover flexibility and strength.
3. Maintenance stage– during this phase, you will learn how to avoid additional back pain and strain. You will also learn how to begin a workout programme to help you enhance your strength and endurance.
Other treatments may include – changes in routine, medicine, osteopathic manipulation, occupational therapy, weight loss (if overweight), no smoking, a preventive programme (as advised by a healthcare practitioner), surgery, assistive technologies.
(Dr. Umesh Srikantha is a Senior Consultant – Neurosurgery, Head of Spine Services at Aster RV Hospital)
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