The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has played havoc with everyone’s life and led to the disruption in the care of acute as well as chronic conditions. It has mainly triggered the casual consequences of increased pain, reduced function, increased reliance on opioid medications, and potential increased morbidity, due to the systemic impact of an unprecedented virus outbreak which also affects your overall health status.
The anxiety and isolation caused by COVID-19 add to chronic pain, which is further compounded by reduced access to strategies, such as physical therapy, exercise, and even visits with the family members that help people manage their discomfort. As the country went into lockdown and Work From Home has been taking a toll, more and more of sitting, lying, perching, and even kneeling on the bed in order to use your laptop comfortably and achieve the ideal posture. The chills and pain that may arise due to long hours of unfavorable postures can aggravate pain syndromes, especially those that affect the muscles and bones. For some of you, it may also end up in the turning of your acute pain into a chronic one. The transition from acute to chronic musculoskeletal pain is not well understood. Pain can arise from different musculoskeletal structures (e.g. muscles, joints, ligaments, or tendons), and differentiating the origin of pain from those different structures is a challenge. A variety of human pain biomarkers have been developed to quantify localized and widespread musculoskeletal pain.
Starting from your eyes and neck, staring down at your screen all day puts unnecessary strain on the neck as well as on some parts of the shoulder because we don’t want to have your muscles stretched in one position for too long. To prevent uncomfortable strain, make sure your computer monitor is set up in the correct position, i.e at an arm’s length in front of you, not too close or far away on the desk, and the top of the screen is at or below your eye level. This will minimize neck strain and ensure you’re not tilting your head up or down for extended periods of time.
Coming towards your arms/hands, chairs with adjustable armrests or even without armrests are best so you can avoid pressure on the elbows. When sitting in a chair while working at the computer, with the keyboard out in front, your hands and wrists should be in a neutral position making a 90-degree angle at the elbow. Constantly typing at an angle with bent wrists may lead to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. One way to tell whether you’re in a relaxed position is if you move your hands slowly toward the keyboard, you shouldn’t feel any tightness in your neck and back muscles. Adjustable keyboards on hinged arms might be beneficial in keeping your hands and wrists in a straight line and relaxed position.
In order to maintain relaxed muscles in neutral positions, always try to adjust your station to you, rather than adjusting yourself according to your station. When sitting in a chair, if your feet and your legs don’t form a 90° angle at the knee then adjust the chair up slightly until your thighs are just lightly supported since you don’t want all of your weight resting on the chair to cause prolonged pressure on the thighs. To ensure that, a footrest may be beneficial in order to keep your feet flat if the chair isn’t adjustable. For women, high-heeled shoes are discouraged, as this would hinder keeping your feet in a flat, neutral position, and put a lot of unnecessary pressure on the body. However, if you must wear heels, a pair of flat-heeled shoes are preferred when you’re expected to be at your desk for long, uninterrupted periods of time. Whenever you plan to sit for long hours, just make sure you’re sitting all the way back in the chair and the backrest supports the lower curve of the spine.
Chronic musculoskeletal pain lasts longer than 6 months, often despite the fact that an injury has healed. It could even last for years and its patients in general show signs of local/central sensitization and spread of pain to degrees that correlate to pain intensity and duration. From a management perspective, it is therefore highly important to reduce pain intensity and try to minimize the duration of pain.
Initially, you may notice more of an annoyance in routine disruption, but over time, you will get used to these ergonomic adjustments and will feel its benefits. Most of these recommendations can decrease unnecessary strain on our bodies and lessen the effect of MSK disorder symptoms.