Why has there been a spike in spine-related problems since COVID started?

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people around the world have been caught up in dealing with its impact. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have meant that many of us are working from home. Health experts say that there are more and more people complaining of backache and neck pain since the pandemic started. In this article, we talk about some of the factors that affect spine health and examine how COVID has impacted them. We also outline some solutions to help you stay pain-free and injury-free during the pandemic.

Spine health and lifestyle factors

Even before COVID, the accusations against a sedentary lifestyle have been piling up. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and spine problems. With the pandemic ongoing, even people who exercised regularly have been forced to cut back on physical activity, increasing the risk of neck and back pain and other spine issues. Many people are working from home and spending much of the day in a seated posture, which is known to put pressure on the muscles and discs in the back and neck, leaving the spine feeling sore, stiff, and painful.

The rise of “Tech Neck

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of people relying on technology to work or keep in touch with family and friends. As a result, we’re spending up to 10 hours a day staring at screens. Many people are experiencing what is being referred to as “tech neck,” with symptoms of headache and pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder muscles.

Working from home

When governments around the world scrambled to control the spread of coronavirus, people were forced to start working from home, overnight. The sudden change meant many of us were not prepared with the right type of ergonomic workstations to support spine health. Spending long hours in hastily put-together workspaces at home, such as the kitchen table, has meant that more and more people are dealing with neck and back issues since COVID began.

Unhealthy habits

Also, during the pandemic, many people have taken to eating unhealthy foods or overeating in response to stress. Not only is this bad for overall health, but it can lead to weight gain, which puts pressure on the spine, causing backache and neck pain.

The impact on mental health

The fear, worry, and stress caused by COVID have affected the mental health of people around the world, leading to panic, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Psychological distress is known to worsen pain and has led to more people experiencing neck and back issues.

Limited access to allied health services

Last but not least, COVID has forced health systems to redistribute resources and focus on caring for those infected by the virus. Non-essential services like pain management have been put on the back burner. Many people have been unable to access physiotherapy or hydrotherapy services that are critical to keeping back pain and neck pain under control.

Staying injury- and pain-free during COVID

There are various steps you can take to maintain spine health during the pandemic. It’s important to get some form of exercise every day. If outdoor physical activity is not possible, indoor fitness with video classes, for example, should be included in your daily routine. It’s also important to pay attention to your diet and eat healthy. Limit your screen time to the absolute minimum. Try to improve your workstation to be ergonomic as far as practically feasible. And while working and learning online, pay attention to your posture, take frequent breaks, and stretch the muscles of your back and neck. Take steps to keep depression and anxiety at bay by practising yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness techniques, and limiting exposure to social media which can add to anxiety.

References:

https://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/ergonomics/sitting-disease-its-impact-your-spine

https://www.assp.org/docs/default-source/covid-19/assp_covid-19_ergonomics.pdf?sfvrsn=7b77be47_0

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/psychology-low-back-pain-201604259537

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7366114/

Impact of COVID-19Quarantine on Low Back Pain: Intensity, Prevalence, and Associated Risk Factors among Adult Citizens Residing in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia): A Cross-Sectional Study Peter Šagát, Peter Bartík, Pablo Prieto González, Dragos, Ioan Tohanean, and Damir Knjaz.