Back pain linked to unhealthy work habits

Posted on 7 April 2022

Working from home (WFH) has its advantages, but it’s brought with it a spike in back and neck pain. Find out about “pandemic posture” and what Mediclinic specialists can do to help.

“We’ve seen increased complaints of back pain and spinal problems since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – many from people who didn’t have chronic back pain before all these lifestyle changes,” confirms Dr Kobus Uys, a renowned orthopaedic surgeon at Mediclinic Durbanville in the Western Cape.

The reason is primarily due to sitting for extended periods of time while we work, he explains. In addition, not everyone has an ergonomic chair or home office setup, which further increases the likelihood of developing pandemic posture and the associated back and spinal pain.

“The most common home office-related injuries we see are lower lumbar back pain as well as neck pain with the associated headache. Stiffness of the whole spine is also a regular complaint among our patients.”

The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. consistent bad posture
  2. lack of regular exercise, which weakens your core muscles and contributes to a range of musculoskeletal problems.

How a poor posture leads to back pain

Dr Uys explains that poor posture leads to an overload on the disc and facet joints, as well as ligaments around the spine. The result is an inflammatory response, which leads to more pain.

He warns that if you ignore the pain and carry on, you’re risking further damage to your spine.

“Progressive lower back pain can cause neurological referred pain due to nerve compression. Because there is more strain on the lumbar discs and facet joints, it can cause irreversible damage. In a worst-case scenario, it could cause damage to the individual nerves and spinal cord as well.”

Mediclinic’s got your back!

When should you see a doctor? Dr Uys says if you experience persistent pain for longer than seven days, and conservative treatments haven’t helped, you should make an appointment with a specialist. Other warning signs are weakness in the lower or upper limbs, pins and needles in the limbs, and pain at night.

Dr Uys usually consults with his local neurosurgeon and neurologist for their opinions on individual cases, and works with physiotherapists who are trained Pilates instructors or aquatic therapists.

“I suggest that people practise regular conditioning programmes twice a week. This strengthens the core and structures around the spine. Pilates and aqua therapy are two core-strengthening programmes that have excellent results.”

Rehabilitation and protection of the spine is a lifelong process and a stable core promotes better posture, prevents abnormal stress, and leads to less inflammation and pain, Dr Uys adds.

If you have persistent back or neck pain, make an appointment with a Mediclinic orthopaedic surgeon right away. We are here to help.



Published in Prime

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