What Do You Think Is the Most Common Pain Problem That People Are Facing Right Now?
I recently held a Virtual Happy Hour and Wellness Q&A with my community to talk about strategies for staying healthy and well during this difficult time. I asked the participants to come with a specific pain problem or physical issue that they are currently dealing with as a result of the recent changes in their life. What Do You Think Is the Most Common Pain Problem That People Are Facing Right Now? If you guessed "Back Pain"... you are right!
Now, this was a small sample of people but it was clear during our discussions that this was the main pain problem that has been bothering people... I would say that Neck Pain is a close second. Why Back Pain? There are many possibilities as to why... but I can think of 3 specific reasons why based on the current circumstances... 1. Increased Walking & Exercise Activity, 2. Prolonged Sitting, 3. Poor Posture & Computer Ergonomics.
Increased Walking & Exercise
The thing that normally would help back pain, is now leading to back pain. This is because people may be doing more than what their previous capacity could tolerate. If you are walking more now then you ever have, your body may not be conditioned to tolerate the sudden change. My suggestion is to pace yourself and increase your time slowly over time. For example, if you only had been walking for 15 minutes 2x/day. Try 20' 2x/day or 15 minutes 3x/day for a week and progress from there. This will allow your body to accommodate the increased demands.
The same is true for exercise. If you are only used to exercising for 30 minutes 3x/wk that involved cardio and stretching routine and you have now decided to increase to 60 minutes 5x/wk with the addition of a strengthing program from someone you're following online... you might run into some problems. You may have had the best intension by increasing your exercise activity at this time, but how you are able to adapt to that new program will depend on you and where you were physically before you took this on. Your age, previous pain/injury/surgical history, postural/muscle imbalances, and core stability are all factors that could be in play. My recommendation is to consult with a physical therapist prior to starting a new exercise program. An orthopedic physical therapist will take a thorough history and screen you for factors and physical limitations that may influence your exercise ability. Then recommendations for the type, duration, and frequency of exercise can be tailored to you and your specific needs. This can still be done now, even if you don't want to physically visit a PT through an online Telerehab or digital physical therapy visits.
Many of us are sitting way more than we typically have in the recent past. Our bodies, in general, don't like sitting for too long, especially our backs. I would recommend taking multiple breaks during periods of prolonged sitting. If you are working from home or on a long online meetings/get-togethers, I would strongly encourage you to get up every 30 minutes for a quick stretch or walk around the house. Set a timer to help remind you... otherwise hours will pass before you realize how long you have been sitting.
If your back is stiff from having to sit for a long time, I would recommend checking out this blog I wrote some time ago... The 3 Best Exercises for Your Back. These exercises are great for keeping your back and spine healthy... mobile, flexible, and stable. Obviously, if you are dealing with a severe acute episode of back pain or if these exercises make your pain worse then I would strongly recommend reaching out to a physical therapist for a more thorough, individualized evaluation... again this can be done in a Telerehab or digital physical therapy format.
Poor Posture & Computer Ergonomics
What's worse than sitting for prolonged periods of time is sitting for prolonged periods of time with poor posture and poor computer ergonomics. I've checked out a few of my client's home computer setup in the past couple of weeks... two words, "not good". It makes me want to start a new mobile home and work ergonomics business. You may not have the time or the resources to get the best ergonomic chair or desk, but there are a lot of little things that you can change with your home setup that will make a difference.
Check out these general guidelines on my website that can help you make some positive changes... Healthy Computer Habits. If you are still having difficulty, don't hesitate to reach out to an orthopedic physical therapist for posture and ergonomic recommendations. The Telerehab format is perfect for that. It allows the PT to see what the home ergonomic setup is in real-time and to make the best recommendations based on your situation and needs.
This is what you need to know if you are dealing with new back pain or any other pain for that matter. What is the cost of not doing anything about it? How will this affect your life if it gets worse? You have to take some action otherwise it will likely get worse and cause problems that could significantly affect your life. This is not the time to take a wait and see attitude to a new pain problem or current pain problem that is getting worse. Take action... make some changes, get some advice, get some professional help. Some positive and targeted action now can get you back on track much sooner rather than later.