Working from home not only limited our freedom of movement, but also led to longer working hours, with people sitting in one position for long hours. This not only causes stiffness in the body, but also leads to pain and rise with hunched shoulders.

dr. Yash Gulati

Working from home usually meant working from beds or armchairs rather than actual desks. How has this affected the attitude of most people during the pandemic?
Working from home not only limited our freedom of movement, but also led to longer working hours, with people sitting in one position for long hours. This not only causes stiffness in the body, but also leads to pain and rise with hunched shoulders. At work, small activities such as walks to the water cooler and lunch breaks allowed for adequate mobility, flexibility and seamless blood circulation in the body. However, the form of working from home took that away.

As a result, increased screen time and lack of proper workstations have put enormous strain on the spine, resulting in long-term discomfort. In the long run, increased upper body tension can cause us to bend out of shape.

What are the concerns for poor posture and problems that arise from it, especially with regard to the neck, shoulder, head, back and arms?
Prolonged incorrect posture not only gives you severe back pain, but can cause long-term complications as serious as spinal or musculoskeletal disorders. Some common but serious problems arising from poor posture include:

Back pain, stiffness in the neck and shoulder: Pain and tension in your upper back, neck and lower back can be caused by limp or poor posture. This can limit ease of any kind of movement and cause discomfort. It is important to understand that if someone is going through this pain, they should not try to correct it themselves, but should consult an expert who will suggest appropriate exercises and medications.

Poor circulation: Sitting in one place for long periods of time every day puts you at risk for circulatory problems.
Heavy breathing: When a person leans forward for a long time, the lungs do not get enough oxygen which can adversely affect the lungs. This can cause poor cognitive function, shortness of breath and even cardiovascular disease.

Spine misalignment: The position of the spine is affected by poor posture. Complications such as muscle spasms and spinal misalignment are common in people who constantly have poor posture and it can also cause injury.

A Curve of the Spine: You have a few essential spine curves that are in your upper to mid back, lower back and neck. Long-term poor posture disrupts the spine’s natural curvature, which can have multiple health complications. The above problems arise from poor posture; so make sure to emphasize good posture.

How can people who return to the office get used to furniture?
There are some simple things you can do to make your office furniture fit for your back health:

Sit up straight while working on your laptop and make sure your chair has a backrest.
Make sure your feet are resting on the floor and not hanging in the air, adjust the height of your chair accordingly.
Always keep your wrist straight and use your arms, elbow and shoulder for movement.
Adjust your mouse, laptop screens so that you don’t have to bend or hang to reach them.
Do not cross your leg while sitting on the chair, as you are more likely to slump in that position.
Make sure your chair is pulled into your table, as that automatically forces you to sit up straight.

Are there any basic exercises you can do in the office to prevent muscle strain?
Victory V: This stretch works wonders when it comes to releasing stress and relaxing the muscles. One can remain seated or standing during this stretch; all you have to do is raise your hands above your head, creating a V sign. Then straighten your body so that you touch the ceiling above you. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds and then slowly release.

Master Balt: The easiest way to maintain mobility in the muscles and also strengthen them, this exercise is simple yet impactful. Whether sitting or standing, tighten your grip, hold for five seconds, and then slowly release. Repeat this 10-15 times a day.

Seat dips: Move to the front of the seat so that your arm rests on the edge of your seat. Place your hands on the armrest of the chair for support and dip your lower body off the chair. Repeat this at least five times and it will help align the spine.

Wall sit: Put your back against the wall and sit as if you were sitting on a chair while balancing your body in that position. Bend your knees with the thighs parallel to each other and slide up and down the wall. This helps create endurance by building muscle strength.

Do balms and sprays help and should they be used indiscriminately?
Balms and sprays can help relieve pain temporarily, but proper medication and exercise under the guidance of the doctor is advised for complete care.

In addition, working from home and the associated confinement in one place has also led to limited sun exposure. This, in turn, has exacerbated the problem of vitamin D deficiency, which causes bone pain and fatigue that can lead to long-term complications such as osteoporosis.

dr. Yash Gulati is Senior Consultant, Orthopedics, Joint Replacement and Spine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi

This post Maintain correct posture: An orthopedic surgeon will provide tips and exercises for correct posture when we return to the office

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