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Has lockdown influenced what types of injuries we as physiotherapists see in clinic?

One of the best things about our jobs as Physiotherapists in Belfast is the diversity of injuries that pass through the clinic doors each day. Historically injuries, aches and pains have been influenced by the sporting calendar and seasonality. This means it has always been fairly easy to predict the spikes in presenting injuries that we see from month to month. However, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just changed the way that we all socialise and work, it’s also had an influence on the injuries coming through our doors and that old crystal ball of ours suddenly isn’t as powerful as it used to be.  

You won’t need us to tell you how the last 18 months have changed how we live. As many companies shift to a ‘work from anywhere’ policy, many people now have found themselves permanently working from home. A direct result of this has been an increase in the number of neck and back pain patients coming through our clinic doors. 

Why are we seeing an increase in spinal pain?

Commuting time has reduced, resulting in less physical activity getting to your place of work. Thinking back to pre-pandemic, it would be a daily occurrence for many of us to walk to and from a bus-stop or carpark. Whilst working from home certainly has it’s perks, it also has it’s downsides.

  • Most home-based jobs will require the use of your laptop or PC. Now we’re not saying all of them do however we don’t think you’ll find many bricklayers working from their living room. Being hunched over a screen all day isn’t healthy or natural for your spine.
  • The new virtual era of meetings has limited activity levels. You no longer walk around to speak to colleagues or attend in-person meetings and those steps all add up in the long run.
  • Recent surveys also found that the majority of people were now working longer hours at home as a result of eliminating their commute time. This means more time doing bullets one and two from above and less time moving around.
  • Your at-home workstation may not be as well set up as it is in your office, due to lack of equipment or space. We have seen many patients present with bad posture as a result of this. 

It should be fairly obvious but what we can tell you is that the more sedentary you are, the greater the likelihood of you developing back or neck pain. This has been evident in many of the patients we are seeing, especially those you have been working from home. Back and neck injuries are extremely common in our clinic but there has been obvious rise in these numbers. The good thing is recovery times can often be quick. So, in just a brief period with the correct advice and treatment, symptoms can significantly improve.

What part does exercise play?

Last year we went through a period where gyms and group fitness classes were closed however the good news is that it’s business as usual for these establishments now. Again, like home-working, the reopening of gyms and studios has had a knock-on effect on presenting injuries.

Throughout the last 18 months, running has become quite popular with both new and regular runners. Due to this we have seen a rise in knee pain and other lower-limb overuse injuries. Whilst running is typically a safe bet for your knees it’s also common to pick up injuries if you are new to it or if you suddenly increase your frequency or training volume.

Throughout the last 18 months, home-based fitness has also become a staple and is often without the guidance of a trained professional. This can be a recipe for disaster if you are following intense heavy workouts with poor technique – almost certainly result in injuries and setbacks.

All of the Physiotherapists at Smart Physiotherapy have a wealth of experience managing the injuries discussed above. So far, our role has not changed during these unprecedented times. Albeit we deliver our services slightly differently (wearing PPE). Our aim is to get you on the road to recovery as soon as possible. 

Six tips for injury prevention in the new normal

If you are somebody who has had to work from home or changed your exercise or training regime, here are our six top tips for injury prevention:

  • When working from home at your PC or laptop, move or change position regularly even if it is just for a few seconds. Stand up and sit down and add in a few stretches for your back and neck. Try to do this every hour.
  • Check your workstation set up. There are lots of useful resources online to help you with the basics and if you are struggling, ask our Physiotherapists for more advice.
  • If starting a new exercise regime ease yourself into it slowly over a matter of 4-6 weeks. 
  • Non training days are just as important as training days so make sure you factor these in. We would recommend at least two rest days per week.
  • You can do too much of a good thing, so ensure there is variety in your exercise routine.
  • Book in for a regular sports massage with our Physiotherapists to maintain a healthy body, we are strong believers in prevention, and this is key.
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