With more people working from home at new or improper work stations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Saanich chiropractor Mike Hadbavny has noted an influx of patients with neck, back and nerve injuries.
Whether they’ve spent an afternoon working in a child-sized plastic chair, several weeks typing away on a bar stool or months attending conference calls from the couch, Hadbavny, director of the Vancouver Island BC Chiropractic Association, says chiropractors have been seeing high volumes of patients coming in with new injuries caused by the temporary work spaces they’ve shifted to.
|Saanich-based chiropractor Dr. Mike Hadbavny recommends configuring one’s work from home set up for proper ergonomics to prevent injuries. (Photo submitted by Dr. Mike Hadbavny|
Since his practice, the Murray Chiropractic Group in Saanich, reopened with pandemic protocols in May, Hadbavny has been working six days a week and it still isn’t enough to meet the demand. He wasn’t expecting an increase in spine and nerve issues to be an outcome of the pandemic, but many around the world are working from home at setups that aren’t exactly like what they were used to at the office or that are simply not ergonomic.
“One of the biggest issues is an improper chair,” that encourages leaning forward and hunching the shoulders, Hadbavny explained, adding that even minor stress on the body can add up.
Ideally, the worker should be seated with their hips and knees at an equal height, a straight spine, shoulders back and elbows at 90 degrees – a position which a proper chair should create, he said. The monitor should also be arms-length away, elbows and wrists should be level and feet flat – a stool or box can help ensure proper leg positioning if the chair is raised.
“Everyone’s built differently … so configure your setup to you,” Hadbavny said.
Another concern is the fact that people working from home aren’t getting up to stretch their legs as often, he noted, adding that “sitting is the new smoking” and “movement is medicine.”
As COVID-19 cases rise in B.C. and many face more months of working from home, Hadbavny recommends getting up to stretch, take calm breaths and move the large joints every 15 minutes to keep the whole body moving as it should, and make an effort to exercise for at least one hour each day.
Set an alarm and “have fun with it, then it’s not a chore,” he said, adding that a quick dance break to a good song can do the trick.
Hadbavny emphasized that those with work-from-home-related pain should let their injuries heal before adding stretching and extra movement to their routine. If the pain reaches a 4/10 or lasts several days, it’s best to visit a health-care professional, he said.