Harley Street Osteopath, Oliver Eaton, warns of the increased risk of injuring your back when self-isolating.
The government restrictions and advice given to us all to self-isolate for three weeks has caused a dramatic change to many of our daily routines. A change that has crept up on us quicker than our minds could have prepared for. Our minds aren’t the only thing that have lacked preparation, our bodies have also, in particular our backs. There are many activities around the house that we will be doing more than normal during this time, some active and some sedentary. If we’re not careful, these activities could leave us vulnerable to experiencing a back injury. Below is a list of the most common activities that you’ll likely be doing more than normal, and how they could affect our back:
- Sofa Sitting – The sofa is one of our favourite pieces of furniture in the house. You’ll struggle to find an individual that doesn’t find comfort in sitting on their own sofa, especially if it’s in front of a TV. Little do people know, there are many reasons why a sofa can be the cause of back pain. If the sofa is too soft, then it can dip in certain places and put pressure on your spine. This can be only mild pressure, but you can imagine if you are in the same position several hours into a TV series binge, day in day out, then you can bet your top dollar that your back will be in trouble by the time this period of self-isolation is over.
Tips – If you have a soft sofa, you can place some additional cushions under you to ensure that your spine is straight. If you like to lie horizontally on the sofa, then switch sides every half an hour. Ensure that your sofa is positioned in a way that you don’t have to twist round to look at the TV.
- Laptop use – If you are one of the many people being asked by their employers to work from home, and if the only computer device you have available is a laptop, then this can present as a problem for your back. Laptops were primarily designed for portability, with very little thought going in to how ergonomic friendly they are. The combination of the screen being lower than the level of your eyes, and the fact that you have to reach over the trackpad to use the keyboard, causes your posture to stoop over time. If you are in that position for up to 8 hours in a day, then this can often lead to back pain.
Tips – Buying a laptop stand helps to bring your screen up to eye level. Also, buying a separate bluetooth keyboard and mouse ensures that you aren’t having to stoop over, and you can position yourself in a similar ergonomic set-up to what you have at work.
- Increased sexual activity – If you are a couple self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak, then it is likely that the frequency of your sexual activity will increase to help kill time. Combine this with an increase in sedentary activity that comes with being stuck at home, and you have yourself a perfect recipe for injury. The main reason being that you are jumping from one extreme of physical activity to another.
On a normal day outside of self-isolation, most couples will have sex in the evening. Combine that with the fact that their muscles will be relatively warm from being out of the house performing their daily activities at work, providing their body with some level of preparation for sexual activity by the evening. Now when you’re self-isolating, you have the freedom to have sex at any time of the day, the problem is your muscles and joints won’t have the same level of preparation.
Tips – Warm up your muscles and joints. During this period of self-isolation, the government has allowed us to go out of the house to exercise once a day. Use this as an opportunity to warm up your muscles and joints, ready to engage in sexual activity when you get back home. Also, taking a hot shower is another way to warm up your muscles and joints.
- Gardening – Now gardening is probably the most common form of physical activity that the nation will be doing at home over these next few weeks. Even before self-isolating, many people would already have had plans to start prepping the garden for the summer. Being stuck at home means that you now have the time to perform a lot of what you had planned all at once, compared to doing bits at a time at the weekends. Doing it all at once is what can increase your risk of back injury. Gardening is an activity that involves a variety of different movements, some strenuous and some less so. One minute you could be hoeing a flower bed and the next minute picking up a heavy plant pot. As gardening doesn’t require a great deal of cardiovascular fitness, you can often find yourself doing it all day without realising how much strain you have put your body through. Many back injuries from gardening don’t cause pain until the next morning.
Tips – Don’t get carried away and garden all day, try and stick to just a few hours a day. Try to remember to perform some gentle back stretches between each gardening activity.
It’s easy to look at these routine activities as harmless, especially if they have never caused you a problem in the past. The danger is that our backs are just not prepared for the amount we will be performing these activities in excess during this period of being stuck at home. The good news is, if you follow the tips and advice given above then you can significantly reduce your risk of injury.
Oliver Eaton is a leading Osteopath and injury specialist. He is the Owner of ProHealth Clinic based on Harley Street, London. www.prohealthclinic.co.uk