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【Dr Claudia Ng, BSc, DC - “Work From Home” Syndrome】Monday, March 14, 2022

Are you suffering from “Work From Home” Syndrome?

Under the pandemic, most people have already adapted to working from home, which is the new normal, whether you like it or not. However, not everyone has a spacious home environment and a well-equipped home office. Here, I describe two cases of injuries that are related to WFH:

Case 1 – Coffee table can cause back pain!

A patient reported numbness and a deep ache in the calf area, and low back pain after sitting for 30 minutes. He has been working from home for two consecutive months at the time of consultation. As he does not have a proper working desk, he usually sits on the sofa while working on the coffee table. Otherwise, he would lounge on the sofa, type on his laptop while resting his straight legs on the coffee table as an ottoman. This could go on for 2-3 hours at a time. When the low back pain first started, he would get up and walk it off after a few minutes, but as it worsens, the sciatica pain would persist into the night and even sleeping became an agony.

Magnetic resonance imaging confirmed a disc hernia between the 4th and 5th lumbar segments which caused the above symptoms of sciatica and low back pain. After two months of conservative sciatica treatments such as disc decompression and spinal manipulation, along with proper exercises and correct posture, the patient has recovered well, without the need of surgery.

I gave the following advice to the patient: 1) With limited space at home for a proper desk and chair, at least move the work to the dining table, as the seating of a sofa may be too soft and too deep to provide sufficient support for the spine; 2) After every 30 minutes of sitting, stand up and do some stretches to relieve tense muscles and maintain blood circulation; 3) Perform 30 minutes of aerobic exercises every day, such as a brisk walk, stair climbing, rope-skipping, etc. If possible, get some fresh air while doing these exercises outdoors.

Case 2 – Good ergonomics help with healthy growth

My friend brought in her 13-year-old daughter, who has been attending online classes for more than a month. She has developed severe muscle tension in her shoulders and neck areas, and has headaches from time to time. My friend has been suffering from migraine headache since childhood, and she is worried that her daughter would suffer from years of headache pain like herself.

Examination revealed that she has a slouched back and rounded shoulders, and that the cervical spine is shifted forward with a reversed curvature. This did not exist when we last met; also, she has experienced a growth spurt during the past six months. My friend has been shopping for a suitable desk for her daughter lately, since she has been using the same chair and small desk from primary school. She has definitely outgrown them and also needs a larger desktop area for work. On top of that, the laptop screen is too low, making the whole set up not very ergonomic and causes her poor posture as well as pain.

After two weeks of intensive chiropractic treatments and exercises aiming at improving her posture, the patient no longer has any headaches. My friend also took my recommendation and ordered an office chair and a standing desk with adjustable height, laptop stand, keyboard and mouse, so that her daughter could alternate between sitting and standing during her class and studies. The heights of the desk and chair can also adjust to her growing needs. It is a worthwhile investment and there are many options on the market for such products. An ergonomic set up allows children to focus on their learning while facilitating their healthy development.

During the pandemic, many of us would be spending a lot of time on computers, mobile phones or other electronic gadgets for work or entertainment purposes. Bad postural habits can have far-reaching effects on our health. If you have developed poor posture or are experiencing any back pain or neck pain, your chiropractor may help you find out the cause. The pandemic will eventually pass one day. Let us not forget to protect the health of our spine every day, so that we can best prepare ourselves for new adventures when life returns to normal!

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