Experts: Working from Home Can Worsen Back, Spine Problems
Friday, April 29, 2022
With nearly half of Americans telecommuting, ergonomically designed office furniture has been replaced by couches, beds and kitchen tables. Experts say prolonged poor posture and sitting can lead to a host of problems.
Dr. Russell Amundson, national senior medical director for UnitedHealthcare, said at-home workers can avoid common musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis by focusing on proper posture and staying active.
"There's been a shift to telecommuting, which seems to have become persistent; the so-called "hybrid" work space," Amundson observed. "Folks have surrendered or have been removed from more ergonomically designed workspaces with good office chairs, with good support, and of course the appropriate height desk."
Research shows more than half of U.S. adults are affected by musculoskeletal conditions. Meanwhile, a Gallup poll found many U.S. companies continue to pause on returning to the office, and in some cases have made working from home a permanent option.
The American College of Physicians recommends exercise-based therapies to stave off pain or discomfort, including physical therapy, chiropractic care and acupuncture.
Chanel Metzler, a chiropractor in Mt. Juliet, said many people are unaware of the effects long periods of sitting can have.
"Sitting at your computer every day can really start to wear and tear on your spine," Metzler explained. "Not only your neck, but your low back, along with your shoulders, everything can be affected by poor positioning."
Amundson noted most back pain is temporary, but advised it is always good to check with your doctor.
"Ninety-five percent of folks with low back pain will get resolution of their symptoms within about 12 weeks," Amundson pointed out. "But if things are not getting better, it's a good opportunity to talk to your doctor and also check with your health plan to see what options are available for coverage."
He added United Healthcare now has virtual physical therapy options, including on-demand 24/7 exercise feedback powered by artificial intelligence, which can help people recover from lower back pain.
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