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A physiotherapist weighs in on how to take care of your body while social distancing

Move over, tennis elbow: there’s a new gang of activity-related injuries in town. I’m talking laptop neck. And trackpad hand. And kitchen chair butt. Yep, working from home has risks besides stepping on Lego or eating a week’s worth of groceries in two days.

To help with the “corona crampys” (copyright pending) we talked to Tammy Godfrey, physiotherapist at Richmond Blundell Physiotherapy and Sports Clinic. Here are her top tips for staying strong and healthy while staying home.

Posture

“Posture starts with the correct position when the body is at rest,” Godfrey says. When you’re sitting in a chair, make sure your lower back is in contact with the back rest of the chair—if there is a space, use a folded scarf, towel or lumbar roll and place it in the gap. Your feet should rest flat on the floor.

If you’re working at a desk, make sure that the desk height is at elbow level. Your screen should be straight ahead—Godfrey says laptop users should consider using an external keyboard and raising the laptop screen to eye level.

“Changing positions regularly is important to avoid poor posture,” she explains. “Stretching either in the morning or the evening is acceptable, but stretching before going to sleep will often help to improve sleeping and stiffness when you wake up.” Try the following exercises whenever you feel achy.

Exercises

  1. Wall pectoralis stretch. Stand in a wall corner and place one arm on each wall, facing the corner. With your elbows bent to 90 degrees, move forward into the corner of the wall until you feel a comfortable stretch in the pectorals. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.
  2. Back extension. Stand up and place your hands on your back at hip level, elbows pointing straight behind you. Using your hands for support, extend backward three times.
  3. The “wall angel.” This exercise should be done standing against a wall— it’s like doing a snow angel against a vertical surface. With palms facing forward, tighten your core and look straight ahead. Slowly raise your arms as if youre doing a snow angel. Repeat three times.
  4. Walk around! Walk on the spot or down a hallway a couple of times to take a break from sitting.

Managing pain

If you’re still feeling those corona crampys (copyright still pending), ice the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. You should wrap your ice pack in a damp towel—don’t place ice directly on your skin. Heat is good for pain, too, and can also be used for 10 to 15 minutes. “If using combination of the two, use ice first,” Godfrey says, “and test the heat on the opposite side of the body before placing it on the painful area, to make sure the heat isn’t too hot.” Self-massaging (with or without a cream) can also relieve muscle spasms and reduce pain. Try to avoid activities that aggravate the area or increase the pain.

Like many local medical services, Godfrey’s clinic has made the switch to telehealth during COVID-19. For more information about getting physiotherapy at home, you can check out their website or email them at admin@richmondphysio.ca.