Even as more of us start to head back to the office, most of us have spent much of the past couple of years at our home workstations. It’s little wonder that chiropractors have seen a rise in the number of people experiencing back pain and other back problems. Left unchecked and untreated, such ailments can affect our emotional health and even lead to serious issues in the long term, from a lack of mobility to spinal degeneration.
As well as watching your posture and sitting position while working from home, there’s a lot you can do to minimise your risk of developing back problems, say chiropractors Dr Mark Enriquez from Family Chiropractic and Dr Shaun Ang from Chiropractic Concepts.
Q: With so many people working from home for some time, are backaches and back-related ailments more common?
Dr Ang: Yes, since the pandemic began, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people with lower neck pain and low back pain, possibly from prolonged sitting and badly set-up home workstations. There’s also been a rise in cases of headaches in the occipital region (the back of the skull) and upper trapezius tension (the trapezius is a muscle that spans a large width of the upper back).
Q: How much do poor posture or sitting positions contribute to such ailments?
Dr Enriquez: Poor posture and bad sitting habits place unnecessary stress on the lumbar spine (part of the lower back region). Muscle imbalances develop in tandem with tightening in the hips and lower back and deconditioning in the glutes and abdominals. This results in a condition known as “lower cross syndrome”. This can eventually lead to faster spinal degeneration and sometimes, spinal disc issues, or what’s known as “slipped disc”.
Q: Besides poor posture while working from home, what are some other causes of backache and back-related ailments?
Dr Enriquez: There are several, such as inactivity or a sedentary lifestyle. If you’re not physically active, your muscles will start weakening or deconditioning. This may increase your risk of injury. Another cause is a lack of mobility in the mid-back or hip joints. This leads to other areas overcompensating and you may experience aches and pains due to the added stress. This happens from repetitive sitting and slouching.
If you spend too much time looking down at your phone, your normal neck curve may be affected. This is called “text neck” or “tech neck”, which may result in headaches or migraines and neck or shoulder pain.
You might also experience back-related pain from using a non-supportive mattress or pillows.
Dr Ang: Many people have also been exercising a lot more since the pandemic began, to combat the sedentary nature of their work-from-home lifestyle. Unfortunately, they have poor form and no guidance, so they’re experiencing injuries.
Q: What are the long-term effects of these back-related issues?
Dr Enriquez: Over time, your brain accepts the bad posture and sitting habits as normal. These habits become difficult to change and the aches and discomfort may trigger a visit to the doctor. The long-term effects may speed up degeneration of the spinal joints, leading to irreversible change and pressure on the nerves.
Dr Ang: Long-term back pain can also affect one’s mood and motivation to work and lead to increased stress.
Q: How do I know if I should visit a chiropractor versus a physiotherapist?
Dr Ang: You should see a chiropractor if you experience any form of back pain, including muscular aches, which is one of the first signs of a back issue.
Chiropractors and physiotherapists don’t work in the same way. Chiropractors work on the mobility and alignment of the joints, with a greater focus on how these affect the nervous system, whereas physiotherapists work on musculoskeletal issues using exercises and soft tissue therapy. That said, there are some overlaps in what we do, for example, both chiropractors and physiotherapists prescribe rehabilitation exercises.
Dr Enriquez: In addition to back pain, you can see a chiropractor if you have difficulty moving upon waking up; neck pain that intensifies and radiates to your shoulders as the day progresses while working from home; shoulder blade pain that makes turning your head difficult; and numbness or tingling that starts in your buttocks and radiates down your leg.
Q: What can we do at home to improve our condition in-between chiropractic treatments?
Dr Enriquez: We usually suggest dos and don’ts to help facilitate recovery. Clients often complain of their work-from-home conditions having space constraints or being “too cramped”, so we discuss ways to help them improve these conditions to mimic their office ergonomics or make their home workstation as ideal as possible. Once the client demonstrates more stability in their condition and their pain is reduced, we choose specific strengthening exercises, such as core exercises, to help restore ideal movement patterns.
Dr Ang: Keeping active during work can help, for instance, you can implement a sit-stand station with a standing desk, using exercise balls or chairs with varying heights to keep the spinal musculature active, all of which will help your general posture.
If you’re planning to visit a chiropractor, here are a few that have special packages for SAFRA members:
Spinal Health Screening Package at $188 inclusive of the following:
1) Initial Consultation
- Comprehensive review of medical history
- Postural analysis
- Range of motion tests
- Orthopedic examination
- Neurological examination
- Spinal palpation examination
2) Full spine x-ray
3) Report of findings consultation
4) Chiropractic adjustment
For terms and conditions, information and contact details, visit:
4-in-1 Chiropractic Wellness at $38 (worth $300):
- Posture Analysis + Health Consultation + one-time Chiropractic Treatment
For terms and conditions, information and contact details, visit www.safra.sg/promotions/healthcare-products-and-services#physiomed
Chiropractic Consult + 1 Doctor’s Report + 1 Chiropractic Adjustment @ $66
For terms and conditions, information and contact details, visit www.safra.sg/promotions/healthcare-products-and-services#acemedicalservices
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