The coronavirus pandemic has forced more people than ever before to work from home. However, according to new research, the WFH practice can cause a number of health issues, including musculoskeletal pain.
A study led by the charity Versus Arthritis, found that four out of five people who have switched to WFH since the pandemic was first declared have developed some type of musculoskeletal pain. Employers are being urged to encourage their workers to be open about any pain they may be experiencing. So, why is WFH leading to chronic pain?
Poor WFH set-ups and lack of exercise to blame
According to the Versus Arthritis study, poor WFH set-ups and a lack of exercise are to blame for the increase in those suffering with musculoskeletal issues.
Participants were given a survey to complete. The results showed that 81% of respondents suffered with some type of neck, back or shoulder pain. Around 48% of respondents also claimed they were less active now than they were prior to the lockdown.
Nearly 23% of respondents reported feeling musculoskeletal pain most of the time. Worryingly, 46% also said they take painkillers more frequently now than they would like. While back and neck pain were the most common, 26% of respondents also suffered with shoulder pain.
A poor WFH set-up can cause unnecessary, repetitive strain on the shoulder. If left uncorrected, this could lead to more serious shoulder issues later down the line.
Workers reluctant to report pain to their employers
Despite being in pain, many employees are reluctant to report it to their employer. The study revealed that a staggering 81% of those experiencing pain hadn’t let their employer know. This is said to be down to a lack of understanding over their rights and they worry it could impact their employment.
The trouble is, if workers aren’t reporting pain and they aren’t getting it treated, it will simply worsen over time. Versus Arthritis are urging employers to do more to protect their workers. They recommend employers check in on their workers regularly to enquire about their musculoskeletal health. They may also need to fund equipment for their workers to ensure they can carry out their work comfortably.
There are also things workers can do to protect their musculoskeletal health at home. For example, there are preventative measures you can take to avoid developing shoulder issues.
How can you prevent shoulder pain when WFH?
If you have been working from home for the last year, you are at an increased risk of developing tendonitis, impingement and bursitis in the shoulder. This results from bad posture, such as being slouched over a laptop for hours on end.
Taking regular mini-breaks and avoiding staying sedentary for too long will really help. Ensure that your desk is also level with your elbows when you sit down. If you keep everything you need within easy reach, you’ll also avoid twisting and stretching the shoulder throughout the day.
Working from home does present several challenges in terms of our health. Incorrect posture and hours of inactivity can contribute towards painful shoulder conditions. If you are experiencing shoulder pain, seeking early treatment is important. Book a consultation with a shoulder specialist to address and treat the cause of your pain.