The idea of working from home may sound appealing, but many people are discovering the reality is very different. In addition to challenges like navigating an uprooted schedule, wrangling children and sharing your Wi-Fi bandwidth with a household, pesky pains have likely crept up. In fact, 50 million people live with chronic pain, many of whom are experiencing exacerbated symptoms due to recent lifestyle changes like working from home. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has increased barriers in obtaining treatment; so while a comprehensive treatment plan from your doctor is recommended, the following tips can help manage your pain while you’re at home.
1. Add massage to your daily routine
Staying ahead of pain is one of the best ways to prevent it, and a great approach is adding massage to your daily routine. It relieves muscle tension by enhancing blood flow; causing muscles to relax and decreasing inflammation by activating genes that naturally reduce swelling. Hand-held massagers are an excellent option for maintaining a massage regimen as they can be used in the comfort of your home. For example, the Wahl Deep Knead Massage Wrap offers both heat therapy and shiatsu massage therapy. Six shiatsu massage nodes vary in height to simulate the sensation of real fingers kneading at different pressures, and they can be programmed to rotate in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction. It can be further customized by wrapping it around your upper back or neck and pulling the soft and flexible handgrips for added pressure.
2. Keep up physical activity
You may not have a commute, but don’t go directly from all night in bed, to all day at the computer. Schedule regular breaks in your work day, preferably that involve exercise. Home-based exercise programs are available virtually and can continue under the guidance of your doctor. Wear comfortable clothes, allow time to stretch and implement a hand-held massager to alleviate post-exercise flares. Consider doing strength and balance activities as well to stay healthy and reduce the risk of falling. It’s crucial to remember, however, to seek medical advice if you experience chest pain, dizziness or sickness during exercise.
3. Adjust and adapt your home workspace
Try to emulate the ergonomic environment you had at the office. Adjust your chair height as needed, keeping your feet flat on the floor. If your at-home work chair still isn’t up to par, consider strapping on a lumbar support for better posture and less strain on your lower back. Upper back and neck pain could be the result of holding your head in a downward angle to look at your computer, so try propping up your monitor to eye level.
4. Manage your stress levels and mental health
Chronic muscle and joint pain can be exacerbated during times of increased stress, like the change in routine that has come for many with COVID-19. Stress reduction and behavioral treatments are vital in soothing the central nervous system and pain response. One way to do this is by keeping up your pre-COVID-19 habits while working from home. For example, shower and dress as if you were going to the office; the familiar ritual can help maintain a motivated and positive attitude. However, it’s equally important to find separation between your work life and home life. So if your dining table is now your desk, try moving your office set up to a closet on the weekends — after all, out of sight, out of mind.
5. Maintain your medical regimen as prescribed by your doctor
While visits to your doctor may now be less frequent, remember, most medications should not be abruptly discontinued as this can worsen systemic disease. If you’re concerned about the availability of your medications, ask your doctor about the possibility of increasing your supply from 30 to 60 days. Or, if you’re due for a check-in to get a prescription refill, see if your doctor is willing to do it virtually. Finally, many pharmacies offer home delivery, lessening the need for in-person interactions.
Now, more than ever, prioritizing your health is crucial. The above tips are just some of the ways you can improve your physical well-being, and find the strength to better navigate the daily challenges of living through this global pandemic.
Dr. Anita Gupta is a pain anesthesiologist and pharmacist. More: anitagupta.com.
The foregoing does not create a doctor-patient relationship and is not intended to replace any guidance from your own treating physicians.
Authored by Dr. Anita Gupta (anitagupta.com)
Original Publish Date 6/3/2020