Frank Gilroy- Senior Physiotherapist Blair Pollock- BSc Physiotherapist
During the coronavirus outbreak many people have been forced to take time off work or change their environment and begin working from home. The outbreak has had a physical impact on society which has been noticed by physiotherapists. There has been a trend appearing in my clinics consisting of three primary lockdown injuries.
1. Lockdown Shoulder
The lockdown shoulder injuries I am seeing have mainly been caused by changes in activity placing an increased load on the shoulder joint.
Over the past 6 months, many people have had extra time on their hands and so made it their goal to get fitter. Home workouts became a popular way to achieve this with people following DVDs or YouTube videos often for the first time with no guidance on technique. For those who previously trained at the gym, trying to maintain high levels of strength and fitness suddenly became problematic. People swapped gym equipment for different methods that involved using their own body weight in exercises such as push ups.
Therefore, I have witnessed both those new to fitness and people who were relatively fit at the beginning of lockdown sustaining injuries during this period.
DIY became another new and popular pastime for a number of people. Many individuals found themselves having a totally different routine, going from a desk job to painting a house for example, which is quite a change for the body.
A sudden increase or change in load from what a person is used to can either result in discomfort for a few days or a more serious injury that may require input from a physiotherapist.
However, it is also important to recognise that pain or discomfort in the shoulder region can develop from simply not doing enough. The complete change to daily routine meant that many, who whilst not actively taking part in exercise prior to the pandemic, simply began to move less. Long days at home without normal daily tasks meant that some became used to moving less and staying in the same position for prolonged periods of time. This lack of movement can lead to structures such as the shoulder becoming stiff or even painful.
If you have been experiencing any of the above scenarios or have developed shoulder pain over lockdown for any other reason it is important to discuss this with your medical practitioner. If they think appropriate, there are a variety of exercises on my website that you can start HERE
2. Lockdown Knee
Reports from fitness app developers have highlighted that there have been over one million downloads since lockdown began as the public tried to stay fit. This suggests that the allocated 1 hour of exercise prescribed by the government at the start of lockdown was embraced, as many began cycling, walking or running to use the time out of the house fully.
As with the shoulder, there has been an increase in knee injuries during this time. Often these injuries have resulted from new cyclists or runners failing to build up to their new exercise routine slowly enough.
The load placed through the knee joint varies with different activities and this is why a sudden increase or change in training can result in knee pain. For example, when running the load placed through the patellofemoral joint- which is the joint between the kneecap and thigh bone- is 4.5 to 7.6 times your body weight. This is why new runners often develop patellofemoral pain syndrome which is commonly known as runner’s knee.
The force that goes through our joints during running is also influenced by the surface upon which we run. For example, the stress on the knee joint is far less when running on a cushioned surface than when running on the road. Additionally, the absence of correct footwear will only make these injuries more likely.
As we age, our joints age and they become more susceptible to wear and tear. Over the past six months I have encountered numerous patients who have had degenerative meniscal tears with significant swelling and pain. It is vital that these patients follow the correct advice and are taught the benefits of self-management and exercise prescription. Please see HERE , advice for acute knee injuries.
3. Lockdown Back
The furlough scheme has helped over 900,000 people in Scotland which gives us a rough idea of the number of people not working at that time. This change in daily routine resulted in a more sedentary lifestyle particularly since we were only spending 1 hour per day (maximum allowed at the time) to exercise. Therefore, a large portion of the day could potentially be spent relaxing in front of the television, reading a book or even being in the garden enjoying the sun. Ultimately, this has led to a reduction in mobility and often to pain and stiffness developing.
During the past 6 months, there has also been a sharp increase in those asked to work from home. These people would have previously been operating at stations within workplaces that had been assessed and adapted for their posture. With this not possible with home working, many employees found themselves having to work in unfavourable positions or environments. This could be for example, using laptops whilst sitting on the couch or working at a dining room table. The result of this has been that many employees are now experiencing episodes of postural back pain.
Another group of people who have been complaining of back pain/sciatica are those who were asked to shield. For this group, it was a total change to routine where they could no longer leave the house, other than those fortunate enough to have a garden. These individuals were expected to stay home and have limited contact with anyone outside and therefore this often resulted in more time spent in front of the television in the same positions for too long.
Repetitive sitting with poor posture has been a very common complaint of patients I have seen in the past 6 months and it needs to be addressed.
It is important that you are aware of your symptoms and seek advice from your GP or a chartered physiotherapist. There is some of information regarding back pain on my website with a variety of phased exercises that can help increase mobility in the spine and build up core muscles HERE.