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Aches and pains from virtual work: area physical therapists see spike in patients

Dealing with more strains and pains while working from home? You're not alone. Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey has some tips from an area physical therapist.

Working from home during the pandemic can have its benefits, but lately, some people who are no longer going to work in an office every day are starting to deal with more pains and strains.

That’s leading to more calls and more patients for physical therapists in our area.

One patient who can relate is Barbara Durkin of Nicholson. She's an avid runner, always on a mission to stay fit and healthy. But when the pandemic forced her to work virtually for months on end, her workflow changed.

"I am actually the director for Lackawanna Susquehanna Drug and Alcohol Programs. So I'm the county director who, for the most part, spent my days going to meetings," she said. "You have that time in between where you're walking, or you're driving, and then you go to work from home, and now you're sitting at a computer screen all day long because you're meeting still needs to take place. Grateful that I have the opportunity to work from home and grateful that I still have that flexibility. But cutting that out, say, half-hour of travel time, either walking or driving, has been very challenging to me."

It started to change how she felt after so much time at home, in front of a computer.

"I started to feel radiating pain in my neck through my arm," explained Durkin.

So, Durkin paid a visit to Physical Therapist John Salva at Impact Physio in the Clarks Summit area. Someone she turned to before for a nagging injury.

"I've had low back pain in the past," added Durkin. "And I knew that if I didn't take care of the arm issue, that it could potentially turn into a larger issue moving forward."

Salva says Barbara’s health issue is one he is seeing a lot lately.

"Whether it's students who now are being homeschooled or people who might have been coming in for a knee-related thing or a shoulder related thing. And all of a sudden, they're saying, well, you know what, my back is killing me, or my neck is bothering me," explained Salva.

Hypnotist and speaker Eric Mina of Old Forge can also relate. The pandemic shut down his shows.

"Big life changes can have huge effects on our body," said Mina. "Lost 90 percent of my business, which led to more virtually work from his home in Old Forge. Now, I'm also sitting in a chair. I went from all this movement to like no movement."

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Mina blames that for re-aggravating an old back injury from Brazilian Jujitsu.

So, like Durkin, Mina turned to Salva and his team for treatment.

"I think the biggest thing is trying to figure out what the person's individual situation is like and what the stressor is to their system," said Salva, giving advice to people if they can relate. "The most common excuse we see are the lack of changes in position. So simple things like set a timer to get up and move around every 30 to 40 minutes."

Another tip from Salva is to consider reevaluating your home workspace. There’s actually a whole science behind it called ergonomics. It's essentially the study of people's efficiency in their working environment.

Like how far you are from your computer or monitor. Head here to access more of these tips from Cornell University.

For help setting up a healthier computer workstation, click here.

On some of the high tech tools on the market, like the “Smart Posture Trainer" that offers biofeedback to help people naturally achieve healthier posture habits.

If you’ve tried your own treatments for that nagging pain, keep this in mind.

"If it's something that has been going on for more than a week or two, it's probably not going to go away on its own, which is when you should consider being evaluated by a physical therapist," added Salva.

For Durkin, that made all the difference, along with changing up how she’s working from home.

"I really tried to build in maybe a walk here and there throughout the day trying to take some of my Zoom meetings on my phone where I can kind of walk around a little bit more," said Durkin.

Head here or here to check out different types of workstations and training devices.

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