Illustrations created by Connie Zheng.

Before the pandemic, Brian Donovan was no one who had never worked at his home. His job as technical editor for an software firm had enabled him to leave the physical work environment in the past ten years. He was able to have a comfortable home office that was upholstered with a desk chair, as well as three monitors at eye level, sufficient to make several videos a day, as he analyzed several screen displays of information.

However, when Covid upset the nation in March 2020. Donovan, who is a resident of Arlington together with wife, and has two kids–resigned the space so that his children could attend remote education. He relocated his family to the guest bedroom, transferring his laptop and his monitors to the bookshelf and folding table. One issue: Beds and a closet that was open can be observed from virtually every angle from behind. To ensure the most clean background for Zoom meeting, participants needed to rotate his head to face the right computer screen, while the rest of his body was facing the two screens to the left and right.

A month after that, Donovan felt a dull discomfort within his left shoulder. It transformed into a numb burning sensation in the arm and hand. The muscles of his right side feel weak, causing him to sit in an uncomfortable position provided him with temporary relief. Skye, his wife Skye is a physical therapist for orthopedics immediately recognized that the cause for his discomfort was the position he was in.

People who work from home must also take regular breaks to stroll around the home or around the block to avoid being in one place for all day.

Skye moved her workspace to a different room, so that Brian could place his monitors on the eye level to his face and ensure his arms were well-supported. She instructed him on exercises for strengthening, like physically demanding squats or walking and required him to stand up at least once every hour to go for a stroll around the house. Within several weeks, the pain of Brian had diminished and his posture had improved.

Brian Donovan is one among thousands of workers who work remotelywho suffer from musculoskeletal injury and pain since the widespread shift to working at home. A survey conducted by Chubb, an insurance company Chubb discovered that over 40 % of Americans have experienced more back, shoulder back or wrist pain after working at home. A American Chiropractic Association poll reported that 92% of chiropractors have observed an increase in patients suffering from musculoskeletal problems. “People who had working from their homes and without having the space or equipment experienced an increase in injuries due to working at any place they could regardless of whether it was the couch or the table in their kitchen,” says Skye Donovan.

Over two years has passed since stay-at home instructions were implemented, and lots of patients have been back to work. However, Claire Bowe, a physical therapy therapist at the Rose Physical Therapy Group in the heart of downtown DC She says patients continue to report muscle injuries, including the carpal tunnel, pinched nerves the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction as well as tension headaches and sleep disorders. Bowe states that some of this isn’t a surprise considering the large number of office workers within the regionwho prefer to work at their computers for the entire the time. However, she believes that the pandemic as well as political tensions in the last few years also played a role. “The major factors that affect the physical capabilities of your body are food, stress, hydration and rest,” She says. “When one of these four elements is disrupted the system, it can disrupt your body’s mechanics.”

Skye Donovan believes one of the most beneficial things that people can do to reduce the risk of micro-traumatic injuries is by creating an environment that is devoted to working. There is no need to purchase the most expensive leather chair with integrated massage. She says chairs with armrests and places your hips higher than your knees is perfectly. If you don’t own a chair with armrests or the table that has your hands more than your elbows. This is suitable, too. It’s also essential to keep your computer’s screen in a level position to avoid shifting your head forward or forward. This puts strain on shoulders and neck. “You would like everything to be aligned,” she says.

Stretching is also a good thing According to Bowe. There’s no secret formula of movements that one has to discover. It’s as simple like stretching your hamstrings, or shifting your neck and head in a lateral direction for 30 minutes. “None of this requires any rocket-science,” the trainer says. “You only need to include the ability to move around in your day.”

Home-based workers should take regular breaks to stroll through the house or the block to avoid being in one spot for all day. “People do not have a proper separation between work and home which is why they work for longer periods of time,” Skye Donovan says. “Any type of position that is sustained for long periods of period of time, whether standing or sitting, is taking an toll on your body.”

If you are suffering from pain that lasts longer than a week or restricts your ability to perform your regular tasks, Bowe advises you to see a physical therapy. Studies have proven that acute pain that is not treated could result in the permanent or chronic type and seeking treatment as soon as the pain begins could mean many years of pain and thousands of dollars in medical bills. “Most ailments are solvable including ones that have been around for over 20 years” she declares. “Just being chronic doesn’t mean it’s not possible to treat.”

This article is published within The September 2022 issue of Washingtonian.

Research Editor

Prior to becoming Research Editor, Damare Baker was an Editorial Fellow as well as Assistant Editor at Washingtonian. She previously wrote in the Voice of America, Voice of America and The Hill. She graduated from Georgetown University, where she did her studies in foreign relations and Korean as well as journalism.