Physical Therapists Warn of Potential Injury Risks While Working From Home

Oct. 20, 2020, 9:56 a.m. ·

Man Working From Home (Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels)

It's been almost a year since the first coronavirus case was recorded in the U.S.. Today, thousands across the country continue working and schooling from home. While remote work may reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, as the pandemic continues, physical therapy experts in Nebraska are warning that doing things remotely can carry its own risks.

Michael Zalman is a co-owner of Husker Rehabilitation, a physical therapy clinic in Lincoln, and told NET News he’s seen an increase in patients of all ages seeking treatment for remote work and learning-related injuries. He suspects bad posture due to “poor ergonomics” is the main culprit.

“We’ve seen it across the entire range of populations from parents going home and working from remote places, to high schooler and even college-age kids now since March have gone remote and been on laptops a lot more,” Zalman said. “We don’t like laptops.”

He added his clinics have been evaluating significantly more home offices and home setups recently that are “not even close” to being proper.

The risks of continued poor posture can be severe.

“Muscular tension, tension headaches, pinched nerves, discs blowing out of alignment and touching nerves,” and other chronic pain situations, according to Zalman.

To prevent the worst, Zalman recommends a combination of varying your posture every 45 minutes, regular exercise, and maintaining a “Q-90” setup at-home offices, where the neck, elbows, hip, and knees are bent at 90-degree angles.

Not all experts agree that posture is the problem. Dr. Megan Frazee is an assistant professor at The University of Nebraska Medical Center in the physical therapy education department and says too much attention is paid to posture as a contributing factor to injuries.

“I don’t really like the term ‘bad posture’”, said Frazee. "There’s actually no good evidence to show that this one posture is quote, unquote “good posture” and that these other postures may cause more injury.”

Frazee said you may be better off focusing on agreed upon prevention measures such as changing postures regularly.

Additionally, she notes external factors such as lack of sleep and increased stress due to the pandemic may also contribute to work-from-home injuries.