How physical therapy combats COVID-19’s work-from-home aches and pains

How physical therapy combats COVID-19’s work-from-home aches and pains

Advent Physical Therapy by Nate Reens

The home office that consists of hunching over a laptop while slouching on a couch.

The dining table that has been transformed to a makeshift desk.

The constant sitting when there’s no co-workers to stroll over for a chat or head out on a run for coffee.

Increased screen-time before, during and after work.

They’re all adding up to create an ergonomic nightmare with lingering impact – headaches, sore necks, back pain and more.

Gretchen Walsh, a veteran physical therapist, says the COVID-19 pandemic and the pivot to work-from-home environments is taking a toll on adults. Similarly, stay-home and stay-safe orders that have also restricted adult and youth sports leagues are contributing to the impact.

“Our bodies need movement, and the impact of the virus has made many of us more sedentary,” said Walsh, who practices at Advent Physical Therapy. “We’ve also formed bad habits that are causing us to feel aches and pain that shouldn’t be normal. If those are ignored and go untreated, they get worse and the limitations will get progressively bigger.”

Specialists at Advent Physical Therapy’s 15 West Michigan locations have noted an increase in non-injury musculoskeletal problems that can be resolved with a physical therapy treatment plan. The services cover all areas of the body, and Advent has also developed programs to help patients who are recovering from COVID-19.

“We’re seeing a lot more people who have an injury, but can’t pinpoint a day, time or one thing that happened and now they hurt,” said Walsh. “It was an accumulation of issues over time and they didn’t necessarily correlate it with working from home or a more sedentary lifestyle.

“You shouldn’t be in pain, and if you are, your body is signaling to you that something is wrong.”

The progression has left muscles weaker, endurance sapped and bodies breaking down, all symptoms that physical therapy can help overcome.

Advent physical therapists are available to help with or without a doctor’s referral. The group practice pairs patients with experienced professionals for in-clinic visits, through virtual care and even branching out to at-home treatment.

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Therapists perform an initial assessment to determine the source of the discomfort and then design an individual plan that can include evidence-based manual therapy and/or therapeutic exercises for pain-free function. In general, recovery programs involve two to three clinic visits per week and daily routines of varying length to stretch and strengthen the affected muscles as well as work on total body conditioning.

“Everything is designed to get you back to where you were and what you were doing,” Walsh said. “We really tailor our sessions and our patient experiences to the individual and their personal goals.”

Successful outcomes occur with less dependence on pain relievers or opioids and often at a lower cost than going to a physician who could simply end up referring patients for a physical therapy regimen.

Advent Physical Therapy has also helped COVID-19 patients bounce back from the virus with a respiratory recovery program and training sessions that restore range of motion, flexibility and strength deficits that developed while ill. Physical therapy begins to minimize any discomfort and offers pain relief, Walsh said.

“We’re another helping hand in recovery,” she said. “Our goal is always to get patients back to what they love as quickly, and as comfortably, as possible.”

LEARN ABOUT OUR COVID-19 PROGRAM: Recovering from coronavirus? See Advent’s Respiratory Treatment