Providing high quality and thorough chiropractic care to people of all ages.
2020 has been a unique year, with COVID-19 impacting many of us – resulting in major changes to our every day lives (lockdowns, changes in employment, working from home), increased stress and more. In today’s blog post, four of our Chiropractors talk about what they have learnt from seeing thousands of patients in 2020.
With lockdown in Victoria came a lot of downtime – with many people mindlessly scrolling on their phones, watching endless TV shows and movies on Netflix, or searching the web for the next online shopping bargain. Although these activities passed the time, they contributed to an increase in neck and shoulder stiffness, as well as headaches.
Repeated or prolonged poor posture can have lasting effects, and during 2020, Chiropractors have seen an increase in patients presenting with neck and headache complaints.
One of the most common presentations was Forward Head Carriage – the head moving forward in front of the shoulders. As our head moves forward, the weight and force going through our neck increases – as little as one inch forward can increase the weight of our head by 100% – that’s DOUBLE the weight! This is an incredible amount of pressure for our neck and shoulders to deal with, especially if we are looking down at our phone or laptops for many hours a day.
My best advice to avoid this posture moving into 2021 is to limit screen time throughout the day, and when you do need to be on your phone or laptop, have these devices positioned at eye level to avoid looking down.
A great exercise to ease the pressure in your neck or upper back is to lay on a foam roller or posture pole – placing it vertically up your spine, with your head and buttocks resting on it. Bend your knees upwards and place your feet flat on the floor. Lay your arms out to the side to feel a nice stretch through the front of your chest. You can lay in this position for up to fifteen minutes – this is a great opportunity to pop on a meditation or calming music to help relax both your body and mind!
This year has been a rollercoaster for many, filled with the uncertainty that a global pandemic is likely to bring. As a result, in 2020 I started having a lot of patients comment that, although they haven’t done anything differently, they were experiencing new aches and pains, headaches and poor sleep – the list goes on! I asked them if they had felt more stressed than usual, knowing already that the answer would be a resounding YES!
Whenever we feel stressed, our brain automatically goes into survival mode and puts us in a state of ‘fight or flight’, firing up our sympathetic nervous system. Our jaw tenses up, our shoulders round and our head drops forward – all of which can lead to postural stress. In turn, this may cause headaches, neck pain and back pain over a prolonged period of time.
To find out if stress is what is causing your issue/s, it’s a good idea to book a consultation with your local Chiropractor. Chiropractors can do a thorough assessment to determine the potential causes of your issue.
Some top tips for when you are at home and are noticing that you are feeling stressed –
2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, with many losing their jobs – as well as many working even harder to keep theirs! From seeing over 1000 patients this year, I have learnt that not having work, or working too much, both have detrimental effects on your mental and physical health.
Firstly, I have seen many patients who have lost their job. These patients tend to experience a lot of stress and anxiety, which generally leads to them carrying their shoulders high – resulting in bad posture and neck pain.
Some people who still had their jobs experienced fear of losing them – as a result, they were working harder without care for their health – for example, lifting heavier objects, or lifting in incorrect posture due to rushing. This category of patients had a higher probability of experiencing low back pain / back injuries.
Many neck-related problems I saw in 2020 involved disc issues, causing radiation into the arms, or headaches related to the neck. In terms of lower back, disc sciatica was and continues to be one of the most common presentations; both disc related and musculoskeletal.
My advice going into 2021 is to prioritise looking after your health while you can. If you’re at home, remember to go for a jog or do some stretches every morning. If you’re working, don’t forget to lift with correct posture. The best way to make sure your health is in top shape is to seek help from a health professional – whether that is a Chiropractor, or a Physiotherapist or Osteopath.
At Total Health Chiropractic in Geelong, we have learnt a number of things from seeing thousands of patients in 2020 –
1. A poor workspace set-up from home can lead to poor posture, affecting your body in many ways, including:
Improving posture can help your brain and body function better.
2. Preventative care is better than a cure. A lot of patients we have seen in 2020 have waited to feel sharp or constant dull aches for a long period of time (from months to even years!) before seeking professional help. For some people, this resulted in their condition/s taking longer to resolve.
Stiffness felt anywhere in the body can be checked and addressed early. A general posture and spinal check-up may help maintain overall body function as Chiropractors work improve the nervous system and help it function at its best – the nervous system plays a vital role in regulating health within the body! Chiropractic care may prevent future injuries from occurring, whether that be at work, gym or playing sports.
3. Due to COVID-19 and associated restrictions in Victoria, many people were staying indoors. As a result, we have seen many patients in 2020 presenting the following:
It is important to keep the body moving to help increase blood flow and keep the spine healthy.
4. If the spine is restricted in movement, creating movement before stability can help prevent future injuries and prevent stiffness felt in the body.
If the spine is restricted and affecting the nervous system, the nerve supplies become irritated, resulting in the body not functioning at its best. This can lead to complications, even when performing simple, everyday tasks – like lifting a box or a child. If you are going to the gym and are doing weights/weight bearing exercises when your spine is stiff or locked up, it can add more stress to your joints and muscles, as well as increase the likelihood of injury.
5. Lastly, we have seen many patients in 2020 who have been experiencing increased stress. Increased stress affects the body in many ways. It’s important to take care of not only your physical wellbeing, but also your mental wellbeing – it’s all connected! Signs of how stress can affect your body include:
We recommend that if you do feel stressed, to take some time to do things that you enjoy!