WFH prompts spike in head and neck pain

Increasing numbers of people working from home since the onset of Covid, has led to a rise in neck pain and headaches, according to physiotherapists who say those presenting for these ailments now make up more than a third of clients. “Headaches and neck pain have risen significantly in recent times especially post Covid,” said Evoker Sydney CBD Physiotherapist, Chris.

“Headaches and neck pain have risen significantly in recent times especially post Covid,” said Evoker Physiotherapist, Chris. “Approximately 40 per cent of my current case load consists of those afflicted by headaches and neck pain. When combined these two things can be quite debilitating, and significantly diminish one’s ability to concentrate and work productively.”

While the type of pain experienced can vary from person to person, head and neck pain can range from sharp, nerve-like sensations to a persistent dull ache.

“When it comes to head and neck issues, the most common type of pain is localised around the neck. However, it frequently radiates to the head and shoulder blades. In some cases, the pain may also be referred to the shoulder, elbow, or hand, depending on the involvement of nerve roots,” Chris said.

“Alongside head and neck pain, individuals may experience cervicogenic headaches, which are typically felt around the base of the skull, near the ears, or even extending into the eyes.

“Photophobia and phonophobia may also accompany headaches and neck pain, and these terms refer to the increase in sensitivity to both light and sound respectively.”

Working from home with poor setups and longer hours at work had resulted in an increased number of neck issues. “With WFH hitting so suddenly in 2020 following multiple Covid-19 lockdowns, physiotherapists saw a surge of ‘makeshift’ workspaces,” he said.

“People have become comfortable working from their dining tables, couches or even beds. These ‘offices’ are not designed for prolonged sitting and less so for a typical 9 to 5 workday. Oftentimes, people end up slouching for hours with poor postures, without even realising it. Poor posture coupled with poor ergonomic work from home set ups will definitely increase neck pain in our working population.”

Similarly, the rise in the use of electronic devices has led to people straining their necks by looking down, causing discomfort in the neck and head region.”

“Many people may attribute a wry neck to a poor night’s sleep, but often it is the result of accumulated strain in the neck from factors like desk ergonomics or daily activities. Therefore, long-term preventive measures become essential to avoid recurrent visits to the physiotherapy clinic.”

Evoker’s Chris said people were not investing enough into preventing neck pain.

“There is a lack of time spent on prevention of neck pain by regular check-ins with a physiotherapist when necessary and a lack of investment into work from home set ups.

“Regular check-ins with a physio when pain is low can prevent pain from worsening and lingering for much longer. A dysfunction that may be resolved in 2-3 weeks can stretch to many months if left untreated for too long.

“Similarly, an initial investment into a good work from home set up can prevent neck pain and save people much more in the long run in terms of money spent to fix the issue and time lost due to limitations by their pain.

While some individuals may be more at risk of developing head and neck pain compared to others, Chris said anyone could experience it. “The focus should be on understanding individual risk factors and taking preventive measures, such as maintaining good posture, incorporating regular exercise, managing stress, and seeking timely treatment and ergonomic adjustments, to minimise the risk and promote overall neck health.”

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