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Work From Home May Cause 'Irreversible' Damage to Spinal Cord, Warn Doctors

Covid-19 work from home may cause an irreversible damage to the spinal cord. (Representative Image).

Covid-19 work from home may cause an irreversible damage to the spinal cord. (Representative Image).

People aren’t realizing what they are losing in terms of health with this new abnormal lifestyle, alerts Dr Swati Bhat, Director (South) with Interventional Pain and Spine Centre (IPSC) and Head, IPSC Varsity.

Sunil Kumar is an architect in a reputed company and has been working from home for a year due to the covid-19 lockdown. Everything was fine until a couple of months ago when he slowly started developing backache. Thinking it was because of the chair, he had changed it. Although that felt better for a couple of days, eventually the pain was back. Initially, pain killers, sprays and hot water bags helped but not for long. He had to undergo surgery to rectify 2 discs in his spinal cord that went dry.

“I know I was late. But I wasn’t so late that it would leave me crippled for life and I am thankful for it. But I would like others to learn from my example. Let us not neglect ourselves. I was feeling thankful for not contacting Covid until now. And looks like I took everything else for granted. I really ignored all signs my body was giving, we all do it. The entire issue took a long good year until I reached the operating table. Had I noticed those signs and took things seriously sooner, I would have suffered less” says Sunil Kumar to News18.

The work from home culture has changed the way we work now. Earlier, people would travel to the workplace and work for fixed hours. used to work in fixed hour shifts while going to work earlier. From home, you are ‘logged in’ almost always.

People aren’t realizing what they are losing in terms of health with this new abnormal lifestyle, alerts Dr Swati Bhat, Director (South) with Interventional Pain and Spine Centre (IPSC) and Head, IPSC Varsity. “With long hours of sitting, pressure builds on the discs of the Spinal cord. These discs are very crucial parts that help mobility. When one has very limited mobility, the bones would pressurize and suppress the discs. Most times, people working from home don’t pay attention to nutrition and adequate water consumption as well. This adds up to the already existing issues and the discs become dehydrated and weak.”

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Dr Bhat is seeing most patients in the age group from 20 to 40 years complaining of chronic back pain. “We have performed interventional procedures on many such patients to reverse pain. One should also understand this is a completely preventable situation”, she adds.

Dr Bhat emphasises there are several instances where the damage to the spinal cord is so much that it is completely irreversible. Wrong postures, lack of physical activity and nutrition are to blame. The first and foremost factor that anyone should understand is that if any pain continues to trouble for more than a week, go to a doctor. Postponing the doctor’s visit will only do more harm than help.

Listing down certain changes, government health officials urged people to alter their routine. One must not work out of bed and find a decent place to work from or interchange the workplace every couple of hours, they said. “Maybe, move out of your bed to the dining space after 2 hours. And then to the living room. Make sure you drink enough water to keep yourself dehydrated. Whether you work outside or stay at home, the tissues in your body will keep working for you. Hence good food and sufficient water is a must. Never skip your meals. That one call after which you will have your lunch at peace will never happen. It takes hardly 10 minutes to eat a meal. Have it on time. Make sure you have all goodness of food on your plate," said one of the health officials.

Others said that if managing time amidst work hours is difficult, one can probably pack your lunch box just like how you would do while going to the office. So the food will be ready during lunchtime and you can eat without running around to fix it in a hurry then. Probably having a target to finish 2-3 litres of water-filled bottles would help, they added. “Also, take a small walk after every 45 minutes to one hour. Just get up from your place and go to the kitchen to drink water. You will walk a few steps at least. When there are continuous calls, you can put on your earplugs and speak while walking. This will avoid you sitting in the same place. These are just a few suggestions. Every person has their own space and they can come up with plenty of other ways to stay active. At the end of the day, let us put our health at the forefront. It truly matters," opined various health officials.

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first published:July 24, 2021, 12:18 IST