Spinal surgeon: How the coronavirus pandemic affects posture

Punching away at laptops while hunched over and sitting on the couch or bed can create an opportunity for injury

As offices shuttered near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many grew accustomed to working from home. However these altered routines and workspace arrangements resulted in different postures for many, one spinal and neck surgeon recently noted.

Punching away at laptops while hunched over and sitting on the couch or bed can create an opportunity for injury.

“If you’re craning forward with your neck or rounded shoulders, the muscles are working overtime to make sure the head stays relatively in line with your pelvis,” Dr. Rahul Shah, a board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon and partner with Premier Orthopaedic Associates in New Jersey, recently told Fox News.

Craning over laptops on the bed or couch with rounded shoulders fatigues the muscles and predisposes the body to injury, experts say. (iStock)

Craning over laptops on the bed or couch with rounded shoulders fatigues the muscles and predisposes the body to injury, experts say. (iStock)

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Altered posture predisposes the body to small irritations or injuries because the muscles quickly fatigue in a disproportionate way, Shah explained.

Posture is a dynamic condition, meaning we have different postures when we sit, stand and lay down. The interplay of muscles, the architecture of a person’s body type and possible injuries sustained through the years leave some people more prone to neck issues or back issues than others.

But don’t worry. Shah said simple solutions lie in fastening a cushion or towel to seats at home to mimic regular workplace settings.

“Work to bridge the gap so you’re able to mimic more of your work environment and day-to-day environment so they can be in harmony with each other,” Shah advised.

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Make sure the height of your chair and computer are at reasonable levels, and sit with the head positioned over the pelvis as opposed to craning forward, he said.

Dr. Rahul Shah, board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon. (Photo credit: Dr. Rahul Shah)

Dr. Rahul Shah, board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon. (Photo credit: Dr. Rahul Shah)

Quality exercise can also build stamina and prime the muscles. In general, a combination of walking, reaching 60 percent to 70 percent of your target heart rate and sustaining it for about 30 minutes, three times per week, can really jumpstart the muscles, Shah said.

“Another good rule of thumb is to stretch out the muscles around the hips and legs to help them get their full effect,” he said.

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Posture doesn’t always discriminate by age. A number of factors like work requirements, changes in environment as well as age contribute to overall posture, the spinal surgeon said.

Finally, imagine posture like a scoop of ice cream settled atop a cone, Shah says. In a similar way, the head should align with the pelvis for optimal posture.