Even as we learn to live with the continued spread of COVID-19 in Colorado and across the country, the repercussions of the pandemic will likely be evident for years to come. One of those results is the wider adoption of remote working, with about 45% of Americans now telecommuting all or part of the time.
This means that for some people, office furniture may have been replaced by makeshift desks and chairs, or even workspace from a sofa or bed. Such setups typically don’t have the same ergonomic design as a traditional desk, and over time can contribute to a range of health issues, including back pain or other orthopedic issues such as root canal syndrome. carpal or tendonitis.
In fact, an estimated 50% of American adults are affected by so-called musculoskeletal conditions, with treatments associated with these conditions accounting for 10% of annual medical expenses, according to a 2020 Healthcare Economics analysis of UnitedHealthcare claims. When it comes to back problems, around 80% of people suffer from this condition at least once in their lifetime.
Although sometimes back pain and other orthopedic problems cannot be avoided due to previous injuries or other factors, it is important for people to focus on their CORE, which means correct posture, excess weight (avoid -le), you relax and exercise. To build on this concept, here are three evidence-based care strategies and methods to consider to help prevent or treat this common problem.
Focus on posture. Whether you’re now working at the kitchen table or on the couch, focusing on good posture can help. Make sure you are sitting straight with your knees at a 90 degree angle, your shoulders in a straight line over your hips, and your ears directly over your shoulders. If you work at a computer, set the screen height to eye level and consider raising the keyboard to help keep your hands, wrists, and forearms aligned and parallel to the floor.
Stay active. While some people with back pain or other muscle issues may be tempted to consider rest, staying active in many cases may be the best option. Low-impact activities to consider include walking and swimming, while research indicates that strengthening leg muscles can also be helpful. You can also try yoga and tai chi, which have been shown to relieve moderate to severe back pain. If time is a factor, a short walk at lunchtime or up and down stairs a few times can help keep you active.
Examine your options. The American College of Physicians recommends exercise-based therapies first, including non-surgical options such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. To make access even more convenient, new virtual physiotherapy options have emerged, some of which offer users on-demand, 24/7 exercise feedback, powered by artificial intelligence. . These non-invasive options, which in some cases may be included in your health insurance plan, can help 95% of people with low back pain recover after 12 weeks.
Even for people with chronic back pain, only a small percentage may require imaging or surgery. Taking these preventative steps — and selecting evidence-based approaches to care when issues arise — can help reduce the risks and complications associated with back pain and other orthopedic conditions.
Dr. Matthew Husa is UnitedHealthcare’s Chief Medical Officer of Colorado and Wyoming.