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Living the Lockdown Life

Living the lockdown Life

Living the Lockdown Life

As I write this article, we Melburnians have been locked down for over 240 days since the pandemic began in 2020.  It is a burden we could never have imagined back in the carefree days of 2019 and one that has had significant consequences for all of us. At Malvern Physio, we are grateful that we have been able to continue operating throughout the lockdowns, and feel it has been a service that has been required. Lockdowns affect our physical health in a variety of ways and I have been reflecting on what this teaches us about our health; physical, mental and emotional.

How do lockdowns cause physical problems?

Lots of people ask me this question and immediately jump to the obvious  – “hunched over a laptop at the dining table”, which is true to a certain degree. The change in work and life habits have immediately obvious effects on our physical wellbeing, but many subtle effects as well.

Work set up/ergonomics

For those that work at desk based jobs, but at home, the set up of the computer/keyboard/chair can be different to at work and consequently cause increased postural load on the spine. Stiff lower backs, stiff and sore mid backs and neck pain, shoulder, elbow and wrist pain can often occur with a non-optimal set up of equipment. Thankfully, many people have been able to bring chairs or standing desks home to help offset this. Even simple steps like raising your laptop on a few books to be closer to eye level and plugging in a separate keyboard can make a big difference. Ensuring your chair has adequate low back support that you can relax into comfortably also makes a big difference. Breaking up your work time with stretching and exercise is vital – so do not forget that just because you are home. Every hour, get up, stretch your arms up to the ceiling, do 10 squats and walk around the house!

Lack of incidental exercise

While we can “exercise” for our prescribed time each day, the lack of incidental exercise can have an impact on our bodies. Walking from the bedroom, to the kitchen to the dining table in the morning is very different to walking to the station, standing up on the train, walking to the office etc. All this light activity is good for us and our bodies miss it when we change routine. Even if we are not working, lockdown dramatically reduces the amount of incidental activity we do – less shopping, less outings, less errands.  Lockdown increases the opportunity for sitting, baking and eating! To offset this, keep moving where you can. For example, park further away at the supermarket, walk to the coffee shop, talk on the phone while standing or walking, listen to a book or podcast while walking, start a step count competition with friends or family. Any extra movement is good for you.

Missing usual exercise/Trying new exercise

Many of our usual exercise routines have been inaccessible during lockdowns. When we habitually exercise in a particular way, our muscles, tendons, joints and bones get accustomed to that usual load. Changing that load too suddenly can cause problems, particularly for those of us over 40! Suddenly taking up running for the first time in 20 years, or walking for 2 hours instead of 30 minutes can cause underlying issues to surface. The same applies to jumping into energetic Youtube exercise videos! Sometimes our mind is willing but our body can let us down. The key concept to remember is to sneak up on your body! Give it time to adapt to anything new, by starting gently, having days off in between and progressing slowly. If something is getting worse rather than better – come and see us! If an old injury or problem that is usually managed through your exercise is starting to resurface – come in and get some advice about specific things you can do to manage it at home.

Stress, Anxiety & Mood

There is no doubt that the last 2 years have been difficult for everybody. Our mood affects our physical health and motivation too. Many clients have admitted they have lost their motivation for exercise during the drawn out lockdowns. Stress, anxiety and depression are significant pain mediators. They act to sensitise our nervous system and consequently make our system more responsive to pain. What could be a minor niggle can turn into a much more significant pain experience when our whole system is on edge and primed to overreact. The mental health load of the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced how relevant this link is. Making sure we are looking after our mental health is as important as any other exercise we do each day. 

Here are some of my more successful strategies for giving that mental health boost;

  • Keeping normal sleep patterns – poor sleep is a mediator for pain, low mood and anxiety. Turn off Netflix and go to bed!
  • Catching up with people we love in whatever annoyingly inadequate form we can. It can be hard to find the energy at times, but most of the time we’ll feel better after seeing and chatting with a friend.
  • Walking outside and enjoying spring.
  • Stepping away from work and turning the computer off at night.
  • Exercise (appropriately!) to release those endorphins
  • Playing music, watching favourite movies, cooking good food.

After 240 days it is not easy, and often feels like you are wading in waist deep mud.  So be kind to yourself and reach out for help if you are struggling.

Lockdown life is HARD and affects every aspect of our well being. From a physiotherapist point of view my advice is this: move your body everyday, take any new form of physical activity gradually and keep doing things that keep you sane. We cannot wait to have all our classes back and running, but will be here for treatment when you need it in the meantime. 

This article is written by Alisa McLachlan, Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist , (as awarded by the Australian College of Physiotherapy 2019).

If you would like any more information, or to book an appointment, please click the link or contact us on 9078 8434 or reception@malvernphysio.com.au



Published the October 20, 2021

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