We all know that it has been a very difficult time this past year with Covid in Pittsburgh, PA. We have all been the victims of an unfortunate experiment and so have our bodies. We have been taken from our active busy lives and then forced to move anywhere from 25% to 75% less than our normal amount of activity.
With our inability to use our normal gym equipment, being forced to try new exercise routines and rearranging our daily schedules, we have really been taken out of the activities that we love. Even simple things like going out to eat or going to the grocery store for some has been difficult for some because of increased low back pain.
We are seeing a greater increase of low back pain over the past year within all of the Physical Therapy Now clinics. Patients who have been relatively active their whole life are now experiencing new and old episodes of low back pain and wondering why.
There are sneaky reasons to the new source of low back pain in the Covid environment that have to be considered.
#1) We have gone from being completely mobile to a period of inactivity being forced to stay inside. Now we are becoming active again. Because our bodies adapt to our environment our spine has become weaker when we decreased our activity.
What this his done is created atrophy of the spinal muscles that hold the spine upright and this has created a decreased ability of the spine to receive forces successfully. Normally, graded impact or “creep” as it is called is a good thing on the spine but we have gone from a spine not that is used to not receiving forces (sitting at home for a year) to now a return of a lot of force (walking all day doing daily activity).
#2) There are structures such as ligaments, tendons, joint capsules and more that regularly receive stress when someone is active. With long periods of inactivity these structures become weak as well as the muscles. When we increase the activity again such as now (after a year with Covid) we have not rebuilt the strength of these structures that keep our lumbar spine healthy.
#3) The expectation of immediate spinal health without work is never mentioned in the Covid environment. Just like anything you have to train before you perform something. This is no different when are talking about the spine after a year of sitting and not moving. Please do not suddenly go exercise or play a sport at the same intensity that you have pre-Covid or you will most likely be sorry.
In summary we have not taken into consideration the physical impact that Covid has placed on our bodies but we are seeing the fallout at our offices. My best advice is not to engage in pre-Covid activities as though a year of inactivity has not happened. Be smart and ease into your normal activity and exercise slowly over time.
Be safe and best of health.