It’s too early for expansive data on how (and how much) people were hurting in 2020.
But according to doctors and health-care workers, some clear trends have emerged, and the complaints stretch to the far reaches of the human body.
Among the earliest and most enduring have been the type I’ve experienced—aches and pains that emerge without obvious injury, then stick around.
“By May, I was seeing a lot more neck and upper back pain, also accompanied with headache,” Jaspal Singh, a pain- and rehabilitation-medicine specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, told me in an email.
5 Ways The Lockdown Is RUINING Our Health
- Neck and upper back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Pinched nerves
These problems have since taken over Singh’s practice—he estimated that before the pandemic, 70 percent of his patients were complaining of lower-back and leg pain.
Now more than half have the kinds of aches that come from hours at ad hoc workstations—curving your shoulders forward, jutting your head out in front of your body to look at a laptop whose screen is too low, and maintaining that position for hours at a time, all while sitting in a chair meant to support a human for the duration of a meal, not a workday.
And people aren’t just working in more challenging physical circumstances; they’re also spending more time doing it.
“In the office, people work for eight or nine hours, but now they find themselves working 10 or 12 hours at home just because there’s no commute time,” Natalia Ruiz, a physical therapist at NYU Langone Orthopedic Center, told me of her patients.
“Expectations of productivity have increased because you’re working from home.”
In her practice, she’s seen more complaints of back and neck pain, but also more “repetitive strain” injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis in the hands and forearms, and pinched nerves in the elbows …
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