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11 million home workers in pain

Millions of Brits are in pain as a result of their makeshift home offices during lockdown.

People have been urged to work from home to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic – something that is likely to continue even as lockdown measures are relaxed. But according to new research from Bupa UK nearly two thirds (63%), equating to 11 million Brits, have injured their back, neck, hips, knees or wrists, amongst other injuries as a result.

Only one in three (32%) has a dedicated workspace in their home, and as a result, home workers are using their sofas, kitchen chairs, beds or even beanbags as makeshift workstations.

And it means that a quarter of home workers are hunched over their computers for eight hours a day while others admit to slouching or slumping in their seats, balancing their computer on laps or the arm of a chair, or sitting with their back or legs twisted to try to get comfortable.4

Younger people are disproportionately affected – workers aged 18-34 are least likely to have a simple desk and a chair with a backrest, and are twice as likely to work from their bed as their older counterparts. But as a result this age group reports the highest levels of neck, hip, knee and wrist pain.

But just one in ten (11%) has sought medical help, with the majority using over-the-counter painkillers, massages or ice baths.7 Worryingly, 28 per cent have done nothing to relieve their symptoms – but without proper treatment they risk longer term damage.

Damian McClelland, Clinical Director for Musculoskeletal Services at Bupa UK Insurance commented: “When social distancing measures were introduced many workers were thrust into working from home to keep them safe, with little time to prepare their workspaces. So it’s concerning, but perhaps not surprising, to see that so many are now struggling with their musculoskeletal health.”

And with two in five (42%) home workers intending to continue working from home when social distancing measures are lifted, musculoskeletal experts at Bupa UK have identified the most common home working archetypes, and detailed simple changes to make life more comfortable and avoid long term damage.

Damian McClelland has shared his top tips for protecting your MSK health while working from home:““As we move towards the ‘new normal’ where higher levels of working from home are likely to feature, it’s really important to address any pain or discomfort now, to make this sustainable in the long term.

“Simple changes such as ditching the beds and beanbags and sitting up with your feet planted on the floor, adopting handsfree sets for long phonecalls, and makingtime to stretch (even if that’s doing yoga at your desk) can go a long way to preventing strain. And seeking help for long term and persistent pain remains essential. Early diagnosis and access to treatment can have a positive effect on the long-term prognosis of musculoskeletal conditions.

“Bupa’s Direct Access MSK service allows customers to bypass the GP and be referred directly to a specialist. Bupa has also developed a Coronavirus Information Hub with advice for everyone on how to stay healthy and well at home.”