While most people have turned their homes into offices and classrooms during the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are they don't have the same ergonomic setup as they do at work or school, which could spell trouble for the spine and posture.

Dr. Rahul Shah, an orthopedic spinal surgeon in the Vineland/Cherry Hill area, said anything one does at home can put stress on the spine because of the sudden change in environment. At home, a person may be in a more cooped up space where their backs are more hunched forward especially if they're working on a laptop on the couch, floor or bed.

He said the one thing people don't realize is the actual activity that goes into actually "going to work." Just getting in and out of the car and walking a short distance into the building is an activity that is now gone.

"Those activities, in fact, help prime the back, to help get blood flowing to the back and help you sustain the ability to be able to sit or stand for longer periods of time," said Shah.

So now that a person is not driving to work, Shah said it's important to walk 15 to 20 minutes to get the heart rate up, get the blood flowing to the muscles and get them primed to stand or sit for a good length of time.

Once the muscles are primed, Shah said it's also crucial to take proper breaks between sitting and standing. If a person is cramped, shoulders are drooped forward and the back is cramped, stretch the muscles so they're limber and not fatiguing as quickly.

If a person is not taking care of their back, Shah said it could lead to neck and back fatigue and aches. But a person could also potentially irritate the nerves that go through the back or experience pain in the shoulder blades, arms, legs, buttocks or down the legs.

He says if someone does feel the strain on their back, it's important to ease the pressure and change position. Sit up, stand up, go for a short walk, do some chores — anything to break up the monotony and get limber.

Shah also suggested alternating between an ice pack and a moist, hot towel for 15-minute intervals.

As far as taking medications to relieve any back pain, he does not recommend it.

Medications like ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory pills could potentially worsen a person's susceptibility to COVID-19.

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