Confessions of a Virtual Physical Therapist

The world has been turned upside down by COVID-19 and the world of physical therapy has not been spared. As a physical therapist who has worked with patients from the tech-driven Bay Area for over a decade, I have educated and helped many patients improve their computer and workstation ergonomics through postural corrections, equipment changes, and by modifying activities  to improve a patient’s pain and dysfunction.

As COVID-19 virus literally went “viral”, Therapydia made the tough decision to close our doors to in-person visits in accordance with San Francisco’s Shelter-In-Place Order. We, as a team, also thought it would be better for the general health of our region if we did not become vectors for virus transmission to our patients and families. With that decision, our team had to make a quick turnaround to providing our services over virtual platforms. And with that transition, we “active” PTs used to working in a clinic had to set up laptops at home and figure out optimal ergonomic setups–some successful, some not!

As we set up our virtual clinics and began more than usual hours in front of computer screens, we all began feeling similar symptoms as those that our patients would report to us over the years!  Just like our patients, we didn’t have proper office chairs and are now working for extended periods of time at our kitchen counter or hunched over a coffee table–positions that it are not ideal for our bodies and overall health. Fortunately we could utilize our extensive knowledge of biomechanics and ergonomics and finally put our student loan money to good work on ourselves! We have begun to walk in your shoes and now present to you  our confessions and our solutions!

PT Confessions:

Greg Ohanessian, PT
Therapydia Embarcadero

Low back pain from sitting in a flexed posture:

My dining room table looked like the best place to set up my home office. Unfortunately, my dining room chairs are lower than I thought and my hips were positioned at the same height as my knees, leading to a posterior pelvic tilt. This flexed my spine more than usual which increased stress and strain on my lumbar spine discs. As I stood up I noticed an increase in pain in my low back.

Solution:

1)Find a taller chair to have my hips above my knees to lessen the flexion load on my spine
2) Sit on a pillow to raise my hips above my knees

If you’re working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you might find that your makeshift office is a literal pain in the neck. Check back often for more solutions to combating aches and pains from transitioning to working from home.


Lauren Opatrny, PT, DPT
Therapydia SF – Market

Practicing what we preach is a lot harder than I thought it would be! I often educate patients on the importance of frequent position changes, especially when working on the computer. Working as a physical therapist is a very dynamic job, so I never had a problem listening to my own advice. The last time I sat and worked on a computer this much must have been in graduate school. Since working from home (which I never thought I would get to do as a PT!!), my shoulders and neck have been sore! Its so easy to forget to stand up or move every 30-45 minutes. I have a sticky note next to my computer now reminding me to stand. I plan some sort of exercise daily (walk, run, bike, yoga, body weight circuit). Having a workout buddy helps, too. If you live alone, or don’t want to workout with your roomies, try planning a virtual workout session with friends/family, or check out online workout videos. There are so many! All that said, this is a stressful time for everyone, and making sure to take time for self care, whatever that looks like to you, is important.


Jonathan Lim Sze How, PT, MS
Therapydia SF – Market

As a PT, sitting at a desk and working on a laptop most of the day is not something I will ever get used to. While working from home, the main issue that I have been dealing with is having a sore bottom from sitting for extended periods of time. Something that helps is to change positions and locations throughout the day. I sit for a bit, then stand, or work a little at the dining table, then move to the sofa and workoff the coffee table. Also, I have made it a priority to move more while sheltering in place during this outbreak. I do my best to schedule a daily 20-30 min in-home exercise session, because let’s face it, working from home = snacking all day.

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