There have been some unintended health consequences from these last months of shut-in – take it from your friendly neighborhood health professional.
Doctor Kindra McDougall is a physical therapist at Corvallis Sport & Spine Physical Therapy, or CSSPT. She offers up some hints on sheltering at home healthfully, and also reveals why CSSPT stayed open while other physical therapy practices shuttered during the shutdown in this Question and Answer session:
Q: Dr. McDougall, what types of injuries have you seen more of in these last few months, since the shutdown began?
McDougall: With the onset of Stay at Home, CSSPT has seen an increase in some particular injuries like Piriformis syndrome – this is a pain in the buttocks region that may refer to the leg or foot, due to increased sitting, especially on hard surfaces.
We’re also seeing neck and back strains from either home improvement activities and gardening, or increased sitting at workstations that are poorly set-up. Related to all that increased workstation time are shoulder or wrist and forearm pain from improper mouse and keyboard set up.
Patients are also reporting increased knee and back pain from weight gain, which can be related to increased cooking and eating, increased stress, and decreased activity levels.
Q: How can those of us working from home avoid these outcomes and injuries?
McDougall: Create an ergonomic workstation – it’s important enough that my colleague Amanda Jordan made a video on how people can set up a healthy workspace. This is one of the simplest things people can do, and the whole video takes less than a minute.
Along the lines of movement, I suggest setting a timer for at least once every hour to take a brief break for stretching and changing position. Also, performing cardiovascular exercise – like walking, biking, cycling, and dancing throughout the week. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise spread over the week. Also – and this is fairly common advice – maintain good hydration, and eat a variety of healthy foods.
Q: There were some physical therapy practices that temporarily closed due to COVID-19, but Corvallis Sport & Spine stayed open. What motivated that decision?
McDougall: Many of our patients during this time have been post-surgical or post-accident, or in acute pain. These patients often have a time-sensitive window of recovery during which they can rapidly return to daily function.
My colleague, Amanda, may have summed this up best, saying, “It is both humbling and rewarding to have the opportunity to work with patients who might end up with long term limitations, or even disabilities, if not treated in a timely manner.”
Q: Did you have to make changes in your practice to mitigate the potential spread of infection?
McDougall: Our clinic has taken decisive steps to protect the health of our patients and employees. Before patients come in, we weigh the pros and cons of treating each patient in the clinic, or in their own home via face-to-face video through a secure telehealth system.
The CSSPT team identified and notified our elderly and immunocompromised patients, and encouraged them to stay home. Patients arrive on a staggered schedule to reduce overlap in the waiting area. When patients arrive, they wash their hands, have their temperature checked, and complete a COVID-19 screening questionnaire.
We are fortunate to have enough space in all of our facilities to properly observe the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. At minimum, all patients are spaced six feet away from one another while in the clinic. We are using our private treatment rooms extensively, particularly with elderly patients, to reduce traffic in common areas. All of our employees wear masks and undergo a thorough health screening process upon arriving at the clinic. As always, all equipment and surfaces are thoroughly sanitized with medical grade cleaning agents after every patient.
Q: Were there reservations about continuing to practice during the shutdown?
McDougall: In a word, no. As our clinic’s co-owner Carrol Esterhuizen recently put it, “Our decision to stay open was guided by our ethical commitment to our patients and referring surgeons and providers.”
In mid-March, the Federal Government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. The objective of this guidance was to help better identify essential workers while attempting to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Physical Therapists were among the healthcare professionals of the Critical Infrastructure Workforce. While some clinics in Corvallis chose to close, all of us at Corvallis Sport & Spine are thankful that we can continue serving those in our community with musculoskeletal needs during this uncertain time.
Kindra McDougall, PT, DPT is a physical therapist at Corvallis Sport & Spine Physical Therapy. She is also a former gymnast, and current circus performer and aerialist.