Most of Us Have Body Aches Right Now—Here’s What to Do About It

A recent survey shows the effect the last two years has had on our bodies due to stress and poor work-from-home setups. Here, an expert shares tips for alleviating discomfort so we can enjoy time outside of our all-too-familiar quarters.

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In the past couple of years, most of our working conditions have changed dramatically. Many of us have moved from an office to a work-from-home station and have leaned into unhealthy habits, like spending too much time staring at our screens, slouching over our keyboards and worrying about things that are out of our control. No matter if you’ve been perched at your kitchen table for two years and counting or you’ve created a full-blown office nook in your home, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing more body aches and pains than you used to.

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A March 2022 survey conducted by The Pulse Group Inc. on behalf of Tylenol®, found almost half of Canadians were more aware of their body pains than they were before they started living in a “new normal”. What’s more, half of those Canadians reported experiencing pain in entirely new areas of their body too.

While an increase in aches and pains is to be expected as we age, the survey found younger Canadians, ages 20 to 49, were most likely to report feeling achier than before the pandemic. This included people who were parents of young children, those who were working without a proper ergonomic desk setup and those who felt stressed.

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Dr. Liza Egbogah, a Toronto-based osteopath and posture expert, says in the past year and a half, many of her patients have also expressed concerns about an increase in their pre-existing pain as well as new areas of pain. “People are spending more time at home sitting and using devices, which can result in poor posture, increased pain, and even a negative impact on our mental health,” she says.

Almost all of Dr. Egbogah’s patients have reported increased stress levels, especially in the last year, which she says seems to correlate with increased neck, shoulder and back pain. And she’s right—almost half of the Canadians surveyed attributed the cause of their body aches and pains to stress and inactivity. As for the others, about 40 percent said their work-from-home environment was in part to blame, and about a third said lack of sleep and poor mental health were contributing factors.

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As we approach our first summer in two years with few public health restrictions in place, we’re all eager to step away from our perch at the kitchen table, get outside and have fun, not to mention get back into the rhythm of our busy lives with more energy and less pain. But to do that, we need to feel like ourselves again.

Here, are four ways to keep those modern aches and pains at bay.

1. Stretch it out

“I’m a big proponent of stretching and exercises to help relieve and prevent pain,” says Dr. Egbogah. She has three go-to exercises that target the areas of the body most people experience pain—the neck, shoulders and back—to be done several times every day.

Pec stretch with neck extension
“Interlock your hands behind your back, keeping your arms straight while pulling your hands down towards to ground. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slowly look up towards the ceiling. Hold for five seconds while keeping your body in an upright position and focusing on inhaling and exhaling. You should feel a comfortable stretch through your chest and the front of your neck.”

Chest opener with stretch band
“Using a light resistance band, stretch band or towel, grab one end with one hand. Bring it behind your back and grab the other end with the other hand. Creating tension in the band or towel, slowly bring your arms up behind your back until your feel a deep stretch in your chest. Once you do, hold the position for 10 seconds while taking deep breaths in.”

Back bend with lower back decompression
“Stand with your feet planted firmly on the ground and the back of your hands in a fist behind your hips. Look up to the ceiling and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, slowly and gently bend backwards, folding back over your fists, to the deepest point where you can maintain your balance. Take a few breaths while you’re in the back bend, then slowly come back up to standing.”

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2. Massage

You can relieve pain that’s caused by tight muscles with massage, says Dr. Egbogah. A massage ball, foam roller or electric massager can often do the trick. “I love massage balls,” she says, “I think they’re an amazing tool to loosen up tight muscles—it’s like having your own portable massage therapist.” But sometimes, it’s better to see a professional. For more targeted pain relief, Dr. Egbogah recommends seeing a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist. “They can help can identify the source of pain, provide treatment and recommend personalized exercises that can also be helpful for long-term pain relief.”

3. Heat and ice

Hot and cold packs can help alleviate muscle pain and achiness, too. “After a long day sitting at a desk, we tend to have decreased blood flow as we aren’t moving much,” says Dr. Egbogah. “Applying a hot pack can help boost circulation, loosen up tight muscles and provide temporary pain relief.”  A cold pack can help reduce inflammation and swelling.

4. OTC pain reliever

For fast ache and pain relief, your doctor may recommend a quick-acting over-the-counter medication like Tylenol® Rapid Release Gels which are scientifically designed to start releasing medicine fast, so you can quickly get back to feeling like your old self again and start making up for lost time.

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