Lockdown Injuries Are Real: Here’s How To Avoid This Latest Buzzkill
As if lockdown didn’t suck enough already, it turns out being cooped up at home can wreak havoc on your body as well. And we don’t just mean in the loss of gains department. Lockdown injuries are the latest buzz amongst physios. And the latest buzzkill for those of us just doing our best to stay sane in these covid times.
We joined a webinar with Virgin Active and physiotherapist Jonathan Blake, who specialises in the treatment and rehab of sports injuries. These are three of the top lockdown injuries Blake has spotted in his practice, plus how to avoid crockdown.
Home Run Ankle
If you were one of the many South Africans who got on board with the level 5 trend of running thousands of kilometres around your garden / house / tiny flat, Zoom high-five to you! Running around in a confined space takes some serious mental grit. But it also takes its toll on your body. Pain around the Achilles tendon is one of the most common lockdown injuries Blake has seen.
How it happens: When you’re running in a confined space, you’re already not running with optimal form. Add in stairs and lots of twists and turns and your risk of straining a tendon or rolling an ankle goes way up. Another reason? “Changing load,” says Blake. “A lot of people went into lockdown used to a particular load – whether that was in yoga, HIIT, power ride, resistance training, free weights. Now that load has changed. And because the load changes, the load on your body changes.”
If you were used to running on a treadmill or a weekly outdoor 5-kay, say, the load on your body doing repetitive laps around a garden will be completely different. Similarly, if you’re used to cycling or using the elliptical, simply running at all will strain your body in ways you aren’t accustomed to. “The elliptical is only partially weight bearing,” says Blake. “Running is fully weight bearing.” Another culprit, according to Blake, could be your shoes. If you’ve always been in the weights area or the circuit, you didn’t need proper running shoes. But if you’re now running for the first time, your go-to gym tekkies might not be giving you enough support.
READ MORE: 5 Signs You Need New Running Shoes
Stay off the bench: Now that you’re allowed to exercise outside of the confines of your property, it may be very tempting to ignore your ankle pain and push through. Don’t do that. Stay off your feet for a few days and if it’s still sore, make an appointment with your physio. You may think you know what’s wrong, but you could be way off.
For example, pain around your Achilles could be inflammation of the tendon itself or inflammation of the sheath around the tendon, says Blake. “All pain around the Achilles is not tendonitis. That’s why diagnosis is so important.” And at risk of sounding like your mom, don’t try everything you see on Instagram. “It’s amazing that someone was able to run a full marathon between the two couches he set up in his apartment in China,” says Blake. “He could run a 42-kay marathon probably because he’s done enough work leading up to that point. Should we be using that as our reference point? Probably not.”
Dining Room Table Back
So your fancy ergonomic office chair has been replaced by the Zoom meeting equivalent of a dining room chair: 40 minutes and then you need to get off. “Getting ready for lockdown, the last thing that you were probably thinking about was your computer stand, your office desk and the environment you were going to be working in,” says Blake. Now you’re hobbling around so much the Mr D guy called you Oupa.
READ MORE: Where to Order Healthy Food During Lockdown
How it happens: Like most of us, you’ve probably spent the last month and a half commuting between your makeshift office space and the couch. Which isn’t ideal, because sitting for long periods of time is not good for your body at the best of times. But poor ergonomics while you’re working from home could also set you up for lockdown injuries.
Stay off the bench: Blake recommends getting up every 20 minutes. Walk around, do a few squats, jump up and down or even just stand up and stretch. Also important: how you sit at your desk. Wendy van Wyk is a biokineticist with Ergonomicsdirect, a company that specialises in equipment and consultations for optimising work spaces, including during lockdown. She gives the following tips:
1/ Your feet should be flat on the ground or on a foot rest with 4 fingers’ space between the front of your knees and the end of your seat, your knees at ninety degrees or slightly more. (If you catching yourself shifting around in your chair, it’s time to follow Blake’s advice and stand up!)
2/ Your back should be supported by a backrest.
3/ Elbows should be at a ninety degree angle or slightly more and at desk height and your arms should be supported on the desk when you’re typing.
4/ The distance between the monitor and your eyes should be about 60cm and the top of the monitor should be at eye level or just below.
When the cupboards have been organised, your “recently watched” catalogue looks suspiciously like the entire Netflix offering and you can’t actually look at another piece of banana bread, what else is there to do but work out, right? Dudes who don’t even own proper trainers are suddenly posting #homeworkout challenges on the ‘gram in their Chuck Taylors. But while we’re all for getting fit and healthy, going from zero to 100 in less than optimal conditions with no supervision is probably not going to end well. So if you think you did yourself a mischief while attempting the latest TikTok fitness challenge, you probably did.
How it happens: “No movement is worth doing if it’s not done well,” says Blake. “One of the biggest problems associated with lockdown is that your technique is not being monitored. Technique is the fundamental basis of staying uninjured and of effective training.”
Stay off the bench: By all means do home workouts, but don’t feel like you need to keep up with the dudes on the gram. No one can see if you’re a rep or three behind or doing a modified push-up, so do you. Five slow reps with solid form are better than 10 half-arsed reps. “More is not better; better is better,” says Blake. If you’re not sure about form and you can afford it, book a few virtual sessions with a personal trainer who can watch you exercise and correct your form as you go.