These past few months COVID-19 has affected the lives of Canadians and the world. Due to the need for social distancing we have all been affected to some degree. Business’ closed, we had to wait in line at Costco, and some of us have had to relearn math in order to help our children with their online schooling.

The Problem: COVID-19 and inactivity

As we practice social distancing, we may be spending more time in place; in our home office, on even on our couch. Through all of this many of us have also continued to have our quality of life affected by physical problems that impact our ability to move and perform our daily activities. How many of us live with shortness of breath due COPD, a rotator cuff tear, the creaky knee that prevents us from keeping up to others, dizziness that we woke up with, or that nagging headache? These are all common conditions. Unfortunately, given the need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 this past spring there had been limited access to physiotherapists who are specially trained to deal with these conditions. This lack of access also had a major impact with certain populations such as seniors who were at risk for a fall or those living with chronic pain. Given the need to be social distant from friends, family, and their care providers it was easier to do very little physical activity, making their condition worse.

Innovation is Key

This problem of limited access though has forced the physiotherapy profession to be innovative and use technology such as online therapy, also known as virtual therapy and telehealth. By using this tool physiotherapists have been able to develop programs to prevent injury, maximize one’s abilities, manage pain, and guide patients through the recovery process. This allows treatment to be done without the need for travel and an in clinic visit. 

Now that physiotherapy clinics have been allowed to reopen to the public they have also had to change processes. These include wearing masks, developing enhanced sanitization protocols, as well as reconfigure waiting areas and booking procedures. 

New Physiotherapy Needs

Despite the recent limited access to physiotherapy, COVID-19 itself has also created more need for physiotherapy. For COVID-19 survivors who were admitted to the ICU some have developed PICS (post intensive care syndrome) that has affected them physically, emotionally, and cognitively. There is therefore the need to have physiotherapists work with other health care professionals to address this. 

More common though is the increased aches and pains associated with working from home. The convenience of working from home in our “comfy pants”, comes at a cost. The table chair or living room couch may not give the support like our office chair. It is also impossible to use proper posture with a laptop. For some of us there has also been less distractions with working from home so we work uninterrupted for longer periods of time. This is is not healthy as the body is meant to move. Remember “Motion is Lotion”.

To address the side effects of working from home, physiotherapists have been educating individuals and organizations regarding the principles of ergonomics and micro-break stretching. Micro-break stretching is stretching in the opposite direction to the postures and movements we assume or move frequently into during the day. For example, with sitting we should not only stand up regularly, but also bend backwards a few times. 

In addition to this, many of us have been less active in general as we have been working from home, getting out less, and maybe binge watching TV.  This lack of activity not only has a negative effect on us physically, but also on our mental health. This is compounded by the fact that  COVID-19 has increased the stress levels that we normally experience. Exercising on the other hand, within certain parameters, can actually releases a hormone called endorphins that can make us feel better.  Ever heard of a Runner’s High? Physiotherapists can therefore tailor a specific exercise program to maximize these and other benefits of exercise whether it be done outside, at home, or at the gym. 

Moving Forward with Physiotherapy Access

Lessening the restrictions in Canada will not only be good for the economy, but as long as everyone continues to do their share to prevent COVID-19’s spread, it will improve the health of our nation. Access to physiotherapy is vital as the profession has so much to offer Canadians at every stage of life in managing physical problems and preventing them. Physiotherapy, however we access them whether it be in the hospital, care home, private clinic, or online can help us all Move Better and Live Better. 

If you have any further questions about physiotherapy feel free to visit our website or contact us at 306-343-7776.

Alternatively, feel free to visit the Canadian Physiotherapy Association website.