According to health experts, many patients, mostly working professionals, have come in with complaints related to carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis in hands and wrists, which make movement of the hands, wrists and forearms difficult. Left unattended, there is a possibility that these problems could lead to permanent nerve damage, they cautioned.
“Due to extended work hours and lack of exercise, many are developing problems related to muscle pain and injuries to arms and wrists,” Dr Gaurav Seth, consultant, rheumatology department at Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital in Dwarka, said.
“Around 70% of patients that I see are working on computers for long hours, leading to repetitive movements of the hands. There has been an increase of over 50% in such cases,” Dr Seth added.
Many patients have also reported neck pain, back pain or other musculoskeletal issues, said Dr HS Chhabra, chief of spine services, Indian Spinal Injuries Center (ISIC). “Most office spaces are designed in a way that supports long hours at work, but our homes lack those facilities. Poor posture while sitting poses the biggest risk to our back. Slouching while sitting causes slow changes in the soft tissue and stretches spinal discs, making back muscles tired more easily. It is advisable to take support of the backrest with the curve of the lower back cradled,” he added.
Likewise, children across all age groups are taking classes and exams online since the lockdown, spending hours in front of laptop or smartphone screens at a stretch.
10-year-old Simarjit was using a tablet for classes, exams and games for more than 10 hours daily. This put immense strain on his wrist, resulting in wrist tendonitis (inflammation of the tendons around the wrist).
“The child was using the tab while sitting in bed. The muscles around one of his wrists were being strained and overused, leading to tendonitis,” Dr Maninder Singh, a senior orthopaedic consultant with ISIC, said. Simarjit’s condition improved after starting sitting on a chair with a laptop on a table in front of him to attend classes.
“Those in the age group of 14 to 22 years are complaining of nagging back and neck pain the most, mainly caused by prolonged use of tabs and smartphones for gaming and chatting. Other problems have arisen as well. Some of them are suffering from attention deficit and addiction to online games, while some have suffered cyber bullying. Others have become withdrawn and interact less with friends and family and are showing signs of depression. Disrupted sleep is also affecting a large number of older students,” Dr Singh said.
Doctors suggested students use a chair-table combination for such long-duration engagements and a five-minute break every 40 minutes and between classes to look away from the screen.
“We are seeing a sudden rise in patients between 10 and 25 years of age during teleconsultation. I suggest that they use laptops or computers only, not even tabs,” Dr Bhavuk Garg, associate professor (orthopaedics) at AIIMS, said.
Others have reported of dryness in the eyes or eye strain. Dr Anant Vir Jain, director of the ophthalmology department at Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad, advised such people to use high-quality eye lubricants three to four times a day. “People should also follow the rule of 20 — looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes — to rest the eyes,” he added.
Dr Nimesh G Desai, director, Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, said those vulnerable to anxiety and depression should be more careful at this time. “These are extraordinary times and people should learn to cope with them instead of isolating themselves. Those who have mental health issues should seek consultation on time,” he added.