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The pandemic has had a radical effect on how we work and while some people relish the chance to spend more time at home, others are itching to get back to the office. Whether you’re a fan of working from home or not, there is growing evidence to suggest that our new habits may be contributing to ill health, such as headaches and back pain.

An October 2020 poll of 2,000 UK adults found that 36% of respondents experienced increased pain over the last six months, with 34% reporting an increase in headaches. 

We spoke to Mr Sanj Bassi, Consultant Neurosurgeon at the London Neurosurgery Partnership at The Harley Street Clinic about how to avoid aches and pains during lockdown and when to seek medical help. 

What advice do you have for people who are increasingly experiencing back, head and neck pains?

Spending more time at home means that people are spending longer looking at screens – not only as they work, but also as they socialise with friends and family through video calls. This, along with stress, can contribute to headaches. 

Many people also find themselves hunching over their screens and poor posture can result in back pain.

Be mindful of the need to stay active and mobile during lockdown – activities such as yoga or Pilates can help to relive tension and mindfulness can help relieve stress. While it can be tricky, also try to avoid unnecessary screen time.

Headaches: When to seek help?

Aside from stress and tension, headaches can also be caused by dehydration, poor sleep or a number of other generally harmless reasons. While these headaches are common, there are some signs to look out for which could suggest there is a more serious reason for the pain.

Persistent headaches or headaches that take place in the early morning could be a sign of a brain tumour, as are headaches that are accompanied by nausea, vomiting or affected vision.

An onset of sudden severe headaches also needs immediate investigation, as these could be caused by a bleed in the brain. If you experience any of these types of headaches you should seek medical help to check it's nothing serious.

How has COVID-19 affected how people seek care?

Unfortunately, the pandemic has made more people wary about coming into hospital. Although the pandemic has had a huge impact on our society, we must not ignore other important symptoms that could point to brain haemorrhages or brain tumours, which are far more treatable when diagnosed early.

I would urge patients - especially those not deemed at high-risk of COVID-19 - to treat your health as you normally would. If something doesn't feel right both the NHS and the private sector are available to support you.

What happens when someone is referred or makes an appointment with you?

As a first step, we can often do telephone appointments or virtual consultations and patients visiting our clinic will receive the safest care available. All the staff staff are screened for COVID-19, temperature checked and wearing masks and we have no COVID-19 positive patients on site.

After a consultation you may need further diagnostic tests or we may put together a treatment plan then and there. This could be anything from being prescribing an appropriate medicine or recommending surgery and whatever further care you may need we can support you.
Consultants reviewing brain scan
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