COVID-19 Lockdown has had a profound impact on all aspects of daily life, including how we exercise. With the likes of Joe Wicks leading the charge and getting families moving, many people have found new and inventive ways to stay fit but for many people, the lack of access to gyms and team sports has had a negative impact on both our physical and mental health.

We spoke to Mr Chinmay Gupte, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at The Wellington Hospital Knee Unit about how our new exercise habits are impacting our joints and muscles, how to ensure we're exercising safely and when your aches and pains may require specialist support.

How has the pandemic impacted the types of patients you’re seeing?

Interestingly, the consequences of the pandemic on the orthopaedic community have been twofold – on one hand, we’re seeing fewer people coming into our orthopaedic clinics with injuries as a result of team or contact sports but on the other hand, more and more people are exercising at home.

When people exercise at home, using apps or workout videos, they may not be being guided by a personal trainer or instructor. This means that people are injuring their limbs in different ways and we’re seeing more patients who have strained their lower limbs and overstressed joints, which can cause rips in muscle tissue.

Lockdown affects us all differently and sadly groups of people may be struggling to motivate themselves to exercise. Unfortunately, I think we’ll see the physical impact of this in years to come.

How can people avoid damage to joints and muscles when exercising at home? 

A good warm up is essential, as it gets the blood flowing through your joints and muscles before any intense exercise, leading to less chance of injury.

It’s also important to remember counterbalance your exercise with a good stretch regime. Muscles work more effectively when stretched it reduces the chance of pulling a muscle. Stretching your hamstrings is particularly important to avoid excess pressure on your kneecaps.

For anyone using home workout plans, I’d recommend taking the time to watch videos online on how to do each exercise correctly. Some exercises such as squats and lunges can be great highly effective but can also be dangerous if not done in the right way.

If you are experiencing some muscle or joint pain, when should you seek help?

If you have pain in or around your joints, muscles or tendons it’s important to make sure you rest it. If after two weeks of rest, you’re still experiencing pain, swelling or stiffness you may want to consider seeing a specialist and certainly by 6 weeks, you should seek help as you may need some type of imaging.

Of course, if any pain is really severe and accompanied by other worrying symptoms such as a fever then you should be seen immediately.

How can patients access care during the pandemic?

When you contact The Wellington Hospital they’ll put you through to the appropriate specialist within The Knee Unit. We will then determine whether you can have an initial consultation by video or phone or whether a face to face consultation is required so we can physically examine the affected area and arrange for further investigation if needed.

The team of physiotherapists, radiologists and surgeons work closely to ensure patients are supported whatever further care they might need.

Remember, attending a medical appointment remains a valid reason for travel during lockdown, so don’t delay seeking the help you require.

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