/ March 21, 2021

The Unexpected Physical Side Effects of COVID Restrictions

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Our body is a “use it or lose it” system.  The more consistently we use muscles, the stronger they are. The more we neglect muscles, the weaker they become.  We refer to this type of weakness as disuse atrophy.  In addition, our body is like a machine in that it has an ideal alignment where all the parts move efficiently and effectively. When our body is out of this ideal alignment on a regular basis, the entire system can start to break down.  Likewise, our body was designed to have a strong upright stable core to support our organs, our spine and our arms and legs for all the movements that life requires. When we neglect our postural muscles and begin to live in collapsed poorly aligned postures, our internal core muscles begin to atrophy creating significant consequences to our entire body. 

Last March, the Covid-19 pandemic quarantine changed the way we live, work, play and interact. Office workers were sent home to makeshift “home offices”. Kids were sent home to laptops and chromebooks.  Activities, sports and fitness came to a halt. We were told it would be only 2-3 weeks so many of us decided to make due with laptops and couches or bar stools and counter tops for work spaces. 

A few weeks turned into months and our bodies started to groan with unexpected pain, weakness and fatigue. We continued to cope, adjust and occasionally even try a new home fitness exercise. Yet, the situation only got worse. 

The unexpected physical side effect of the COVID restrictions is Functional Core Weakness 

The inability of the muscles of the core to effectively function and support the body for everyday physical demands without pain or dysfunction.

Consider the details:

  1. Poorly designed home offices.  Prior to March, 2020 less than 20% of Americans worked from home primarily, now over 70% of Americans work from home. The majority of these workers have home workstations that are poorly designed and encourage poor body mechanics. Simply not having the right chair, desk or keyboard can dramatically impact how your body holds itself for the 8 hours of a work day. These poor postural positions add up. Not to mention, our work tasks have become much more sedentary in nature. We are sitting more. We are looking at screens instead of real people.  Our upper body is rounding over and collapsing forward and down toward our screens instead of  looking someone in the eye and moving our head and eyes to other people around the room. 
  1. Lazy Daily Posture. Less in person interaction means less professional postures. When we are in the work world, we are more intentional in how we dress, how we carry ourselves, how we sit in our offices, how we stand for presentations, how we interact with customers and how we simply walk around the office than we are when we are working from home. It is subtle at first, but there is a significant difference in the posture we use sitting at home on a Zoom call when compared to standing confidently and professionally as we would if we were presenting  in a conference room. When we add these changes up, we can start to see how we are simply not using our postural muscles as effectively. This is where disuse atrophy can take root. Ultimately working from home creates less opportunity for standing, less natural movement in our day, less eye contact and interaction, and overall lazy work postures.  Our body is a use it or lose it system and it loses its foundational functional strength when we spend the majority of our day in these collapsed and inactive work postures.
  1. We walk less.  Basic routines of walking to the car, walking into work, walking to get coffee, walking to use the restroom, walking to meetings, walking to lunch or back to your car at the end of the day have all been dramatically changed. All of these may seem like little pieces of movement but we have removed them and now only walk within our house. Those changes in scenery and intermittent changes in activity affect us. As a result we have become more sedentary, inactive and weaker.
  1. Increased stress levels.  Change, uncertainty and fear increases our cortisol levels and affects our coping strategies.  A lot of us deal with stress through emotional eating, increased alcohol consumption and binge watching shows.  Our nutrition and self care strategies have been upended and we are left with weight gain, depression, lack of motivation and low energy levels.  All of this impacts our body.  It impacts how we carry ourselves, how we move, how much we move and how we interact with the world around us.  Longstanding stress has a significant impact on our overall health, energy level and ability to build and maintain muscle mass. 
  1. Decreased Fitness Options.  Access to organized sports, group fitness, gyms, studios and even outside in some locations are completely different. We simply stopped doing a lot of the stuff that kept us moving. Our routine of stopping at the gym after work came to a crashing halt. Picking up a game of basketball at the park is not an option. We no longer had access to Saturday yoga at the studio, and that half-marathon you were training for was cancelled.  Although many people got creative and found new ways to move, most of us lost our routine, lost our motivation and realized working out at home was inconsistent at best. Aside from a few desperate measures of intense exercise (which likely included some injury) we simply stopped moving.

The overall result is chronically collapsed postures, bulging weak tummies and record incidences of undiagnosed Functional Core Weakness. 

Yet, life goes on and our body looks for any way it can to help continue doing the things we need to do.  Our bodies were designed for survival so we find ways to compensate for weakness.  Compensation patterns are short term survival strategies not intended to be ongoing lifestyle strategies.  Compensation for Functional Core Weakness can present in many ways.  Most commonly, we notice the chest, neck and upper back muscles attempting to stabilize the upper body or the glutes, hamstrings and hip stabilizers attempting to stabilize the pelvis. These strategies ultimately create muscle imbalances and muscles start to complain and cause pain.

Functional Core Weakness compensation pain can include (but is by no means limited to):

It is pretty possible if you are experiencing new pain since the COVID-19 Restrictions, that is is related to compensation for Functional Core Weakness.

There is hope!!  The Tummy Team specializes in the treatment of Functional Core Weakness!  It is more than simply treating these individual areas of pain.  Resist the urge to just hit the gym or start working out in a frenzy. Simply working out harder is not the answer.  Functional Core Rehab is the answer!  The most effective treatment strategy is to treat the SOURCE of the compensation pain.  We must treat the FUNCTIONAL CORE WEAKNESS!

Let’s use this change in our routine to rethink what we do and what our body truly needs. Let’s rethink role of your core We can help you retrain how you can use our core in everyday postures and movement patterns. We can teach you how to use your core more effectively for fitness so you actually become functionally stronger.

The Tummy Team approach is based on retraining the brain-body connection in optimal neutral and upright posture first and then integrating the internal core strength into the meaningful movement patterns of your real life. We believe you can move smarter not work harder. The Tummy Team’s functional core rehab courses systematically retrain your body’s connection and utilization to that weak and deflated internal corset muscle. We give you straight forward education and practical strategies to dramatically change your posture and your movement patterns so that your everyday life becomes your core training ground. We educate you in setting up your work, home and family environment to support you and help gain strength. We give you meaningful movement strategies that work better than hyped up fitness challenges. We get you out of pain and back into a physically strong and emotionally present life. No crunches, no sit ups, no more bulging or bracing your gut. The true function of your core is to elongate you and stabilize you in upright meaningful movement patterns.We believe you can reverse the negative effects that these COVID-19 restrictions have created and feel stronger and more confident in your body within 6-8 weeks!  Our courses are all online and have been helping clients worldwide for over a decade.  Let us help you too!