The Covid-19 Pandemic and how it has Changed our Bodies

 

In this article, we will take a look at the detrimental impacts the Covid-19 pandemic has on our bodies, not through the virus itself but by how we adapted (or should we say didn’t adapt) to being confined to our homes for 23 hours a day, 7 days a week for months on end!

See below for a list of the impacts on everything from our eyes through to our teeth and everything in between: 

 

Your eyes

  • 1.4 to 3 times more cases of myopia (nearsightedness) in 2020 among children ages 6 to 8 when compared with the previous 5 years according to a 2021 study published in JAMA Ophthalmology suggesting lack of access to direct sunlight and long-term exposure to screens emitting blue light affected eye health of children during this stage of their development.
  • Reduction in blinking lead to a lack of eye moisture which caused dryness and stress on the tear ducts again due to extended periods of time ‘staring’ at screens and the brain ‘forgetting to blink’. Long periods of staring also contributed to ‘eye fatigue’ leading to muscle tension around the face and subsequently headaches. It was noted by many the headaches were commonly accompanied by blurry vision.

The above issues can be addressed through: 

  • Taking regular breaks from the screen (the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds)
  • Stepping into sunlight/looking out the window
  • One pair of glasses that might help are computer glasses, or “occupational lenses,” which are prescription frames 
  • Non-prescription reading glasses that are specifically made for computer work
  • Regular warm compresses
  • Eye drops (speak with your doctor or pharmacist before taking these)

 

Your skin

  • Numerous studies indicate vitamin D deficiency is associated with a greater likelihood of us suffering from low mood or depression, as well as bone and muscle problems (particularly as we age), amongst a multitude of other health problems. A lack of sunlight exposure, darker skin, and older age increases your chances of having a deficiency. However, a 2021 study in the European Journal of Public Health found that vitamin D deficiency was no more common in patients in Italy during 2020 lockdowns compared with previous years. This is great news putting pay to the daily bout of exercise outside of the home gave enough vitamin D exposure to suffice! 
  • That said during the height of lockdown doctors were presented with an increase in rashes, acne, and rosacea. The main causes of these are considered to be eating too many foods with high sugar content combined with stress which is known for their inflammation effects upon the body. Over an extended period of time, this combination can lead to wrinkles aka glycation due to the sugar molecules attaching to collagen. These symptoms were commonly accompanied by dark circles and bags under the eyes again considered to be because of extended periods of time in front of the computer screen.

The above issues can be addressed through:

  • Regular exercise
  • A consistent skincare routine
  • Less time in front of a computer screen
  • Sunscreen when outdoors or when sitting in front of the computer 
  • A humidifier in your home

 

Your muscles, bones, and nerves

  • Back pain was a very common complaint during lockdown along with a number of other aches and pains. This was most likely due to many going from ergonomically catered desk setups to sitting in positions that were not suitable for safe and effective work. Examples of this were sitting on the sofa, on beds, or just generally at a poor desk set up.
  • Children, in particular, were getting more injuries now that they’re returning to physical activities after about two years of home confinement. “Never in my entire career have I gone two weeks without seeing an ACL injury,” DiNubile said, yet at the beginning of the pandemic, about five months passed with no injured kid in sight. “Now it’s payback. They’re starting to roll in again.”
  • The enforced sedentary lifestyle has to lead to a loss of muscle for many which can contribute to the slowing of the metabolism which can lead to weight gain and at its extreme, obesity. Inactivity can also be the cause of osteoporosis (bone thinning) which is particularly prevalent in White and Asian and/or postmenopausal women. Even more worryingly, these conditions are now even more prevalent in teenagers (a phase of life that is key in bone development and long-term health).

The above issues can be addressed through:

  • Make sure your home at home to support your body be as ergonomically aligned as possible. Examples of this is a large monitor, an additional screen (particularly when working from a laptop), an adjustable office chair and/or desk, a keyboard, computer mouse, a gym ball and proper back support. Switching up ergonomically correct positions between sitting and standing is also extremely advantageous. 
  • Ergonomically correct positions consist of the monitor sitting at eye level, keyboard at lap level, and both knees at a 90-degree angle and incorporate standing breaks (feet hip-width apart, gently engaging your core muscles with the tail bone tucked under slightly also. Short walks, and stretching into your daily routine are vital in reducing the likelihood of future pain.
  • Seating arrangements without sufficient back support will allow your body to slouch and form a “C” curve. If you don’t have a custom made piece of equipment you can use a rolled-up blanket or pillow instead to avoid spine curvature. 

 

Your brain

  • It is becoming increasingly recorded that many of us now have an inability to focus even for short periods of time at home. It seems many people may be less productive at home because there are more distractions there that extended well beyond the workspace aka ‘I can just pop on that load of washing.’ Or cram in on our workspace such as the four-year-old who pops up in the middle of a zoom call demanding the time and attention of everyone involved! That said of course not everyone has suffered and in fact, many have thrived from a more ‘hermit’ style of living. For those suffering from the interruption of day to day noises of the office such as other people on the phone, people having the ‘office chat’, the sound of the coffee machine constantly in use, this meant they could now avoid the irritation they associated with this known as misophonia. However, maybe this is only a small plus point as now the reintroduction into society for all personality types but particularly those on the more introverted end of the spectrum are finding themselves suffering from exhaustion and anxiety as we all retraining ourselves to pick on face to face interaction cues which were so different to that of the perpetual zoom calls.

The above issues can be addressed through:

  • Daily meditation and mindfulness
  • Focused and relaxing exercise such as yoga & tai chi
  • A gentle walk outside every day 
  • Slowly ease yourself back into the office and social situations starting with one day a week in the office and 1-2-1 or small group meet-ups in quieter locations

 

 

Your teeth

  • The cost of a dental visit may have traditionally prevented many from going to the dentist, but the pandemic, because of the nature of dental work, added another barrier to routine checkups. However, due to the limited amount, we can do for our teeth at home many dentists are finding that patients are displaying huge plaque build-up due to food debris left in the teeth which encourages the breeding of bacteria. Particularly anyone who had a preexisting condition with their teeth and now finding the condition(s) becoming notably worse. Pandemic-related stress and missed appointments have left some people with jaw pain, head and tooth pain from patients grinding their teeth. All of the above is also impacted by the ‘snack culture which has been further embedded by the monotony of being completely home-based. Acidic foods and drinks, in particular, can contribute to demineralization in your enamel — the outer layer of your teeth and strongest tissue in your body — and make your mouth more acidic by throwing off your oral pH level.

The above issues can be addressed through:

  • Eat or drink your snacks straight away and avoid nibbling or sipping throughout the day giving your mouth time to naturally recalibrate itself. 
  • Use fluoride toothpaste, floss regularly, start reattending your hygienist appointments and use an electric toothbrush in the milder setting ensuring you also gently incorporate the brushing of the gum line.

 

Your gastrointestinal tract

  • Due to the problems being reported elsewhere within people's bodies it is no wonder that the gastrointestinal tract is impacted by the changes in diet as well as what's going on in our heads, our mouths and the sedentary lifestyles many are now leading. It has been recorded that stress and loneliness during the pandemic have led to an increase in abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and nausea and are likely to be down to the fact that our gastrointestinal tracts actually hold more nerves than our brains. Another reason could be that many increased their alcohol consumption exponentially during the pandemic, which isn’t positive as alcohol is directly toxic to your GI tract potentially causing fat to accumulate in your liver and result in liver damage. A Johns Hopkins survey of 832 adults over 21 found 60% reported increased drinking in May 2020 compared to pre-COVID times and 34% reported binge drinking. Stress, alcohol availability, and boredom were the most common triggers for increased drinking.
  • Bowel movements have radically changed for many over to past two years due to many more spending time at home. Many have experienced more constipation from a suddenly sedentary lifestyle whilst others may have seen an improvement from an increased ability to listen to body cues — and easier access to a bathroom.

The above issues can be addressed through:

  • A balanced diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and fibre-rich whole grains
  • Consume water regularly throughout the day

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.

The above article has been based upon a BuzzFeed article courtesy of Droctor Nicholas DiNubile, Vice President of the A4M, an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine, best-selling author, keynote speaker, and one of our medical editors who is dedicated to keeping you healthy in body, mind, and spirit. For further information and the medical, science-based studies this information is based on seeing please notes below:

 

 

Wang J, Li Y, Musch DC, et al. Progression of Myopia in School-Aged Children After COVID-19 Home Confinement. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2021;139(3):293–300. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.6239 

Optometric Association (AOA) | Doctors of Optometry. https://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/health-and-wellness/covid-19-digital-eyestrain?sso=y

Should You Be Worried About Blue Light? (n.d.). American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/should-you-be-worried-about-blue-light

Vitamin D, Depressive Symptoms, and Covid-19 Pandemic %U https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnins.2021.670879 JOURNAL ARTICLE

Giuseppe Lippi, Anna Ferrari, Giovanni Targher, Is COVID-19 lockdown associated with vitamin D deficiency?, European Journal of Public Health, Volume 31, Issue 2, April 2021, Pages 278–279, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurpub/ckab004

Vallance JK, Gardiner PA, Lynch BM, et al. Evaluating the Evidence on Sitting, Smoking, and Health: Is Sitting Really the New Smoking?. Am J Public Health. 2018;108(11):1478-1482. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304649

Lack of Physical Activity | CDC. (n.d.). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/physical-activity.htm

In-text citation: (Lack of Physical Activity | CDC, n.d.)

 

Sizar O, Khare S, Goyal A, et al. Vitamin D Deficiency. [Updated 2021 Jul 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532266/

AUTHOR=Harrison Luke, Loui Psyche

 

TITLE=Thrills, chills, frissons, and skin orgasms: toward an integrative model of transcendent psychophysiological experiences in music  JOURNAL=Frontiers in Psychology VOLUME=5  YEAR=2014 URL=https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00790    DOI=10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00790 ISSN=1664-1078 ABSTRACT=Music has a unique power to elicit moments of intense emotional and psychophysiological response. These moments – termed “chills,” “thrills”, “frissons,” etc. – are subjects of introspection and philosophical debate, as well as a scientific study in music perception and cognition. The present article integrates the existing multidisciplinary literature in an attempt to define a comprehensive, testable, and ecologically valid model of transcendent psychophysiological moments in music.

Grossman ER, Benjamin-Neelon SE, Sonnenschein S. Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(24):9189. Published 2020 Dec 9. doi:10.3390/ijerph17249189

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