WFH Syndrome – Biology

Work from home syndrome (WFHS) is wreaking havoc on millions of people all over the world.
One of the biggest issues is that people are discovering new aches and pains or triggering old
problems by the way they are working. On the biological front, we’re obviously talking about
what harmful effects occur with poor mechanics of the body. Bad posture, lack of an ergonomic
workstation, and the inability to get a proper exercise routine together are the key factors in
accumulating biomechanical stress. Those recovering from injury are particularly at risk for
worsening their condition, unless committed to a physical rehab program directed by a

At this point, we’re not even talking about pain, but the potential damage to the body. Sitting 8+
hours a day has been linked to increases in rates of disease from stroke to heart disease. We
know that the sitting position (and all of the various forms it takes) increases pressure on the
spine, leading to increased rates of spinal degeneration and even disc herniation.

Those who were exercising regularly may be feeling a bit extra burn lately, due to missed
workouts or overall laziness. You probably live in a bomb shelter if you’ve missed all the
celebrities and influencers pouring online, promoting their home workout routines and weight
loss regimes. It’s a good time for that for sure, and people are not sleeping on the opportunity.
Gyms are largely closed. Parks and public places are strictly patrolled and stay at home orders
enforced. There’s really nowhere to go to get in that good sweat. Luckily, everything from the
garden variety yoga routine to Navy SEAL training is being offered online, real time, real talk.

All this choice has to be good for you, right? Well, it really depends on your fitness ability, as
well as your current condition. The problem with all of these routines is the possibility for
injury. And while we cannot always protect ourselves from the injury imp (freak accidents
happen all the time, I get it), we can avoid overly exerting ourselves when access to healthcare is
limited. The nature of all of these ‘challenges’ that have popped up online is also a source of
stress. While likely being invented with the idea of “healthy competition” and “community” in
mind, a poorly performed challenge can really affect someone negatively or even cause injury.

Where exercising improperly involves large movement, even tiny repetitive movements can
create an issue with WFHers. Pain caused by repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are preventable, but
sometimes hard to detect, because of the slight action that is responsible for creating the pain.
With time, the number of repetitions of this specific action can have harmful effects on muscles,
nerves, and joints. Think about scrolling through a lengthy article on Medium with a scroll wheel
on a mouse. Ouch. This small movement can send a cascade of issues from your index finger, all
the way up to your shoulder or neck. The position of your arms, the way your body is sitting, and
the length of time you’ve been in that posture can all add up to forming a sticky postural

Stress (whether psychological, social or mechanical) increases a hormone — cortisol — aptly
named ‘the stress hormone.’ Cortisol is actually a ‘fight or flight’ hormone which boosts the

body’s ability to cope with tense situations. Stress, whether physical or mental, can increase the
amount of cortisol that gets released into the blood stream, which has two major effects: it fights
against inflammation, and it suppresses the immune system. At a time when immunity is getting
all the big headlines in health columns, strategies to help boost the immune system usually fall
painfully short. If the body is constantly inflamed, due to the deadly trio of poor nutrition,
sedentary lifestyle, and overwhelming stress, the body’s immune system gets overworked. The
result — cortisol doesn’t keep the inflammation in check, the immune system becomes
overwhelmed because of the inflammation, and good health gets harder to achieve.

Quick fixes:

  • organize a comfortable task chair and desk surface to be your work station.
  • stand up from sitting every 25 min and take a 5 min break (Pomodoro technique).
  • use the Bruegger’s position to alleviate postural stress (
  • stick to easy to do exercises until your body builds up some endurance and flexibility.
  • Stay hydrated, aim for 2–3L of water per day. Coffee doesn’t count towards this total, sorry.

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