Feeling drained and sore from hours of Zoom calls every day has, unfortunately, become the norm. Because humans did not evolve to sit for eight hours a day, many of us are enduring the consequences of constant video calls in the form of physical ailments.
1. You might have tech neck
Those working on computers might know that the phenomenon of “tech neck” has long been the bane of a remote worker’s existence.
GoodPath defines tech neck as “fatigued, sore, and stiff” back and neck muscles from “continually bending your neck forward with your head’s added weight.” This pain can also radiate down your back and into your shoulders.
As to why this is, the answer is simple: while some people don’t think of themselves as big-headed, technically, everyone is. Your head can weigh anywhere from ten to fifteen pounds, and when in a neutral posture, there’s minimal strain on your neck. But when you tilt your head forward, your spine is out of alignment, and the angle of your head increases pressure on your neck in the same way that “fifty or sixty pounds” of pressure would.
As to how to fix this painful problem, posture is the first place to turn. NY Presbyterian’s campaign Health Matters instructs home workers that “a better way to sit is with the chair reclining 25-30 degrees with a good lumbar support to prevent slouching.” Leaning back ultimately relieves pressure from one’s spine and the heaviness of one’s head.
2. Your eyes are strained
Another problem with constant Zoom use is the stain on your eyes. The American Optometric Association recently released a statement about a new common phenomenon called “computer vision syndrome,” and if you’ve been staring at a screen for more than five hours a day, chances are that you may have it.
A case of computer vision syndrome (CVS) could include the following symptoms:
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
If any of those sound familiar, the good news is that the causes are clear, and the recovery is swift. Anything from poor room lighting to screen glare can worsen CVS, and if you don’t have your most recent glasses prescription on hand or you’re too close to the monitor, your eye pain could end up worse.
If your CVS is a mess, don’t worry – the treatment is easy. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that the best way to relieve CVS pain and strain is to just blink, using the 20-20-20 rule. This method works by “taking a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.”
If this doesn’t seem to make you feel any better, however, an anti-glare screen shield or a visit to the eye doctor might be a better option.
3. Your throat is strained
“Because of the way I was sitting working from home,” Bodgas said, “I essentially messed up the muscles in my neck and it was pushing on my vocal cords and making my voice worse.” She was diagnosed with both acid reflux and vocal strain, all due to Zoom. The symptoms of vocal strain are:
- Voice weakness
- Change in voice quality (raspy or hoarseness)
- Soreness or pain when speaking
- Extra coughing or throat clearing
While Bodgas opted to visit a speech pathologist, treatment for a sore throat from Zoom might be a little less time and effort. If you find that sitting for long periods of time worsens your acid reflux or GERD, try to stay away from coffee, and drink lots of water. Omeprazole is also an over-the-counter medication for stomach acidity, but if pounding back drugstore medication doesn’t seem to do the trick, take your symptoms to the doctor for a prescription.
If your vocal cords are the problem, look no further than the tried-and-true methods of vocal healing conducted by opera singers and musical theater performers alike. Lots of tea, rest, and some vocal exercises might just alleviate some of your discomforts.
The final thing that Zoom could be hurting is your brain – or rather, your brain’s perception of your body.
While this phenomenon also hasn’t been researched or talked about, as it’s quite new, many home workers are beginning to notice and fixate on the flaws in their faces visible only in their Zoom windows. This leads to an influx of an already prevalent issue: body dysmorphic disorder.
The International OCD Foundation states that about 1 in 50 people have BDD symptoms, many of whom suffer in silence, and that number is only going up. A 2020 article in Vogue suggests that “in recent decades, body-image dissatisfaction in general, and by extension extreme body-image disturbances like BDD, have been increasing;” some experts attribute this to “social media and cultural changes,” while others note that continuous webcam use could be one of the problems.
Another expert mentions that some of the symptoms of this Zoom dysmorphia are when one “worries about their own appearance during the call, gets stuck fixing their appearance for the call by changing their makeup, lighting, or camera angle, and gets distracted during the call by comparing their appearance to others.” This fixation on one’s looks, he continues, could be detracting from their ability to focus on work.
While other issues on this list have a quick fix, sadly, being obsessed with one’s appearance like a masochistic Narcissus can’t just be cured by a little black square taped over one’s Zoom reflection. Doctors recommend psychotherapy for BDD, and the prognosis is usually good.