The pandemic has had many hidden impacts, from the NHS treatment backlog, or the 13,000 children who have lost a parent to COVID, to the isolation experienced by many clinically vulnerable people and their families.

this image is of the outline of a body sitting upright, with slightly bent knees. Inside the shape are differently coloured shapes. Red across the back, buttocks, hips and into the thighs. Blue across the shoulder and yellow across the forehead and skull. Across the top of the image written in black are the words Pain-Demic.

Over the last few months, I’ve been increasingly aware of a very personal hidden effect of the pandemic. It falls into two interconnected issues:

My ability to sit upright for any length of time has reduced. Sitting in my wheelchair for prolonged periods has always increased my pain but my tolerance for sitting is much lower now than it was pre-pandemic.

Because I had to shield and work from home for so long, I often worked from my profiling bed which provides much more support and allows me to change position easily. But over time it seems as though my body has got used to having this level of support, and expects it. I suspect this will improve a bit as I do more work outside the castle, and I’m doing some exercises that I hope will improve my strength and stamina in the longer term. But most of this is guesswork and there’s little help or advice available about how to deal with this unexpected effect.

My pain has increased. Before the pandemic I’d reached a point where my pain was relatively well-managed through a mix of medications, practical interventions, and very regular hydrotherapy.

But my access to the hydrotherapy pool has reduced a lot, particularly after all COVID restrictions ended last year. Coupled with the changes to my strength and stamina, my pain is much less stable and I have fewer options for how to manage it.

I’ve been working in Germany for the last week and out of necessity I’ve had to spend more time sitting in my wheelchair than usual. I’ve been surprised by how hard-going this has been. On top of this, we’re staying in a beautiful old town that’s full of cobbled streets. While they’re nice to look at, the constant vibration is taking a toll on me.

I’m sure I’m not the only person experiencing increased pain because of the pandemic. For me, acknowledging these changes is an important first step in addressing them, so when I get back to the UK I’m going to:

• Talk through my observations with my GP.
• Ask for input from an Occupational Therapist
• Explore ways I can safely and consistently access hydrotherapy

To everyone else experiencing similar changes, I send solidarity and love.

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