If you are like many workers today, due to the coronavirus, you’ve moved your workstation from a communal office to your home.
You might be one of the millions of freelancers around the world, writing everything from ad copy to blog posts, from wherever you can balance a laptop.
Regardless of how or why you ended up working from home and chances are, the ergonomics are less than ideal.
No matter how comfortable your chair might be, long hours spent typing away at your computer can lead to some back, neck, and shoulder pain.
I can see some of you are, right now, nodding yes and rubbing your neck or back. Who can work at their ultimate best when your neck or back is killing you?
The good news is that most of this pain is nothing more than tight, tense muscles that some easy to do stretching exercises can loosen up to relieve pain.
Best Stretches for Tight, Painful Muscles
Sitting for long hours hampers work productivity, as this study shows, and investing in a table or device that allows you to stand or sit, or even walk while working has tremendous benefits, however, for those of you who want help NOW, the following stretches will be a great boon to both mind and body.
Easy Stretch #1- The Lower Back
Sit straight on the edge of your chair (making sure it doesn’t roll!). Bring one of your knees up and grab it with both hands. Gently pull the thigh towards your chest, but don’t bend at the waist. You should feel the pull in your lower back and the upper buttock area. Hold for a count of 30, then repeat with the other leg.
Easy Stretch #2-Standing Hamstring Stretch
Making sure your chair is stationary, set one heel on the seat of the chair. Stand up straight, then bend forward from your hips and try to grab your toe. If you can’t reach your toe, that’s fine, grab your ankle or calf. Hold this for 30 seconds, then release and repeat with the other leg.
When the hamstrings are stretched, they instantly release pressure on the lower back. If this stretch hurts so badly you cannot even grab your calf, you might want to consider seeking professional help from your local chiropractor.
Easy Stretch #3-Overhead Arm and Shoulder Stretch
This is an extremely easy stretch that can help you to clear your head in just one minute.
Sit straight up and all the way back in your chair. Put both arms over your head and interlock your fingers, palms facing the ceiling. Pull up towards the sky and take a deep breath in…. hold for a moment, then breathe out. Put your arms down and take another deep breath. Repeat.
This is a terrific stretch for the shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands that brings fresh oxygen to the brain via deep breathing.
Easy Stretch #4-Seated Hip Stretch
This one feels so good, I bet you will want to do it several times a day.
Sit towards the middle of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. (Chairs without arms work best for this one) Place one ankle on the opposite knee and hold it there with your hand. Bend forward at the waist and look at the floor. Bend only until you feel a stretch in the buttock, hips, and lower back.
Hold this for 15-20 seconds, then repeat with the opposite leg. This stretches numerous muscles, including the tiny piriformis muscle deep in the hip that can lead to those stinging, stabbing, burning pains down the back of the leg if it gets too tight.
Easy Stretch #5-Neck Stretch
What used to be called Text Neck is now called Tech Neck since there is a wider variety of devices that give people that aching, burning, hard-to-turn-your-head pain.
If you find that, after doing these stretches, you can’t get rid of tech neck, it might be time to see your chiropractor. Or a psychiatrist. I mean, who in the heck thought it was a good idea to put everything on a tiny little phone that you can barely see??
OK, let’s try some stretching to get rid of that tech neck.
If you can remember, try looking up from your device every 10 minutes or so and simply look to the left and to the right, stretching your neck as far as you can in either direction.
You can also lookup and down and roll your head from side to side.
Another good stretch is called the spinal twist. This not only stretches the spine and upper/middle back, but it also is good for the neck and shoulders.
Sit in your knees and feet together. Place your right hand on your left knee and twist the upper body to the left, as if you are looking behind you. Be sure to turn your head and neck as well. Hold for a count of 10, then switch sides. You can do this as often as you like during the day to keep your neck, shoulders, and spine flexible and free from pain.
Other Ideas to Prevent Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain Due to Sitting
As a society in general, we spent far too many hours sitting down. We need to do everything in our power to counteract the damage that sitting does to our bodies. It’s been said that sitting is the new smoking and I believe that this is totally true.
While we can avoid smoking entirely, we cannot avoid sitting. Practising some of the above stretches at least twice a day will help to counteract the damage that sitting does, but in addition, the following steps should also be followed:
- Engage in regular exercise at least 3X’s per week
- Engage in a stretching exercise routine, such as yoga or Tai Chi, at least twice per week
- If you can, a weekly massage therapy session can help you a great deal by keeping the muscles relaxed and flexible.
- Seek professional help as soon as possible if you develop serious pain or if back pain, neck pain, or other types of pain become worse, rather than better.
May I also suggest limiting those marathon Netflix weekends?
Ok, maybe I’m going too far.
Continue Reading: Struggling to work from home? Here’s what worked for me
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Anchorage and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. He is currently leading 10,000 Alaskans to more active and pain-free lifestyles with a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care, massage therapy, and physical rehab therapy.
Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.