With the help of Henry Howe, Osteopath and PT at Third Space, your working day needn’t be any more painful than it is already.
With nearly 50% of the UK workforce now working from home regularly, many of us find ourselves commuting a matter of metres into the home office. Lunch hours needn’t be more than a couple of steps into the kitchen. A sedentary lifestyle is now easier than ever, and it’s taking a toll on your body. Sitting all day is repeatedly linked to an increased incidence of back, shoulder and neck pain.
So many of the niggles you feel after a day at work can be avoided by simply walking throughout the day and adding some stretches to your schedule. Howe’s prescription is a simple one: book two stretch sessions into your diary a day, doing two sets of about 45 seconds per stretch in each session.
Place your forearm against a door frame in a vertical position with your elbow at shoulder height. From this position lean forward and gently rotate away from the arm, feeling the stretch in your chest or front of the shoulder.
This stretch helps open up the front of the shoulder which can often get tight during desk work, this will also take you out of a slumped position.
Kneeling hip flexor stretch
Take a half-kneeling stance and place your hands on the sides of your pelvis. Keeping an upright torso position, allow your bodyweight to move forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hip. To increase the intensity of the stretch, try lifting the back foot.
Hip flexors are muscles that arise from your lumbar spine but have an influence on both your hip and knee. Sitting down all day can make these areas become congested and uncomfortable but a little stretching can help alleviate this.
Kneeling lat stretch
You’ll need to tie a band over a door for this exercise but a towel can also work, providing it’s secure. Take a half-kneeling position, and if your right knee is on the floor you need to grab the band/towel in your right hand. You’re aiming to be far enough from the door that you can feel a stretch in your lat, but close enough that you are in control. You’re aiming to have your arm at about a 45 degree angle to the floor. Once in this position, simply shift your weight backwards to encourage the stretch.
The lats are muscles that span a huge distance across your torso, rising from your lumbar spine and actually attaching into the upper arm. With this in mind some stretching of the lats can make a big difference to how your body feels after a long day at the desk.
Sit tall with an upright posture, bend your head to the side as though you’re dropping your ear to your shoulder. Once you feel a stretch through the side of the neck, place your hand on your head and gently encourage the stretch. Light pressure is all you need.
Since lockdown 1.0 I have seen people suffering more from neck pain than I have done in my entire 13 year career! Working from home and working long hours really places a lot of stress on the neck, so don’t neglect this one.
Side-lying windmill stretch
Lie on your side with your arms out in front at shoulder height, palms together. Bend your top leg (i.e., the one not contacting the floor) so that it is up at hip height. Take a deep breath in and, whilst fixing your bent leg into the floor, open up through the chest by separating your hands, rotating to the opposite side and forming a “T” shape with your arms and torso. Your upper and lower body will be facing different directions.
This is a stretch that I give to nearly all desk-based workers as it seems to hit a lot of problem areas; hips, lower back, mid back and ribcage, shoulders and neck.