Working as a Chiropractor in Caulfield, I see many people who tend to spend up to 10 hours a day sitting at their desks. These people often present with similar complaints, such as pain in the lower back and neck, stiff shoulders and stiff mid backs. After doing and comprehensive examination and treatment, I always give them what I call “the best stretches for office workers”.
When you are sitting, you are in a forward flexed posture. This means that your hips are flexed, your head is tilted forward, your shoulders are rounded and your spine is rounded. The idea of these stretches is to stretch your body in the opposite direction to the position it is in when seated.
I have compiled a list of the top 4 stretches to combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting here. If you have any of the above mentioned symptoms, it is recommend you see your local chiropractor, but these stretches can help ease some of the stress from sitting.
These 4 stretches are great for loosening a tight and sore neck. Be sure only be moving your head and neck, keeping the rest of your body still. These can also be done standing, keeping the shoulder on the side being stretched down.
To perform each stretch, do the following:
Upper Trapezius: Start by sitting on your hand or holding onto the underside of your chair. Bend your head/neck sideways to the opposite side and hold this position for 30 seconds.
Levator scap: As above, sit on your hand. Then rotate your head away from the side of the hand you’re sitting on 45 degrees and move your head toward your armpit and hold for 30 seconds.
Scalenes: As above, sit on your hand and rotate your head 45 degrees. Then bend it straight back from that position. You can also lightly bring your ear to your shoulder as well. Hold for 30 seconds.
Sub occipitals: Can be done sitting or standing without doing anything with your hand or arm. Jut your chin straight back (giving yourself a double chin). Do not bend your neck back or forward at all. To make sure you are not bending, you can push your fingers into your chin straight back to help guide you with the movement, or do this in front of a mirror.
This is a simple and quick stretch to perform. There are many variations to it, but I find this is the best one to do as you don’t put as much strain on your shoulder and you can do both sides at the same time.
To perform, stand in a doorway, with your entire forearms against the frames. Keep an upright posture and slowly take a couple of steps forward until you feel a stretch in both sides of your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and make sure to keep standing up straight.
Hip Flexor Stretch
This is an extremely important stretch to do. When sitting, our hip flexors are constantly flexed, leading to a chronic shortening of the muscles. This can often lead to back stiffness and pain. If you are spending a lot of time sitting, it is important to do this every day to ensure your hip flexors are loose.
To perform, start in a lunge position, with the front foot and rear knee shoulder width apart. Maintain a neutral spine (do not arch the spine) and slightly brace your core. Then gently push your hips toward the front foot, shifting your body further away from the back knee. You can also squeeze your glutes to push you a bit further. You should feel a stretch through the front of your hip. Ensure that you do not arch your spine, as this will cause you to lose the stretch.
Thoracic Extension on a Foam Roller
This is a favourite exercise of many patients, as you tend to feel fantastic after doing it! It requires a long (90cm) foam roller, so you can either get one for home, or use one at the gym.
To perform, lay on a foam roller so that your head and pelvis are both flat on it. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor and relax the back of your hands on the ground either side of you. The goal is to lay in the position for up to 10 minutes. If you start to feel uncomfortable, stop the exercise, and try to slowly build up to 10 minutes each day.
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Best Stretches For Office Workers