Do you have a job that requires you to spend long hours in a sitting position? If you are spending most of your workday sitting down, know that it can lead to several health concerns, including a range of musculoskeletal problems. If left unchecked, musculoskeletal imbalances can lead to or worsen back pain.
In what follows, we look at these quick stretches that you can try to protect your back at work. But before we look at these quick stretches, let's first understand how prolonged sitting can lead to backache.
How Prolonged Sitting Can Lead to Backache?
Moreover, when you are seated for prolonged hours, your hip flexors, hamstrings, and in some cases, your calf muscles are all in a shortened position. The constant shortening of these muscles for a prolonged period can damage soft tissues and ultimately lead you to develop constant pain and discomfort in your back and legs. While some people may experience slight pain and discomfort, others may experience acute pain that can severely limit their functionality and requires extensive medical treatment, including surgery.
Constant Sitting Posture Can Affect Your Back
Apart from the constant shortening of certain muscles in other parts of your body, your posture while sitting for long periods could also have an impact on your back. As people sit, most of them tend to slump down or slouch in their chairs which leads to the rounding forward of the shoulders and causes distress in the neck.
When people continue to maintain a slouched posture while sitting, it can have a significant impact on their entire spine as well as the nerves that originate from the spine. Over time, a slouched position can decrease the amount of space your nerves will have to exit the spinal cord leading to irritation of the nerves. Moreover, if you already have a condition known as spinal stenosis (a narrowing of joint spaces through which the nerves travel), an inappropriate sitting posture can exaggerate the problem. If left unchecked, the constant irritation of the nerve can also lead to permanent nerve damage, which is often not a treatable condition.
Fortunately, there are ways you can avoid all the possible musculoskeletal problems caused by prolonged sitting. All you have to do is to try out a few quick stretches that will help protect your back at work. Before you learn about these stretches, know that you don’t have to overdo them. Most people with back pain learn about these stretches and often stretch too aggressively. Doing so will only intensify pain and cause more problems, so a better alternative is to start with mild stretches with fewer repetitions and gradually increase the repetitions and frequency as you gain muscle strength. Once your body gets momentum, you can perform five to 10 of each of these quick stretches and hold each stretch for 10 seconds.
Let’s look at some quick stretches to protect your back at work.
Quick Stretches to Protect Your Back at Work
1. Work On Your Tight Hamstrings
The hamstring muscles are a group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh from your hip to the right below your knee. The hamstring muscles make it possible to straighten your leg and bend your knees.
Tightness in the hamstring muscles can increase stress on your lower back, contributing to lower backache. Moreover, if you already have a pre-existing spinal condition, a tight hamstring can aggravate back pain.
It is important to note that tightness in the hamstring muscles is a common result of prolonged sitting in the workplace.
Fortunately, there is a quick stretch that can allow you to reduce tightness in your hamstring muscles so you can protect your back. To perform this stretch, you need to lie down on the floor near a doorway, where you get ample space to straighten the leg. Now you need to place your leg up along the doorframe with your knee slightly bent. Make sure you straighten the knee completely and get closer or away from the doorframe, depending on the level of stretch felt. The closer you get to the doorframe, the more intense the stretch will be. Hold the position for at least 10 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
2. Stretch Your Hip Flexors
The other most important muscle group that you need to work on to ease back pain is your hip flexors. These muscles are on the front top part of your thigh and allow you to flex your hips and bend your knees. When your hip flexor muscles are tight, it pulls your hip bone forward. Moreover, it also pulls your lumbar spine into an extended position which eventually increases joint pressure and leads to joint pain.
For this stretch, you need to start with one knee on the ground, and you can use a soft pillow under your knee to make the position more comfortable for you. Kneel on one leg and bend the other leg out before you, with your foot flat on the floor. Make sure you straighten your back and gently push your hips forward as you feel a stretch in the upper thigh and hip of the back leg. Hold the position for at least 10 seconds before you switch the leg. Repeat the position with the other leg.
3. Give Your Neck a Good Move
Needless to say, when you have a desk job, you are required to spend a lot of time in a sitting position which can lead to stiffness in your neck and shoulder muscles. With a stiff neck, you are likely to experience soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when you are turning your head to the sides.
Here is one of the quick neck stretches that you can try out to protect your spine at work. To get your neck muscles moving, all you have to do is to pull your chin down toward your throat and rotate the head towards each ear. Moreover, you can also place one hand at the back of your head and apply gentle downward pressure until you feel the stretch. Make sure you don’t overdo it.
4. Let Your Arms Workout
Quite a lot of people with a desk job experience wrist and elbow pain. Moreover, if left untreated, the pain in your wrist and elbow can travel up to your neck and shoulder, causing spinal distress. A quick and easy way to prevent the worsening of the pain in your arms is to add stretches that can ease your wrist and elbow flexors or extensors.
For a good stretch of your arm, you need to extend your arm in front of your body and ensure that your elbow is straight and your palm is facing down. Next, you need to bend your wrist such that your fingers are pointing down. With the other hand, you need to reach for the extended hand from below and pull your extended hand towards you. You will feel the stretch on top of your forearm or at the back of the wrist.
Another arm stretch that you can try to improve your spinal health is across the chest stretch, where you extend one arm across your chest and use your other arm to press and support the extended arm. Hold the position for a few seconds and repeat it with the other hand.
You can also try out this exercise with an adjustable dumbbell. An adjustable dumbbell is a short bar with a variable amount of weight at each end. It allows you to change the weight of the bar using various mechanisms, including a dial, lever, or pin. As a result, you can change the amount of weight by adding or removing different plates attached to the handle, which come in various weights.
And if you are wondering why go for an adjustable dumbbell when you can invest in a conventional one, here are some of the benefits of adjustable dumbbells.
Adjustable dumbbells allow you to adjust weight as per your needs. You can start with a lower weight, but as your muscles get used to a certain amount of weight, you can add more weight and build your muscle strength and endurance.
When you invest in an adjustable dumbbell, know that it provides smaller weight increments that allow you to make strength progression gradually.
Adjustable dumbbells offer a space-saving solution which makes them ideal for use in various settings, including your workspace,
Buying adjustable dumbbells may be more budget-friendly as you don't have to purchase separate pairs of dumbbells with heavier weights.
If you are convinced about the pros of using an adjustable dumbbell and are looking for a reliable brand of adjustable dumbbell, check out this adjustable dumbbell LCL by Flexispot. The adjustable dumbbell system allows you to replace five sets of weights, making it a perfect choice for various fitness seekers. These adjustable dumbbells allow you to conveniently select your weight and easily change it to meet your fitness needs. Moreover, it is safe and comfortable to use as it features a textured, non-slip, ergonomically designed handle. Furthermore, it is made from durable cast iron material which makes it an investment for a lifetime.
These four stretches make a quick and simple way to protect your back at work, especially when you work in a sedentary work environment. If you already have backache, it's best to work with a healthcare practitioner or a physical therapist before you start incorporating these stretches into your everyday routine.