How long are you sitting for before your brain triggers that you need a coffee kick or are late for a meeting, forcing you to stand up and move? Whether prolonged sitting causes you spinal pain, or even for those of you without work-related pain, the following exercises may help to reduce your level of discomfort or prevent the onset of symptoms.
- Tuck in that chin.
With a ‘forward head’ or ‘protruding chin’ posture, the scalene and sub-occipital muscles at the back of your neck become short and tight, whilst the postural muscles at the front of your neck and top of upper back become long and weak. The chin tuck exercise will assist to stretch the muscles at the back of your neck, strengthen the postural muscles of your upper back and front of your neck, increase the amount of movement in your neck, and develop good postural habits.
- SIT TALL. Perform a SMALL movement to tuck the chin (to make a double chin!), thereby lengthening the back of the neck. Hold each tuck for 3-5 seconds, then release and repeat 5-10 times.
*Ensure the head is taken straight back and that you are not looking up or down. If the exercise creates a headache, either cease or reduce the tuck.
- Stretch your pecs.
There are two main pectoral muscles; major and minor (pictured). These pectoral muscles (most commonly the pectoralis minor) become shortened in people with a rounded shoulder posture. It is important to correct this common postural abnormality as it can result in a variety of issues, from neck and upper back pain to shoulder and upper limb dysfunction. One step to move those shoulders back is to stretch your pectoral muscles.
- STAND TALL with your forearm against a wall and your elbow bent to 90 degrees as shown. Gently turn your body away from the wall and/or lean forward until you feel a mild to moderate stretch across your chest. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Try varying the stretch position to target different portions of each muscle e.g. elbow at shoulder height, elbow above shoulder height, elbow below shoulder height.
*IMPORTANT: The position can be a vulnerable one for shoulders with a history of instability. You must apply the stretch slowly and always stop if you ever feel the arm is loose/vulnerable or otherwise uncomfortable.
- Do the twist.
Are you someone who experiences thoracic, or mid-back pain, with prolonged sitting? In conjunction with the exercises 1 and 2, rotating your back whilst sitting in your chair can be effective to increase spinal movement and reduce load. .
- SIT TALL. Rotate your back using your arms to assist as shown. Do this to the point of stretch but NOT PAIN. Hold this position whilst you take five slow deep breaths, with shoulders relaxed, emphasising the sideways movement of your lower ribs as you breathe in (NOT your upper chest and shoulders). Repeat three times to each side.
*It is important to expand your lower ribs and abdomen when breathing to utilise the diaphragm – after all, that’s what it was made for. Upper chest breathing uses the accessory muscles of your chest and neck which can result in neck and upper back pain as well as headaches.
If you experience work-related neck or back pain come and see one of the Physio’s at our Sydney CBD Bend + Mend clinic.