The Benefits of Stretching
Physiotherapist Ally Reynolds shares the benefits of daily stretching and some simple stretches you can do now
A lot of us are working from home and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. If this is you, then chances are you may be experiencing some form of musculoskeletal pain.
There are certain things your upper-body needs to counteract the lifestyles we live:
- More mobility in your thoracic spine (mid-back);
- Less tension in your upper trapezius and lower back;
- Better breathing patterns (diaphragmatic breathing instead of using our chest and neck which can be associated with poor posture);
- Improved core strength and stability.
If you are in pain or worried about your posture, you may be asking yourself, what is the best posture to prevent pain? Is there a ‘perfect posture’? The good news is, the best posture is your NEXT posture.
So regular movement breaks and alternating posture is the key to a pain-free and healthy long life. And don’t forget, motion IS lotion and poor postures accumulate over time. There are exercises and stretches that you can also do to prevent poor posture and the degenerative effects of this over long periods of time.
Do you experience headaches with prolonged PC or laptop use? Headaches are a sign of oxygen starvation. When the thoracic back moves forward into flexion, it restricts the area that the diaphragm muscle uses for expansion. Also, rounded shoulders can constrict the chest cavity where the lungs sit. So, to treat headaches, let’s start with restoring oxygen flow. Improved posture = improved oxygen flow. The benefits of good posture are numerous and include:
- More energy
- Less stress
- Decreased pain
- Improved digestion
- Improved breathing patterns
- Reduced headaches.
Also, trying to incorporate more movement breaks into your day is crucial for preventing long-term lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Sitting is like UV rays, you need a little bit but not a lot. Getting outside into the sunshine at lunchtime, increasing standing time during your day (like standing for tea and coffee breaks), and walking around the house when talking on the phone, are great ways to add in incidental exercise in to your working day and you will feel so much better for it!
How can you prevent pain and injuries associated with laptop/ PC use? Any work that forces a person into an ‘un-natural’ position can lead to repetitive strain injuries. Stretches are a fantastic way to reduce pain and they are quick and easy to do and once you get into a routine you won’t look back.
They have been shown to prevent injuries even, and we all agree that prevention is better than cure so let’s do them more often! The benefits of stretches are numerous and include:
increase blood flow to the muscles (removing lactic acid out and allowing oxygenated blood in);
increase flexibility in the joints (as you age this helps with overall mobility);
improve posture by loosening tight or overactive muscles;
improve productivity by allowing a calm mind (try meditation or mindfulness when doing your stretches);
increases energy levels and releases tension.
During the working day, why not try and stretch every hour by putting a reminder on your phone or your Outlook calendar. If you do a few stretches and hold them for 15-30 seconds, then it should only take 2 mins! And you are preventing repetitive strain injuries at the same time. Easy.
So, let’s do 3 simple stretches to help reduce your pain during your working day:
- Neck side stretch:
We tend to hold our stress in our shoulders, namely the upper trapezius muscle which runs from the base of our skull to the middle of our back. This stretch is wonderful for relieving tension, stretching the neck and shoulders and improving blood circulation (to the brain!) and can be performed seated or standing. Gently bring your ear to your shoulder by using the other hand to hold for 20 seconds. Release, then do the other side.
- Chin tucks:
I love a good chin tuck or two! The humble chin tuck works in two ways:
- They improve your posture but aligning your head over your shoulders; also eliminating forward head posture;
- They also strengthen the small intrinsic muscles that connect your neck to your head to hold your head up in the correct position.
You can do this sitting or standing (and I often do this in the car and use the back of the headrest as feedback). Tuck your chin in by giving yourself a double (or triple) chin, the more chins the better!
Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
- Hands on head stretch:
This stretch is great for opening up the chest wall and improving breathing patterns as you want to use your diaphragm and not your neck and shoulder muscles to breathe. It also provides thoracic extension which counteracts all the flexion that we do during the day (flexion is working with your hands, neck, shoulders forward flexed). You can do this in standing: clasp your hands behind your head with elbows pulled back and hold for 20 seconds, concentrating on deep breaths in and out.
Hi, I’m Ally and I’m a Physiotherapist who loves looking at posture and eliminating pain by preventing injuries. I specialise in home and office workplace assessments tailored to you and the way you live and work. I perform 1:1 ergonomic assessment with a comprehensive report via telehealth if you are not located in Canberra, and give you recommendations on equipment to purchase if required. I love seeing your home set-ups and hearing your stories about how you have improved them! When you book a home assessment through me, I will assess your current posture and needs and provide you with a tailored stretch program to help improve your posture, prevent injuries and reduce stress.
What are you waiting for? Pain-free living is possible.
’m assessing and treating people now, who didn’t realise they needed to have their home set up checked back at the beginning of the year when we all moved very quickly to our home space. I too am working from my dining table on a laptop! Everyone’s home space will look different, but you don’t need to be in pain any longer, that’s for sure. Even if you work from home, your employer has a responsibility to ensure you are set up correctly and if you are a sole trader then a home assessment by an experienced Physiotherapist is a good investment.