The Benefits of Stretching
Physiotherapist Ally Reynolds shares the benefits of daily stretching and some simple stretches you can do right 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 as a result of poor posture or home office ergonomics. The good news is you can take simple steps to help alleviate the pain.
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.
So what is the best posture? Is there a 'perfect' posture? There is!
The best posture is your next posture. Regular movement breaks and alternating posture is the key to a pain-free and healthy life. Don’t forget, motion is lotion and poor postures accumulate over time.
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.
Poor posture over a long period of time can lead to degenerative effects. Incorporating more movement breaks into your day is crucial for preventing this degeneration and 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 incidental exercise in to your working day and you will feel so much better for it!
There are also exercises and stretches that you can do to prevent and correct poor posture. Stretching has been shown to prevent injuries and as we all know prevention is better than cure.
The benefits of stretches are numerous and include:
- Increased blood flow to the muscles (removing lactic acid out and allowing oxygenated blood in);
- Increased flexibility in the joints (as you age this helps with overall mobility);
- Improved posture by loosening tight or overactive muscles;
- Improved productivity by allowing a calm mind (try meditation or mindfulness when doing your stretches);
- Increased energy levels and release of tension.
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. Once you get into a routine you won’t look back.
During your work day, try stretching every hour. Put a reminder on your phone or your Outlook calendar. I
Prevent repetitive strain injuries by performing this 2 minute stretching routine hourly. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds each. It's that easy!
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.
Gently bring your ear to your shoulder by using the other hand to hold for 20 seconds. Release, then repeat on the other side.
This stretch can be performed seated or standing.
I love a good chin tuck or two! The humble chin tuck works in two ways:
- Improves posture by aligning the head over the shoulders and eliminating forward head posture
- Strengthens the small intrinsic muscles that connect the neck to the head to hold the head in the correct position
Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
This stretch can be done sitting or standing. ( I often do this in the car and use the back of the headrest as feedback.
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).
Clasp your hands behind your head with elbows pulled back. Concentrate on taking deep breaths from your diaphragm.
Hold for 20 seconds
As you can see, you can easily incorporate this 2 minute stretch routine into your day. By doing so, you will reap the benefits and your body will thank you for it.
Ally Reynolds is a Physiotherapist who loves looking at posture and eliminating pain by preventing injuries. Ally specialises in home and office workplace assessments tailored to you and the way you live and work. She performs 1:1 ergonomic assessments with a comprehensive report and equipment recommendations which can be provided via telehealth if you are not located in Canberra.
When you book a home assessment with Ally, she will assess your current posture and needs and provide you with a tailored stretch program to help improve posture, prevent injuries and reduce stress.
You can find out more and contact Ally here