Chronicles of a Desk Warrior
by TJ Hendrickson, DPT, OCS >> Request an Appointment
It's no surprise that up to 80% of adults will experience an episode of low back pain at some point in their lives. For many of us, sitting a majority of the day is a reality. It may start with the drive to work in the morning followed by sitting at your desk, then driving home and finally parking on the couch to relax before bed. If you're lucky enough to have time to squeeze in a quick workout, it may involve stretching, commonly focused on the hamstrings and back. Rounding out your lower back, whether during stretching or strengthening exercises, can relieve some of the day's tension. The underlying theme here is repeated and prolonged forward-bending.
Often overlooked, and extremely underrated, are stretches designed to balance out the day's sitting and bending. Taking a few minutes at the end of the day to perform some simple stretches is one piece of the puzzle to avoid low back pain and injury. A second line of defense is postural awareness and core endurance while sitting and during activities involving bending and lifting. Below are a few basic tips to help you avoid becoming part of the statistic.
As with any stretching or exercise routine, if you have pain to begin with, make sure to consult your PT to address your specific issue.
Pump Stretch (3-5 reps each position)
Targets shoulders and upper back, as well as lower back and hips. Start on hands and feet keeping them about shoulder width apart. Start by pushing chest towards feet to feel stretch in shoulders and upper back. Slowly transition to second position by lowering hips to floor while looking up and relaxing back and hips. Once in that position, you can add a gentle, slow rotation of your trunk to each side to deepen the hip and lower back stretch.
Bridge (10-15 reps each side)
Lying on your back with knees bent, tighten stomach muscles and push through heels to raise hips off the ground. Keep stomach muscles engaged to avoid arching lower back at top of movement. Hold top position for a few seconds to feel gentle stretch in front of hips. Lower hips and repeat. This is a great way to actively stretch the front of hips while working the glutes and lower back muscles at the same time.
Seated Thoracic Stretch (10-15 reps x 3-5 sec)
Sitting in chair, place hands behind head and sit up tall. Slowly extend back raising chest towards ceiling to feel stretch in middle of back. Make sure to avoid letting head tip back. Hold stretch, relax and repeat. Many common internet exercises emphasize stretching the muscles in our middle and upper back. Most of the time, however, our upper and middle back muscles are tired and sore from being over-stretched and over-worked in the slumped position. Time to try stretching in the other direction please!
Try these out and let us know what you think!