There’s no way around working at a computer. You’ve got to do it, and hopefully you’ve already taken steps to improve your workstation ergonomics. Little things like having a good chair with lumbar support (or standing) and your monitors at least at eye-level will go a long way in alleviating pain and visits to a chiropractor.
If you suffer from neck or back pain, here are a few simple stretches for a fast relief suggested by Dr. Philip Cordova, Chiropractor and Speaker, named best chiropractor in Houston by the Houston Press in 2009 and member of the Texas Chiropractic Association and the American Chiropractic Association.
You can do these movements throughout the day to avoid pain or just do them as a way to feel better and more productive during your day.
For some reason, when people start to have neck issues, they stretch their neck in the worst way possible. Grabbing the top of your head and pulling straight down may feel better due to the increased blood flow, but you’re not doing yourself any favor.
Since you probably spend a great deal of time looking down and may already have a forward-head posture, the muscles at the back of your neck are already too elongated. This can be caused by wrong workstation ergonomics, especially the position of your monitor.
Remember that stretching those muscles will only lengthen them further and lead to enduring neck pain.
Start gently with the muscles in the front and side of your neck. You may have never stretched these muscles before, so go slowly at first. I should also add to stop doing them if they cause you pain, because they shouldn’t.
For the side of the neck, start with your right arm and reach over the top of your head and grab the left side of your head.
Gently pull to the right for 10 – 15 seconds. If you’ve got something that weighs about 10 pounds to put in your left hand, that traction of your arm will help the stretch of the left side of your neck be even more intense.
This video explains this stretch better.
For the front of your neck, you’re going to want to use the heel of your hand to pull down on the muscles and skin over your collar bone. If you’re pulling on the left side of your body, turn your head gently to the right and slightly back. The better “pull” you get, the better your stretch will be and the less you’ll have to tilt your head back.
It can be tricky at first, but this is a great stretch. Dr. Cordova made a video tutorial for this.
Low Back Stretch
The lower back stretch is actually a seated hip rotator stretch. I can’t tell you how tight most people’s hip rotators are! Unless you do yoga or have had a problem with this before, you may have never stretched your hip rotators – and that’s a problem.
In yoga, the position is called a “half pigeon pose” and it works great, but involves you getting down on the ground to do it. Depending on where you are and what you’re wearing, this may not be something you can do. Some patients just can’t get on the floor anyway, because they won’t be able to get back up again.
The stretch is pretty easy. While seated, cross over one of your legs, like a figure four move. From there, gently try to bend over and reach your toes. It’s not likely you will reach your toes, so don’t stress about that part. You should feel the stretch in what feels like your butt muscles, but it’s your hip rotator muscles that are being pulled. This stretch can help alleviate low back pain and sciatica symptoms.
This video shows you how to do it.
As with any stretching program, results are dependent on how tight your muscles are and how often you do the stretches. You can do any of the stretches I listed on a daily basis, and you should. The increased blood flow and ability to move will go a long way in helping you avoid neck and back pain.
If you feel restricted, the movements will be painful, or you will notice a big difference from one side to the other… it’s a good idea to find a chiropractor in your area for some additional help, and invest in a healthier workstation. Standing desks are indeed beneficial in improving your posture.
Dr. Philip Cordova practices at CORE Chiropractic in Houston, Texas. He’s a 1997 graduate of Parker College of Chiropractic and has helped thousands of patients get help for chronic neck and back pain. For more information, visit his website.