Often when people are working from home, there can be several issues causing them discomfort, from not having their desk and chair set up correctly as they would have if working in the office. Possibly less space, and in many cases more distractions - for example if there are little people around as was the case in lockdown 1.
Similarly, many of us have had to get used to a plethora of zoom type meetings. All of this makes us more sedentary. Working at computers, and looking at screens for long periods, causes tension not just in our lower backs but in our upper bodies too. Although upper back stiffness, is often a talking point, the pectoral muscles, along the front of the arms and joints on the front of the chest are often forgotten about.
These muscles often shorten and the rib movement at the front becomes stiffer, as does our upper spine. Also, the opening out of our shoulders at the front becomes reduced too. This generally means that we notice aches and pains in the front of the chest and shoulders, not just in the upper back.
To help avoid any of these symptoms there are a few simple tips that might make life more comfortable:
- Make some space - clear as much clutter away from your workspace as you can
- Keep well hydrated - drink plenty of fluid, particularly water
- Take frequent breaks - to ensure that you move around and get some movement into your body as a whole, even if it means you listen to some favourite songs and do a jig in the kitchen!
- Check-in with co-workers and friends to help your mental health.
- Make sure you are sitting as comfortably as you can – check out this video on finding your sitting bones
- Lastly, some stretches for your upper back and chest, let them have a little movement, it’ll pay dividends.
Rolled up towel or bed throw longitudinally. Ensure your head is supported with a small pillow and your knees are bent, and place your spine lengthwise along the rolled-up towel/ throw. Place your palms together with outstretched arms then open them out to the sides. Hold for 10 seconds or longer if you wish, then return to your starting position and repeat. Feel that opening out of your chest, it should feel good. Repeat as often as you like and preferably 2-3 times per day if you can.
Chest openers. Lie on your side with your head supported by a pillow, knees bent up to 90 degrees and stacked on top of each other to support you. Place your palms together with your arms outstretched. Then slowly move your uppermost arm/hand upwards, rotating your upper body to open out the front of your chest, taking your arm as far back as it can comfortably go.
For some of you that might be the floor on the opposite side and your shoulder on that opposite side might also reach the floor. HOWEVER, not everyone is that flexible so, only go as far as you are comfortably able. If you need to place a pillow under the shoulder on the opposite side before you start that is also fine.
For many, when performing this exercise, it will also mean that your upper knee might move away from the lower one. That’s OK, just stay within your comfort zone. It is a slow movement. Hold that endpoint for 10 seconds or more, then return slowly to the starting position. Repeat several times and feel that lovely stretch. DON’T FORGET TO REPEAT ON THE OTHER SIDE.
Pectoral stretch standing. This is the muscle at the front of the chest. Stand close to a door frame or alcove. Place your forearm against the door frame/alcove. Place your foot on the opposite side a short distance in front of the other. Turn your body outwards, away from the door frame/alcove and feel that stretch across the front of your chest.
Hold this for 10 seconds or longer if you so wish, then return to your starting position and repeat. DON’T FORGET TO DO THE OTHER SIDE.
You can also vary the part of the pectoral muscle that you are stretching by changing the angle of your forearm. The higher you place your forearm, with your elbow slightly higher than your shoulder - this stretches the lower fibres of the pectorals. The middle position with your elbow almost parallel with your shoulder – this stretches the middle fibres and the lower your elbow, i.e lower than your shoulder – this stretches the upper fibres of your pectoral muscles.
So give these a try and see how you get on. Next month we will show you some exercises for the upper back, so keep a lookout.
These are generalised exercises and may not suit everybody. None of these stretches should cause you any pain. If
they do then stop them immediately and contact your practitioner for specific advice.