Tips from the Trainers by Jules Wolf, published in Brava
A. Many people with work-related back pain have desk jobs. While sitting, typing, and peering at computer screens, they drop their heads and necks forward. Their shoulders slump forward, then the mid-back rounds, and the lower back aches. With time, chest muscles shorten and tighten, and back muscles become weak and slack.
To relieve this pain, you need to strengthen your back and the deepest muscles that wrap around your skeleton. Those are the particular muscles associated with prolonged, easeful, good posture. You also need to stretch and mobilize your chest and rib cage.
First check with your doctor to make sure your back condition is posture related and then you can take action for immediate relief, long term health, and prevention. At work you can:
- Breathe. We tend to hold our breath when we’re thinking or stressing. Breathing deeply can exercise and stretch the muscles between the ribs. Soft, regular breathing can also release a build up of muscular tension and emotional stress.
- Get up and walk around often.
- Feet have a lot to do with back health, take care of them. Change shoes and/or socks in the middle of the day. Give yourself a foot rub. Wear high heels less often.
- Take five minutes now and then during your day to stretch out or do a couple yoga poses.
- Have more than one chair. Switch chairs with your office mate half way through the day, or sit on an exercise ball.
- Vary how far away you sit from your desk during the day.
- If you can, occasionally adjust the height of your chair.
- Practice self awareness, notice how your back and neck are feeling from time to time. If you are becoming stiff or sore, stretch out.
- Don’t force yourself into a straight back. Instead, soften your back muscles as you lengthen, breathe, and let your bottom relax down into your chair.
I highly recommend a yoga program for back issues. Mindful yoga is designed to target the muscles crucial in supporting the spine for long periods without pain. Yoga can increase your body awareness, help you break “habits”, teach you how to release patterns of tension, and bring length to your spine. Not all yoga programs are created equal. If an action or pose is causing you pain, don’t do it. Be skeptical about what someone is asking you to do. Ask for credentials, and reasons, and don’t let someone “adjust” your body (move your body for you), unless there is a really good reason for it.