After sitting at your desk hunched over your computer all day, chances are you leave the office with some stiff or painful spots. But you don’t have to wait until after work to find relief. Chiropractor Chad Adams, DC, offers tips and tricks to combat pain from forming.
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What areas should you be stretching?
The first step is to move as much as possible to identify the key areas of tension in the body, Dr. Adams says. It is important to try and avoid a “fixed position” throughout the day. Take a quick break to get up and move or stretch after 30 minutes of sitting.
“Many of us hold tension in key areas of the body, like the neck, shoulders, jaw, and upper and lower back,” explains Dr. Adams. “If you are prone to headaches or neck pain especially, one trick is to draw a big ‘O’ with your head to identify which area of the neck and shoulders holds the most tension.”
Desk setup plays a part, too
For many people, a lot of the workday is spent staring at a computer screen, or sometimes multiple screens. Dr. Adams strongly encourages placing your computer monitors so they are directly in front of you and your natural gaze is aligned at the appropriate height. Keeping your arms at a 90 degree angle on the desk also prevents overextension in the shoulders when typing or using a mouse.
“Oftentimes, people can suffer from neck pain on one side specifically because they are always craning their heads to one side to read their computer monitors,” he explains. “This contributes to cases of low back pain as well when we lean on one of the arm rests instead of sitting up straight.”
It’s also important to make sure your chair height is adjusted so your feet touch the ground comfortably. One trick Dr. Adams suggests to check your posture is to ground your feet as if you were going to stand up, but remain seated, and hold for 10 to 15 seconds. This action automatically helps correct your posture: as the body prepares to rise, the head is in a neutral position with our spine, which is elongated.
Muscle vs. fascia: the difference
Fascia is the four-layer connective tissue that encases all of the soft and fatty tissues, including our muscles. Because of its multi-layer nature, it takes more time to properly lengthen and stretch.
“When we stretch, the amount of time we hold a pose determines if our muscles will be elongated or not,” says Dr. Adams. “This is why I suggest patients do deeper stretching after work.”
Taking time to do a series of 30-second stretch sessions multiple times throughout the day will ultimately help with holding poses for longer periods later.
“Periodic stretching helps us maintain our flexibility throughout the day,” he says. “For proper relief from tension, don’t count on ‘catching up’ on stretching at a later time.”