Posts Tagged ‘back pain’

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Desk Injuries

Sitting in an office chair all day can have devastating effects on the muscles of your upper and lower back and forearms, causing painful injuries including but not limited to back sprains and strains, shoulder soreness, neck pain, wrist tendonitis and carpal tunnel disorder.

Back strain and back sprain are associated with the lumbar region of the spine and are often caused by improper posture. Office workers can suffer from back pain because they often sit hunched over a keyboard or notebook for hours at time. Sprain occurs when the ligaments are torn, while strain occurs when the muscles are stretched or torn. While symptoms are generally limited to discomfort, severe cases have caused loss of bladder control and lower extremity weakness. Stretching and strengthening exercises, resting the back for up to 48 hours, icing  and taking anti-inflammatory medications are all treatment options for individuals suffering from lower back sprain or strain.

Shoulder soreness and neck pain can also be caused by prolonged periods sitting in the same positing or using repetitive movements such as using a mouse, being hunched over a keyboard or having to continually hold your head up in an unnatural posture.

Wrist tendonitis is caused by inflammation of the tissue around the tendons of the thumb, which results in pain around the wrist. Flexion of the wrist is often extremely painful for individuals suffering from wrist tendonitis. Rolling the wrists and flexing the fingers is often a way to prevent wrist tendonitis; treatment plans vary by doctor.

Carpal tunnel disorder is caused when the median nerve, which extends from the forearm into the hand, becomes pinched as it runs through the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a tunnel made from thick ligaments and bone that houses the median nerve as it travels from the arm to the hand. If the tendons surrounding the carpal tunnel swell, the tunnel is compressed, placing pressure on the median nerve and causing carpal tunnel disorder. Symptoms include burning, tingling, numbness and swelling in the fingers and palm. Some chronic disorders progress to the point where the muscles of the fingers wither, rendering them useless. Carpal tunnel generally occurs in the dominant hand first. Treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises and surgeries.

The following stretches mainly target the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders as well as the hips and glutes. If you do these stretches throughout the day, they can help increase flexibility and reduce tension and stress.

Stretches for Desk Workers

Top 6 Stretches (Chest, Lower Back, Shoulder Shrugs, Hip Flexor & Psoas, Wrist Flexion, Wrist Extension)
Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Hamstrings & Shoulder, Hip Opener, Neck, Spinal Twist, Torso, Upper Back)
Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Arms & Shoulder, Chest with Band, IT Band, Piriformis & Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps, Triceps & Shoulder)

Performing the Stretches Correctly

Arms & Shoulder – Bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm, either above or below the elbow. Pull as close to chest as possible. Repeat on other side.

Chest – Stretching the chest may be one of the best things you can do for your body if you spend a lot of time hunched over a computer.

While seated in proper posture, extend your arms behind you and bring them to meet, clasping your hands if you can. Push the chest outward as if someone were pulling on your sternum with a string. Feel the stretch in your pectorals.

Chest with Band – In a seated or standing position, hold a resistance band in a wide grip overhead. Take the arms back slightly as you lower them down, stretching the chest. Hold.

Hamstrings & Shoulders – Begin standing upright. Extend your arms behind you, clasping hands together. Maintain a flat back while folding forward from the hip, releasing the shoulders and letting your hands and arms hang towards the ground. Feel the deep stretch in both your hamstrings and your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Hip Opener: While sitting with back straight and legs open, place the feet about four feet apart and toes pointed slightly out. Rest your elbows on the upper thighs and bend forward with a flat back, keeping your core engaged. Gently press forward while using the elbows to push the thighs out until you feel a stretch in the inner thighs, hips and groin. Increase the stretch by reaching to the floor if you can.

IT Band – Standing near a wall for support, cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Extend your left arm overhead and reach to your right side. Put your right hand on your hip and push slightly to move your hips to the left until you feel a gentle stretch along the left side of your torso, hip, upper thigh and knee. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back – In a seated position with feet wide apart, engage your core and hinge at the hip, bending forward and positioning your shoulders between your knees. Reach to the floor under the back of your chair until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back. Hold.

Neck – Many of us drop the head forward when working on the computer, which can put extra stress on the neck muscles, leading also to headaches and upper back tension.
While sitting, reach down and grab the side of your chair with your right hand and gently pull. Tilting your head to the left until you feel a gentile stretch down the right side of the neck and shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

Piriformis & Gluteus Maximus – Begin in an erect seated position, crossing the right leg on top of the left being careful to stack the right ankle directly above the left knee. Fold forward and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Quadriceps – Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder Shrugs – While sitting erect, engage your core, tuck in your behind, pull back your shoulders and tuck in the chin. Lift your shoulders up to your ears and hold. Release and repeat.

Spinal Twist – While sitting erect and core engaged, place your right hand directly next to your right hip. Place your left hand along the outside of your right thigh. Using your arms, pull your body into a twist. Your left shoulder should be turning toward the right, your back should be straight and your hips square. Hold. Repeat on the other side.

Torso – Even if you pay attention to your posture, you may find yourself hunched over your keyboard, causing a backache. This simple move will stretch the muscles in your back, sides and arms.

Seated or standing, lace your fingers together and stretch them up towards the ceiling. Stretch up as high as you can then open your arms, sweeping them back down to your sides. Repeat.

Hip Flexor & Psoas – The lower body gets tight from sitting too much, especially the front of the hips. Stretching this area several times a day will help reduce that tightness.

While standing and holding the back of your chair, take the right leg back as though you’re going to do a lunge. With chest high, torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the chair, squeeze the glutes as you bend the knees, lowering down until you feel a stretch in the front of the right hip. Repeat on the other side.

Triceps & Shoulder – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow.  Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Upper Back – The upper back can become tense and tight from hunched shoulders, especially if you hold the phone against your shoulder or use your mouse a lot.

While seated or standing, stretch the arms straight out and rotate the hands so that the palms face away from each other. Then cross the arms so your palms are pressed together and round your back, reaching away as you relax your head. Your body should be in a C shape and your core engaged.

Wrist Flexion & Forearm – Extend your right arm straight out, palm down and elbow locked. Use your left hand to pull back your fingers so they are pointing toward the ground. You will feel a gentile stretch in the forearm. Repeat on the other side.

Wrist Extension & Forearm – Extend your right arm straight out, palm up and elbow locked. Use your left hand to pull back your fingers so they are pointing toward the ground. You will feel a gentile stretch in the wrist and forearm. Repeat on the other side.