Simple exercises that you can do in your office to ease back pain
Back pain affects people of all shapes, sizes, and professions. In fact, research shows that back pain, especially low back pain, affects over 80% of adults at some point in their lives. And approximately half of adults who experience back pain will experiences it more than once.
Causes for back pain
There isn’t one clear cause for back pain. In a study published in the Journal of Craniovertebral Junction & Spine, researchers did find some commonalities with back pain. After working with over 1,100 men and women, the common causes problems in one or more of these body parts:
- Sacroiliac Joint
The study also found that psychological problems were the root of back pain, especially in patients who were 18 or younger, especially if they were female. This result has been found in other studies connected to low back pain in younger patients, too.
Prevalence of neck pain
Despite the preponderance of low back pain in adults, neck pain is also common. According to a study published in the Journal of Head Neck and Spine Surgery, cervicalgia (neck pain) is common in the workplace. This study revealed that 50% of the international population experiences cervicalgia at some point. “Many persons do not know the correct postures both at work and in domestic life, to sit, to move, to stand, consequently there are no references on right and wrong postures and when you join stress and lack of time with overexertion and poor postural attitudes, that have to be modified, the mediate and immediate result may be harmful…”
Be aware of repetitive movements at work
As adults spend the majority of their days at work and many of them experience back pain, having simple exercises that can help ease back pain and neck pain can help them stay at work and remain productive. There are simple exercises that can be done while seated and while standing. Since repetitive movements can exacerbate back and neck pain, different movements can help. Repetitive movements are not limited to lifting, reaching, or bending. They also include sitting or standing for an extended period of time. So, if you spend most of your day sitting, get up and walk around. If you stand up for most of your work day, find time to sit.
If you sit throughout the day, there are several helpful exercises that help with low back pain and with cervicalgia. Here are some exercises that you can do in your office:
Seated cat-cow stretch
A cat-cow stretch can be done while seated. To do this exercise, put your hands on your knees. With your arms straight, look up and press your chest forwards, stretching the front side of your body. This is the cow stretch. Then, move to the cat stretch, keeping the arms straight and dropping your head. Follow by sucking in the belly and rounding the back behind you, stretching the spine. Repeat this stretch several times throughout the day.
Seated knee to chest stretch
Another helpful stretch for people who sit throughout the day is the seated knee to chest stretch. While seated, place one foot firmly on the ground, especially if you sit in a chair that rolls or swivels. Once your chair is stabilized, sit up straight, bend the other knee and bring it up toward your chest. Hug your knee tightly to the chest and hold for 10 seconds or more. Lower that leg and repeat on the other side. Repeat this one as needed throughout the day. This stretch will work on your sacroiliac joint, so be gentle with yourself. If you feel any pain in your hip joint, contact your healthcare provider and stop the stretch.
Figure four seated stretch
Again, while seated, keep your right foot firmly on the floor to stabilize your chair. This will keep your right knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Then, cross the left ankle so it rests on your right knee. If you were standing, your legs would look like a figure four. Once your ankle is over the knee, begin to bend at waist toward your legs. This will stretch your hip. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds or more. Then, switch sides. If this stretch is easy, use both arms to bring your top leg up toward your chest.
Flex and extend the neck
To take care of your neck, you should move it regularly. Flexion and extension stretches are helpful and both can be done while seated or standing. Before you do either of these stretches, relax your shoulders down, away from the ears. And, start all of these neck stretches with the neck in a neutral position, with the eyes looking forward. To flex the neck, drop your chin to your chest. Hold it for 10 seconds or more to stretch the back of the neck. Repeat a few times. To extend the neck, keep the shoulders down, and tilt your head backwards to look up towards the sky. This will stretch the front of the neck and provide relief if you look down at a computer screen or at your phone.
Rotate and laterally flex the neck
To maintain range of motion in the neck, do not forget to rotate and laterally flex the neck. To rotate the neck, keep the shoulders relaxed and look from side to side – moving the neck slowly. For lateral flexion, relax the shoulders and drop the right ear to the right shoulder. Bring your head back to neutral and repeat on the left. Repeat rotation and lateral flexion as needed. You can use your hand on the top of your head to get a better stretch. All neck exercises should be done gently and smoothly. You do not want to strain your neck muscles.
These exercises will not cure neck or back pain, but they will help provide relief throughout the day. Your healthcare provider, physical therapist, personal trainer, or chiropractor can also recommend exercises that can be specific to your back pain or neck pain.
About Dr. Wells
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.