Health & Fitness
How Not to Break Your Body While Working From Home
Sore neck? Tight hips? Here's how to fix it – and prevent it from happening again.
by : Randi Bergman- Apr 21st, 2020
Life under full-scale social distancing measures has been a series of adjustments that, for many us, includes adapting days of movement into shuffling around one tiny little apartment for weeks on end. Working out at home, whether on Instagram Live or via some other livestream service, has provided a major source of mental and physical release, but unfortunately, it still only accounts for a portion of the day that we would have otherwise spent moving.
All of this would mean nothing (Netflix and chill for life? Go off!) if it didn’t result in aches and pains. Here, we break down four key problem areas and how to fix ‘em with the help of David Song, a Toronto-based chiropractor and strength coach, who frequently shares at-home mobility exercises on Instagram.
The Problem: Neck Soreness/Tech Neck
While the term “tech neck” was originally coined to refer to neck pain that results from using cellphones (most of us hold our phones at waist height and bend our necks downwards to look at them), the hunching we invariably do while working from a laptop leads to the same result. Song recommends a couple solves for this issue; one of which is to prop up your laptop on books so as to keep the top of the screen at eye-level and purchase a separate keyboard that can be used at desk height.
Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, $179 at apple.com
Song also recommends doing some light strengthening exercises to keep your neck muscles at attention. “It can be as easy as pushing the side of your head into your hand until you can get your neck muscles to resist, holding it for 10 to 20 seconds and then repeating on the other side,” he says.
The Problem: Tight Hips
Sitting for hours on end weakens your hip flexors, which leads to a feeling of pain and/or tightness around the front of your hip. Stretching this area by lunging or holding your foot behind your buttocks can feel good, but according to Song, strengthening the area is more important. “Once you strengthen the muscle, the tissue adapts so that your body is now more comfortable in different positions,” he says. Song recommends hip marches as well as psoas marches to target this area.
Another way to address tight hips is by using a percussive massage device, like the Theragun. “Our muscles never work alone,” explains the brand’s founder, L.A.-based chiropractor Jason Wersland. “When you’re treating your hip flexors, you also treat sartorius, rectus femoris, tensor fasciae-latae (TFL), adductor longus, pectineus, iliopsoas and iliacus. All of these muscles work together and treating them all will make such a big difference after sitting for long periods of time, especially in awkward positions.” Wersland recommends treating each area with the Theragun for 30 seconds as often as every half hour while sitting at a desk.
Theragun liv, $399 (currently $269) at theragun.com.
The Problem: Sore Knees
Since quarantine began, it seems as if the whole world has taken up outdoor running. And while it’s your responsibility to do so safely and not add to the spread of COVID-19, it’s a nice way to get your daily dose of serotonin. That being said, there are plenty of pitfalls associated with running – from sore knees to sore ankles and persistent back pain – if not done correctly. “Try not to go from zero to a hundred,” says Song. “The number one thing that people have to think about is their cadence, which is the number of steps that you take per minute. Try to keep that between 150 and 180.” You can help strengthen your knees by doing bodyweight squats at home. If you’re used to lifting weights at the gym but don’t have any at home, try filling a backpack with hardcover books or using water jugs.
The Problem: Back Aches
“I take a whole-body approach when it comes to treatment and exercise prescription,” says Song. Lower-, mid- and upper-back aches can stem from issues in other areas of the body. “The body isn’t made to hold the same position for eight hours,” he continues. Practicing yoga (even for a short period of time) a few times a week will help loosen up stiffness. Also, try switching up your work-from-home position – for example, from desk to sofa to kitchen stool – every few hours.
The Problem: Tight Wrists
Typing significantly more than usual? Your hands, fingers, wrists and forearms are likely in need of a good stretch. Toronto-based fascial stretch therapist Sarah Mariano recommends clasping your hands (palms together), interlocking your fingers and circling your wrists in a clockwise then counterclockwise direction. (“There might be a little clicking, go gently,” says Mariano.) Don’t forget to breathe!
“The forearms are often overlooked,” she adds. Put your left arm out straight in front of you, fingertips pointing down, inside of your wrist pointing up, then place your right hand over your finger tips on your left arm and gently push. Rock your arm gently from side-to-side. (You shouldn’t feel any pain.) Then release the stretch slowly and switch sides.
How many times a day you do these exercises depends on you, says Mariano. Do you cramp up easily? You can do these exercises gently throughout the day – and stay hydrated, she advises.
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