5 Exercises to help you improve lower back pain and build a stronger, healthier body.
Ever noticed your back hurts when you’ve been sitting down for a long time?
Yeah, me too! That’s because as humans, our backs weren’t designed to be sitting for long periods of time, or on a chair, or pretty much at all unless we’re squatting. Now I’m certainly not suggesting you start squatting rather than sitting in a chair at work...no one wants to be the weird person in the office looking like an ape! With that said, if you’re sat down most of the time at work you’re either: 1. Suffering from back pain 2. Going to be suffering from back pain as you get older 3. Used to sitting in a poor posture and standing now hurts your back Sitting in an awful hunched over position is NOT good for your back, amongst other things...but I get it, you have to sit at your desk at work; so what can you do about that?
Exercise, mobility work, being mindful of your seated, position stretches. I don’t claim to be a physiotherapist, and if you feel like you have severe problems (I would always recommend visiting one privately if you can afford it) then you may find limited results with the following guidelines. However this ‘desk posture’ is a very common problem with so many people now having desk jobs, meaning I, as a personal trainer have trained many many people who are in a similar position to you, and I have found the following to be extremely effective in helping. Here are 5 exercises (some are stretches/mobility work) to help fix your desk posture, reduce lower back and neck pain, and help you on your way to living a happier healthier, more mobile life
So what is desk posture?
Desk posture is common in people who sit down for large portions of the day with their upper backs rounded forwards (known as kyphosis), their lower backs curling under (knows as a posterior pelvic tilt), head hanging at a downwards angle, and arms reaching forwards (see picture below). The chances are if you’re reading this you’re either looking for a solution to pain, or you’ve realised you sit in a less than optimal position for large portions of the day and you need to do something about it before you start getting problems. If neither of those describe you, but you work at a desk all day (or you’re just sat down for most of the day) then I urge you to start thinking about your posture. The aim of this article isn’t to show you how to sit, it is to give you exercises to help with the problems you’re having or wanting to avoid having. Sitting position however is very important so I suggest you also look into that as it is just as important.
Here are the exercises which could help you get more mobile, with less pain. Remember to check with a physiotherapist before doing these exercises!
Exercise 1 - T-Spine Foam Rolling
Sit on the floor and place a foam roller behind you, slowly lower yourself so that you’re lying on you back, on the roller, with the roller under your chest. Interlock your fingers behind your head for support and allow your upper back to relax around the roller, so that your rib cage flares. Ensure you keep your lower back on the ground and keep your legs bent at 90 degrees to help support your lumbar (lower back). Focus on deep breathing and try to get 10-20 breaths before coming out of this position. When you’re done slowly get yourself up.
Exercise 2 - T-Spine Rotations
Step two is to perform an actual mobilisation technique on the thoracic spine. You can do this by lying on your side, legs together, bent to 90 degrees, arms reaching out in front with your hands together. Ensure something is supporting your head. Next you are going to take the top hand and rotate until the back of your hand touches the floor behind you, ensuring your head and eyes are following the moving hand, that is one rep. Do 10 reps each side, repeat twice.
Exercise 3 - Bench T-spine Extensions
Kneel on the floor facing a bench or your sofa, place your elbows on the bench and slowly lower yourself until your head is between your shoulders and your upper back is arching. Take 10 deep breaths whilst in this position and allow your upper body to lower further towards the floor with each exhaled breath.
Exercise 4- Pec Minor Stretch
Using a regular doorway, place your elbows and hands flat against the frame of the door, with your elbows in line with your ears. Leaving your arms behind you on the door frame, step through the doorway, you should feel a stretch across the chest muscles, again, focus on deeper breathing. Stay in this position for 2-3 minutes, repeat twice.
Exercise 5 - Neck Flexion
Lying on your back with your head hanging off a bench or your bed, tuck your chin in as if you had a tennis ball between it and your chest (or actually use a tennis ball!), allow your head to come downwards towards the floor, then reverse the movement and flex back up. You can use your hands to give more resistance by pressing down into your forehead if this is too easy with just the weight of your head. Repeat 10 times for 2 to 3 sets.