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If you usually work at a desk, and currently having to work from home, you may by now be feeling the effects of the change in your working environment.

In this newsletter we discuss ways to prevent and improve symptoms in the neck, upper back and lower back – with ideas and detailed exercises (including video links) for keeping out of trouble.

We also must take this opportunity and suggest regular practice of Pilates or Yoga. If you’ve never tried it, or if you’ve fallen out of the habit, now is the time to get into it! It is SO good for you in so many ways, and it’s a great way of getting lots of stretches done without having to think about it!

Neck & Upper Back Pain

Stiffness around the neck and upper back is very common if you spend long hours at a computer, and this might also be felt around the top of the shoulders or between the shoulder blades. Here’s how to help:

Prop up your screen

Your neck may be painful or stiff if you look down at your screen for long periods of time. This is because your head is heavy, and the muscles at the back of your neck have to work harder to hold its weight with every degree of forward tilt added.

To fix this, prop your screen up. Your eyes should be level with the top third of your screen.

If you type often, it’s worth getting a separate keyboard to attach to your laptop. The keyboard can then be set at the right height so your shoulders are relaxed when you type.

This diagram sums up nicely the perfect desk posture:

Walk around

Identify times when you can get up from your desk and move – you can pace around the house or garden while you’re on a call or using your phone to dictate. If you have a treadmill you could work while walking along at a slow pace.

Take breaks & stretch

Take regular breaks to move around and stretch. Experts recommend a short break every 25 minutes and a longer break with some stretches at least every 2 hours.

For best results, map out your day in advance to identify where you can move more or stop for a break, and plan which stretches to do at each break.

Only 2-3 stretches at a time, and overall 2-3 repeats of each stretch throughout the day, should make a big difference.

Follow this link for a printable PDF with links to video demonstrations* of our favourite neck & upper back stretches.

*Sheets were compiled using exercise prescription software ‘Rehab My Patient’: www.rehabmypatient.com

Lower Back Pain

If your experience low back pain when you stand up from sitting, it’s most likely the ligaments in the area have become over-stretched due to a prolonged slouched sitting posture.

Sitting on the sofa, bed or floor with your legs stretched ahead will force your lower back to curl and put the ligaments under sustained pressure.

Sit high and supported

The best sitting position is on a chair with your knees slightly lower than your hipsand your low back supported.

You can ensure good support for your back by sitting right back against the backrest, or adding a cushion behind you.

And ideally, alternate between sitting, standing and moving around throughout the day.

Total rest for your back

If you’re in pain and struggling to find a comfortable position, try this resting position for 15-20 minutes at a time:

Rest position for low back pain

Your hips and knees should be relaxed at 90 degrees, while you lie on your back on a carpet or blanket with your legs on a chair. Try not move too much and don’t allow kids or pets to jump on you.

This is helpful in relaxing and resetting the back muscles, which often react to back pain by going into spasm, which contributes to pain and stiffness.

You can also use an ice pack to reduce inflammation and encourage blood flow – for best results, wrap it with a damp cloth and keep it on the painful area for 10 minutes at a time. You can apply the pack 10 minutes on / 10 minutes off in alternation a few times (until the pack needs re-freezing), and repeat several times throughout the day.

Low back pain exercises

Follow this link for a printable PDF with links to video demonstrations* of some basic exercises to ease lower back pain.

Please note: if you have any symptoms travelling from the back to the thigh or leg, please only follow the first two exercises and contact us for further guidance.

*Sheets were compiled using exercise prescription software ‘Rehab My Patient’: www.rehabmypatient.com

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Look after yourselves and as always, call if you need us, we’re here to help.

>This post was written (mostly) at the dining room table with a propped-up laptop and a separate keyboard 😊<

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