Over the last six months or so, I started to notice how poor all of my patients' posture has become. They have been complaining of body aches they never seemed to have before. And the aches they had pre-COVID have seemed to get worse. I have been preaching for the past several blogs of the importance of posture while working at home, so I will spare you in this blog. But there's something else everyone at home can do, and it's very obvious. Many of you are probably already doing it: STRETCHING.
Stretching, although a short term relief from these daily aches and pains, does seem to help. But stretching with a proper plan in mind is even better!
"I haven't done anything. Why am I in pain???" I get this question AT LEAST once a day. It's a solid theory. You haven't been working out. Mostly staying at home doing house chores. Your body shouldn't be breaking down like this. But inflammation from being static does happen!
It's called stasis. This is when areas of pressure are created, like in your joints, when bodily fluids pool and swell and irritate your system. When this happens, a small bout of the inflammatory process begins. So imagine that happening everyday for six months. If you're like my wife, Shannon, most of the time you don't get up for hours at a time because you are soooooo focused on work. So let's combat that TODAY!
Below are the 5 BEST STRETCHES I can offer you if you need a quick break from those Zoom calls. It's also great to start and end your day with some stretches, almost as you would with a workout!
1. Bottoms Up
There's not much to say here other than I love this "stretch." In general, it's a subtle back opener that gets things moving in the hamstring and rear area where we are sitting for the majority of our day.
2. Hip Capsule Stretch
Hip capsules get tight because you are mostly sitting at a 90 degree hip angle. Cross-links at the cellular level start forming within 30-60 minutes because you aren't moving. Have you ever held your elbow in a bent position while studying or reading something and felt that weird burning sensation when you finally go to extend it? Those are cross-links ripping. And yes, it is that dramatic. Tissue that recently formed is ripping. So do yourself a favor and stretch those bad boys out!
3. Kidney Stretch
Your adrenal glands lay right on top of your kidneys. Sitting in a slumped position compresses your kidneys and your adrenals. Also, with stress from work, deadlines, etc. and dehydration, your kidney can go through ptosis (which means it descends). Let's move and lift those organs back up with this kidney stretch!
4. Ligamentum Nuchae
Speaking of cross links, they build up frequently here in the neck. The ligamentum nuchae often get pulled and irritated causing adhesions (or bigger cross-links) to form. This stretch helps prevent that!
5. Wrist and Hand Mobilization
Well I think it's pretty obvious why I would include a hand/wrist stretch. We are typing and mouse clicking and space barring a ton more than we probably ever used to. Our wrist and hand bones need some love too. All of these repetitive hand motions cause our hands to be more claw-like; prevent that with this mobilization exercise!
One last piece of advice for battling inflammation I'd like to offer is to ice. After an injury, you're told to ice to reduce inflammation. The same principle applies here. About 20 minutes of ice on your neck, lower back and hips at the end of the day can go a long way.
So get stretching, revivers!
Dr. Justin C. Lin