A better back by Jess Wenlock

Jess, our specialist Sports massage therapist looks at how the changes in some of our working life’s are having an effect on our physical wellbeing – and offers some tips on how to look after ourselves, especially our back area.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to work from home, the vast majority of clients are experiencing back related problems, whether that be neck and shoulders or lower back.

In some ways this isn’t surprising, you’d be impressed to find out just how many risk assessments are carried out and how much money is invested in the workplace to prevent such problems.

The same, however, can’t be said for inside our homes. Some lucky people may have been provided with a fancy desk chair by their employer, however the vast majority of people have been forced to make do with the furniture they already own. In most cases, this usually means spending hours on end sat in a poorly made dining room chair, at some sort of make-shift desk.

With life already stressful enough, which in itself can cause an unwanted build-up of tension, we could all benefit from being comfortable when working from home. Here are 5 useful tips that may help to relieve pain or prevent the onset of back problems. Give them a go if your work-from-home setup is far from ideal.

Tip number 1

Whenever you find yourself with a free minute or two, try to stand up and move around. This can be as simple as walking from one end of your house to the other. Sitting in one position all day can cause both your joints and muscles to tense up.

Tip number 2

Exercise! This tip is time permitting; however, research suggests that 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day begins to counteract the negative health effects of prolonged sitting. This could involve simply going for a walk or even doing some yoga (there are loads of great YouTube videos out there to follow along to!)

Tip number 3

Be aware of your posture. This is definitely easier said than done as we often find positions of poor posture to be more comfortable. After all, who wants to engage their core all day right? Joking aside, here are some key checkpoints you can go through to assess your posture –

  • Sit with legs uncrossed, with both feet flat on the floor (use a footrest if your chair is too high)
  • Sit right into the chair with your back fully against the back rest (if your chair doesn’t have sufficient back rest you can fold up a towel and place it behind your lower back)
  • Sit upright – lift your chest up with your shoulders relaxed
  • Maintain a neutral head position
  • Focus on an engaged feeling in your core – this doesn’t mean heavily tensing all day, but if you feel yourself start to slouch, actively engaging your core slightly is a good way to correct your posture

Tip number 4 

Stretching your back and the joints around it whenever you get the chance will help to decrease tension and improve circulation in the area. Again, there are some great YouTube videos out there that take you through quick and effective stretching routines. Main areas to focus on are…

  • Glutes and hamstrings
  • Hip flexors
  • Lumbar spine mobility stretches

Tip number 5

Use a hot water bottle or microwavable wheat bag across the shoulders or lower back. This is a super easy tip that can be really great for pain relief and reducing stiffness. When sitting or lying down, place a warm wheat bag or hot water bottle over the shoulders or lower back. This functions to dilate blood vessels and promote blood flow to the area which can help sore or tight muscles to relax, whilst also promoting a sense of calm.

Whilst these tips are not guaranteed to solve or prevent back problems, if consistently performed, they can certainly go a long way to making work-from-home life more comfortable for a lot of people. That, and coming to see us for a massage”