Lumbar pain is one of the most common complaints doctors hear about in this day and age. An increasing number of us spend vast amounts of time sitting down, whether that’s at work, watching television, playing computer games or browsing the internet at home. This puts an incredible amount of strain on our back muscles, which are designed to be incredibly mobile most of the time.
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Long periods of enforced muscle inactivity can lead to all sorts of problems, both immediately and in later life. There are many simple exercises we can do throughout the working day to prevent these problems however.
Many of them can even be done while sitting at a desk, although it pays to remember to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour or so as well. Most office chairs do offer lumbar support, but that should be seen as an additional bonus, never a reason not to exercise your back.
There are two slight variations on the chair twist, but both work equally well for stretching out the lower and middle back. The first requires you to turn sideways in your seat, with your feet together on the floor. From this position, place both hands on the back rest of the chair and use them as leverage to twist round from the hips. The second keeps you sitting forwards – place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the chair back, then twist towards your right. After several repetitions, reverse sides. It is important to hold both of these positions for a few seconds to feel the benefit.
For the upper back, hold your right arm out in front of you and cross it to your opposite side, almost as if you were giving yourself a one armed hug. Then put your left palm on your right shoulder and pull towards yourself. Again, hold the position, repeat several times then change arms.
Next, move your chair away from your desk slightly. Put both arms out in front with fingers interlocked and palms facing outwards. Spread your feet wider than your hips. Breathing in deeply, raise your arms above your head and stretch. Hold position and exhale slowly. On the next inhale bring your arms back, and as you exhale let your body and head fall forwards between your knees. Completely relax the neck, and hold here for a few more breaths, or until you become uncomfortable. This stretches the muscles in the upper back region, and also helps decompress vertebrae.
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If you do suffer from chronic back pain, taking a class in yoga or Pilates outside of work in conjunction with these daily exercises could be beneficial.