Take a Tennis Ball: These 5 Desk Exercises Can Help Relieve Neck And Back Pain

    Abdulaziz Sobh

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    When Charlee Atkins, CSCS, personal trainer and founder of Le Sweat, brought a new stretch-focused program to the Soul Cycle headquarters, she was surprised that it was not her fellow instructors who filled the room for a much-needed stretching session. it was the corporate staff who had been recording their hours in the office hunched over a computer.

    "Initially, the class was for my classmates, my fellow cycling instructors, I took the class to the headquarters of my company and quickly realized that the class was a great benefit for my fellow 'warrior colleagues', says Atkins, It defines desk warriors as workers who sit for more than eight hours a day with very little movement. "What I noticed was that all the 'corporate athletes', those who are sitting in front of their desk all day, are receiving small spaces that cause injuries ".

    This understanding motivated her to develop Le Stretch, a program that uses lacrosse balls to open the body and loosen all the narrow spaces (the neck, the back, the lower part of the hips, the shoulders) that develop when sitting all the day.

    "The body is injured when we overuse it, specifically the joints, or we constantly move our bodies without proper alignment, this is true in sports, and very true in a seated environment," says Atkins. "The conclusion is that our species was created to move, we are hunters and gatherers, we had to be agile, we had to move quickly, transport heavy loads from one destination to another, and the only tools we had were our bodies. to remain sedentary for more than 8 hours a day, hunched over a computer Some of the only movements that most of us experience are standing and sitting, walking to and from our cars.

    If you are someone who spends much of your day sitting, pain or discomfort in areas such as the neck, lower back and hips will probably be familiar. But apart from simply causing discomfort, it can hamper our ability to carry out normal daily movements and, in some cases, contribute to more serious injuries.

    Neck: "Our heads are always slightly tilted down (pulling the neck part of the 'neutral' column.) We are mainly looking forward to our computers, so the second one has to look quickly in one direction or another. another when crossing the street can change your neck, "says Atkins.
    Shoulders: "The back of our neck is lengthened by looking down at a computer, our shoulders are dragged upward to make sure that our arms are always in front of us (typing) At this point, everything is moving up, so the weight pushes us forward, creating a larger thoracic curve, "says Atkins. "The high and long shoulders do not leave much room to raise your arms above, as if you need to place something heavy on the top shelf (or dismantle it)."
    Core: "Our nuclei cannot participate when we are sitting because our hips are fully flexed, which means that the muscles of the lower back are in the elongated state most of the day without central control to balance it," says Atkins. "We lose our core strength by staying seated all day, which means that when we walk our center (the core) is very weak when its job is to connect our upper bodies with our lower bodies, but also transfer the force from the top of the body. body to the lower part of the body Because the nucleus is weak, our center of gravity is off, and with the force of our head that weighs on our spine, we run the enormous risk of sliding a disc. "

    Hips: The hips do not rotate externally or internally because we are sitting all day, so the moment you have to bend down to pick up your child, there is no mobility to get down enough to the floor, therefore, we use our back to lift heavy objects off the floor and ... bam, a back injury, "says Atkins.
    Quads: "When we sit our quadriceps, the largest muscle group, they do not use most of the day, the quads work is to bend and extend the knee, so the moment we get up and try to lower a series of steps, our quadriceps will not be able to do their job, which will cause injuries and problems in the knee, and because all this unbalanced and unsupported weight slips through the knees and ankles, we lose mobility in the lower extremities, [ resulting] in ankle and knee injuries in abundance. "
    "Ugh, does not that make you want to stand up, stretch and move?" Atkins asks.

    As scary as it is to see the potential side effects of our sedentary lifestyle exposed before our eyes, unfortunately for most of us, we can not drastically change our daily routine. But what you can do is start incorporating breaks throughout the day to reduce the risks of being chained to your desk.

    "It's as little as grabbing a tennis ball and keeping it on your desk, or spending ten minutes at the end of the night to do some stretching," says Atkins. "Do you know how people talk about writing [a reminder] to drink more water? One of my favorite tips to remind myself to stretch more is to write me a note on a Post-it note to say" it's time to stretch! "And put it somewhere where you see it, every time you look at it you can remind yourself to sit higher or take five minutes to stretch, or get the ball out of your desk and do a quick stretch session."

    "If I leave you with one thing: go to your garage, find a tennis ball, put it in your bag or purse, bring it to work tomorrow and give me a little massage at noon."

    Why use a ball? "Using the ball relives tension in the muscle right away - it's a quick way to feel less tense and less stressed," says Atkins. "To get the best results, start with the ball and move on to the traditional stages." As for time, spend two minutes on one part of the body with the ball (also known as the hamstrings deployment) and then stand up and stretch the hamstrings for 30-90 seconds. "

    Working from the bottom up, here is a quick five-minute routine that will target each of your pain points to relieve tension and reduce the risk of injury.

    "The muscles are 'cold' when we're sitting all day, standing up is something we do not do enough of in general when we're sitting at the desks, so I personally like to start my fast stretching sessions with movement. sit on your desk and move your muscles all day, however, to get the best results, you should pull out and then stretch and move the body so it does not return to its shortened state. "

    To warm up, stand next to your desk and use it (or a chair) for stability. Stand on your right leg and raise your left knee as high as you can (hip flexion). Flex the tip of the right foot towards the right knee. Standing, looking forward, take five deep breaths in this position. Activate the left leg, the gluteus, and the quadriceps while continuing to pull your knee up. Repeat on the left side.

    Glue the ball under your right thigh, putting on the hamstrings, and flex the right foot upwards (keeping the heel pointing towards the ground). Move the right leg from one side to the other. Repeat on the left side. You can place the ball higher or lower under the leg, according to the place where your adjusted points are.

    "The hamstrings are a problem for a lot of people, if you're a runner or if you walk up and down a lot of steps ... if you have tight hamstrings, this is a great release of hamstring muscles," says Atkins.

    Place the ball right in the middle of the lower back, being careful to stay away from the spine, focusing on the two muscles that run along each side of the spine. Acuna the ball between the back of your seat and your back. Press back on the ball and massage into the ball by loosening the muscles along the side of the spine.

    "This is a great exercise to do on a plane, if you take a long distance flight and sit there all day and get those pains in the middle of your back, this is something you can do," says Atkins. "You can move the ball anywhere along the middle and lower region of the spine, keeping you away from the bone."

    While sitting in the chair at your desk, place the ball on the upper back, back next to the spine, and massage from side to side. "It's that place where people always say they need a massage," says Atkins. "If you want to get even more for your money, leave the chair and stand by a wall."

    Place the ball in the tight place between the right shoulder blade and the spine. Lean against the wall, wedge your body against the ball and move your feet away from the wall a few meters so that your body is at an angle. Keep your head neutral. Place your right hand next to your right thigh, then lift it over your head and down. Repeat on the left side. "While in this position, perform your morning routine with your arm: brush your teeth, drive your car, write ... moving in some of those movements will help open the back," says Atkins.

    Standing with your back against the wall, place the ball on the right back side of your body, directly on the back of the hip bone. Lean against the wall and turn your right leg diagonally, pushing your hips towards the ball. Hold the torso straight and tilt it with a fluid moves towards the big toe of the right foot and then stand up again. You can also rotate your hips from left to right, massaging from side to side to free your hips.

    When you do not have a ball with you, you can perform simple neck stretches directly on your desk all day long. Place your hands on the sides (over the armrests if your chair has them). Take two to three deep breaths, sitting high. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder and extend your left hand a little more. Place your right hand on your head for a deeper stretch. Wait for five deep breaths, and continue to extend the left hand. Repeat on the left side.

    Then, interlace the tips of your fingers behind your head, with your elbows to the side. Bring the head down, pulling the chin towards the clavicle. Give your head a gentle push, to see if you can lift your elbows higher. Hold for two breaths. Press your head against your hands to look towards the ceiling. Pull the elbows toward the back of the room. Hold for two breaths. Go back to the center.