How many of you suffer with headaches? Maybe you have lower back pain that you just can’t seem to shift? It’s no surprise to hear that a majority of the population work a sedentary job or live a pretty inactive lifestyle on the whole and it’s on the increase.
Obesity levels have skyrocketed and inactivity is a contributing factor for sure. Everything is done online. Be it working, driving, or social activities, chances are you do it sat down. Chances are you’re sat down reading this at your desk or on your phone as I type this article sat at mine! We cannot really escape it. Technology has advanced rapidly over the past few years and we are all connected through the web. It’s inevitable for most to accept that we have to be stationary for most of our time.
Unfortunately though, all this comes at a cost to our bodies. Be it looking down at our phones each day, or sat at our desks for work or to watch TV in the evening, it’s very common to experience neck pain, headaches, lower back stiffness or postural abnormalities such as kyphosis.
Here’s where some simple daily stretching can help change the game.
Below are 5 essential stretches that could help and even eradicate any aches, pains or stiffness you may be currently experiencing.
1 – NECK (for headaches, neck stiffness and any shooting pains)
Be it through sleeping “funny” or by sat looking down all day, the neck can stiffen up and cause us a lot of discomfort if not addressed. As you can see in the picture, looking down towards your armpit and applying a small amount of pressure on the back of your head will do wonders for your traps and in particular the lavator scapulae. Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fB8NrQ3drY&t=2s to hear me go into this in a little more detail.
2 – CHEST (for kyphotic or rounded back posture and any shoulder pain)
I tend to work with a lot of clients who experience posture abnormalities, usually kyphosis. A kyphotic posture is when there is extreme tightness in the chest or weakness in the upper back, causing the shoulders to round forward and create that “hunch” in the back. As a nation we tend to be in that rounded, forward position a majority of the time and it could cause pain in the shoulders, back or neck, not to mention creating confidence issues.
Start with your elbow 90 degree to the shoulder with your forearm flat against the corner or a wall for example. Rotate the hips away and draw back the opposite shoulder whilst standing tall. This will stretch the pec minor, major and posterior delt to help assist you to open the chest and stand tall.
3 – HIPS (knee pain or quad tightness as well as lower back problems)
When we sit, we flex the hips. Problems can occur down by the knee, the lower back or in the quads when your hips are tight. I tend to find a lot of clients that arrive in the gym have really tight hips through sitting, but this can easily be rectified with the simple stretch shown here that focuses on opening that area which spends a lot of time flexed.
Start on your knees, from there place one foot forward, stand tall and drive the hips towards your leading leg. Standing tall here is essential. You can increase the intensity through raising the arms or elevating the trailing foot. You’ll instantly see and feel the benefit through practicing this stretch.
4 – HAMSTRINGS (knee and lower back pain primarily)
As with the hips, most suffer with extremely tight hamstrings, me included! Men tend to have tighter hamstrings than women but both can still have tight enough hamstrings for it to cause problems daily. The hamstrings if become chronically tight can cause lower back or knee pain and can usually be relieved through simply stretching them each day.
This stretch is pretty simple to execute. Sit with your legs straight, toes flexed and feet together. From there lean forward, chest first, with the aim to touch or hold your toes. You can see here that mine are pretty tight, but when I first started stretching I could barely get passed my knee with my fingertips, so it’s progress! I can absolutely feel the benefits personally.
5 – GLUTES (lower back pain and stiffness)
I only discovered the sheer importance of stretching the glutes myself recently, the hard way! I thought my lower back tightness was the reason for my lower back injury, but then managed to almost completely eradicate the problem by stretching my glutes and in particular the glute medius. Twisting movements like this create space in the spine and allow for full mobility, especially when it’s been in a flexed position all day.
Lie on your back, arms outstretched and palm up. From there bring the left knee up and across the chest with the knee at a 90 degree. Apply a bit of pressure with the right hand, ensuring the left should stays pinned to the ground. You should feel a nice stretch throughout the glutes and maybe even a stretch in the lower back due to the twisting aspect of the stretch. I’ve also included a standing view of the stretch to show position but this stretch is only affective lay down.
Here is also another version with tends to target the hips and glute medius a little more https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NpKiNXVG1c&t=9s
There we have it!
5 simple, yet effective daily stretches you can do immediately to help with all kinds of discomforts you may be experiencing. Aim to hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds each. Stretching daily for just 5-10 minutes could significantly improve your overall quality of life. The body doesn’t like to be sat down. Even if you are required to be seated each day, try to complete a simple stretch routine like this to encourage movement, prevent injury and to make your body that little more happier and healthier.