By Mary Jean McKinnon, PTA
We often think of muscle pain as being associated with higher levels of activity. However, whether you’re at a desk or in a car, you know that prolonged sitting also aggravates muscles, resulting in pain and discomfort.
After a long day, some gentle stretching will help keep your muscles flexible and strong, promoting your range of motion and preventing injury.
OrthoCarolina Eastover physical therapy assistant and Pilates instructor Mary Jean McKinnon recommend these five stretches at the end of your day to relieve the muscles most often aggravated by prolonged sitting.
Hold each of these five stretches for two minutes.
The first three of our stretches are done on a foam roller. Position the foam roller directly under your spine supporting your lower back and hips.
1. PEC MINOR
Why? Pec minor is shortened when we hunch our shoulders forward. This causes the muscle to tighten, making it difficult to maintain correct posture.
How? With your foam roller still positioned under the spine, raise your arms over your head making a "Y" shape and resting the backs of your hands on the floor.
2. PEC MAJOR
Why? This chest muscle gets tight when you're hunched over a desk or have your arms outstretched while driving.
How? While supported on your foam roller, stretch your arms out like you're making a "T", resting the back of your hands on the floor.
3. UPPER TRAPEZIUS AND LEVATOR SCAPULAE
Why? These muscles live in the shoulders and neck. They become tight if you shrug your shoulders under stress, when your head juts forward or when compensating for muscle weakness.
How? Move your head off the one side of the foam roll and stretch your opposite arm down, using the hand to grip the bottom of the foam roller. Spend two minutes here, then another two minutes on the opposite side.
4. HIP FLEXORS
Why? Hip flexors allow your leg and knee to move closer to your torso. When seated in a desk chair, the hip muscle is flexed for a sustained amount of time and these muscles become weak and tight.
How? With one leg positioned in front of the other, squat down and lean forward. Spend two minutes on each side. Working on making dinner while doing your stretches? You can always stir the pot in this position!
Why? The large muscle on the back of your thigh, hamstrings are in a shortened position while sitting and can produce back pain when tight.
How? Lay down by a door frame with one leg straight out and the other propped against the frame. Keep the knee in line with the hip and the ankle in line with the knee so your body is in a straight line. Your hamstring may be so tight that you're positioned farther away from the door frame.
During this and any hamstring stretch, you should never feel pain. While in this position, you can add in a soft tissue massage on the hamstring using your hands or even a rolling pin.