How we sit, stand and move affects how we feel on a day-to-day basis, according to Yoav Suprun, a physical therapist at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, Florida. And in our technology-obsessed world, it’s no secret that we spend a lot of time in less than ideal positions, bent over said computer screen or smart phone.
If you’re frustrated because your daily stretching isn’t helping the pain, it might be time to look for a new solution. “Stretching makes us feel better, but it rarely makes us better,” says Suprun. In other words, it’s often a temporary fix. A new option to consider: the McKenzie Method, a type of physical therapy that starts with an assessment to locate the source of pain and then involves patient education and body adjustment techniques to relieve pain.
Suprun recommends five key moves that you can use to help combat your aches and counteract the harmful toll everyday life takes on your body, particularly your spine. (For a full assessment and consultation, find a McKenzie-trained therapist in your area.)
One thing to keep in mind before you begin: If your pain worsens or starts to radiate from your back or neck down your arm or leg, see a doctor or a physical therapist. This could indicate your problem is more serious than poor posture and requires additional screenings or tests.
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For: Neck and back pain
Why: The first step in alleviating an aching neck and back is to correct your posture, as that’s a major contributor to pain, notes Suprun. Think about how you’re sitting at this very instant. Slouched? Thought so.
The move: Switch from a slouching posture into an overly-erect posture. Do this as soon as you notice your bad posture and repeat the motion about 15 to 20 times every few hours throughout the day. When you’re working, try to settle into a slightly more relaxed (but upright) position. In other words, if you’re going from zero to 100 percent during the exercises, settle at 90 percent the rest of the time.
For: Neck pain
Why: When you look at your computer, your head is often protruded forward, like a turtle. “This is a dangerous movement to do over a long period of time because it disrupts your spine and the resting position of the vertebrae,” explains Suprun.
The move: Pull your head in and back to create a double chin. “Think of an unattractive person coming in to kiss you,” says Suprun. Hold for a few seconds, then relax. Do 10 to 15 repetitions of the retraction every two hours.
For: Neck pain
Why: “We look down at Blackberries and iPhones all day and rarely look up,” says Suprun. This is terrible for your neck and results in stiffness and pain.
The move: Simply look up towards the ceiling and hold for one or two seconds, then return back to neutral. Do this 10 times, every two hours during the day.
For: Lower back pain
Why: “We bend forward about 3,500 times a day,” says Suprun. You have to bend backwards as well to create a balance.
The move: Stand up and place your hands in the small of your back. Bend backwards slightly. Do 10 repetitions—trying to go further into the stiffness with each bend—about 10 times throughout the day, especially after lifting something heavy or sitting for a while. Think of this move as your go-to after a long, boring meeting.
For: Back Pain
Why: “This sequence can help your vertebrae realign themselves,” says Suprun. Since we spend most of the day in slight flexion (bent forward), this combo—best done at home or in a space where you can easily lie down—can help you combat the effects of leaning forward most of the day.
The move: Lay flat on your stomach, with arms down by sides. Try to take all tension away from your legs and hips. Hold for three to four minutes. Prop yourself up into sphinx position, on your elbows. Hold for about two minutes while you take deep breaths. (If that’s too painful, go back to your stomach). Return to lying on your stomach and place hands flat on the ground next to your shoulders. Press upper body up so that your arms are almost straight. Your back should be arched. Move slowly in and out of this position (going from stomach to upright) 10 times. Do the full sequence at least once a day.
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