This week, I want to focus primarily on workouts I’ve found that help me with work-related pain and stress. Like a lot of people, I spend 8 hours a day sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen. I’ve done this for nearly 6 years straight. Not surprisingly, I have a lot of neck, back and shoulder pain and have suffered from debilitating migraines in the last few years. My job can also be pretty high stress, and there are times when my stress levels at work are unhealthy and impact my ability to relax, enjoy my time with my family, and fall asleep.
Yoga is one of the best things I’ve found to help relieve this pain and my stress levels. Yoga involves a lot of stretching and very simple, low impact movement, which for me helps loosen up muscles that are tense and sore from sitting at a desk all day long. It also involves a lot of breathing and mindfulness. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I often find myself throughout the work day holding my breath with my shoulders pulled up and my neck very stiff. Doing yoga helps remind me not to tense my muscles or hold my breath, both of which contribute to my problems with persistent pain and migraines. Yoga promotes awareness of your body, and when you spend your whole day entirely absorbed in work that is hard on your body, a little mindfulness can go a long way toward preventing more neck and back problems.
I’m sort of a cheapskate, and I hate to pay for anything when I can find it for free or for a serious discount. This goes as much for fitness as it does for anything else. So for right now, I find most of my workouts online for free. YouTube has become my favorite source for workout videos, and my favorite YouTube yoga instructor is Esther Ekhart. She has a soothing voice, a really calm instructional style, and she focuses a lot on overall health and well-being. It’s not just about toned muscles and flat tummies.
Kicking the Day Off Right
This is a 15-minute yoga flow that I like to do first thing in the morning if I can manage to get up before Isla does. This helps get my blood pumping, loosens my muscles, and gives me a chance to have a few moments to breathe and be mindful to start off my day. It’s not a difficult workout at all. I have a hard time doing some of the stretches that require me to balance on my knees, but the rest is, if not easy, then very doable for pretty much any level of fitness. This quick little workout primes me for the rest of the day.
If you work a desk job, it’s recommended that you take a quick break at least once an hour. Look away from your computer screen, do some stretches. This is a great 5-minute workout you can do at your desk pretty much any time of day if you’re feeling stiff or stressed. You might get some funny looks from your coworkers, but there’s nothing here you can’t do sitting in your chair in your regular professional clothes.
Exercises to Relieve Neck Pain
I really hate it when I’ve been working for 2 or 3 hours straight (or more) without realizing how much time has passed, and then I go to look away from my computer screen and my neck is completely stiff. Over the years, in addition to constant pain, I’ve noticed a severe reduction in my range of motion when it comes to moving my neck. When my neck really hurts, this is a quick series of stretches and movements–less than 5 minutes–to loosen everything up. Since I’ve started doing this regularly, I’ve noticed I’ve got more range of motion in my neck again. These you can easily do in the office without anyone giving you (too many) funny looks.
Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain
I also have lower back pain from sitting all day long, and this is a relaxing, simple set of movements that help with that pain. This video consists of just a few movements which you can do as much or as little as you like, as needed. While you couldn’t do these in your office, probably, these are the kinds of things you can easily do in the evenings while you’re watching TV or even lying in bed. She says this also helps with digestion. I don’t know a whole lot about that, but it does look a lot like the leg movements our pediatrician told us to do with Isla when she was a newborn and very constipated, so if you’re backed up, this might be worth a shot. Either way, it’s very gentle and relaxing.
Exercises to Relieve Shoulder and Upper Back Pain
My shoulders and upper back are my biggest sources of pain and also the most significant contributor to migraines for me. (If you get migraines that tend to creep up the back of your neck and progress forward over your head and into your forehead and eyes, you could also be getting migraines from the muscles in your shoulders and upper back pulling over the course of the day.) This is a really fast, easy set of exercises you can do any time, any where to relieve upper back and shoulder pain. I do these, and almost immediately, the tension goes out of my shoulders. Doing these stretches won’t last the whole day, but it does relieve pain immediately, which is a nice reprieve.
I’m hoping that over time, as I do these more and more, become more mindful, and continue to work on keeping all my muscles loose, relaxed, and stretched out, some of my persistent pain will drop off. If you have similar problems, these workouts will probably be a big help for you, too. What I like most about them is that they are fast, free, easy, and effective.