Easing the tension of working from home
The majority of people normally work in an office environment, the last 7 weeks have seen us adapting and setting up shop at home. While it is great we can continue to work safely, it can have a huge effect on our bodies and mental health.
While the office is set up with ergonomic chairs, monitors adjusted to the right height and a desk, many of us have had to adapt the best we can working from home. The dining room table is a make shift desk and using stools or chairs, which are not meant for long periods of sitting are the new desk chair. Aches and pains may have started or been exacerbated due to the unusual working conditions.
The most common complaints I have heard over the last couple of weeks is headaches and neck/back ache.
Whilst in normal circumstances you would reach for the phone and call your massage therapist for an appointment, we have to look for alternative ways to cope and ease the pain.
Here are my top DIY methods to help alleviate the issues which are most commonly found from desk working. We’ll be using items from around the house – tennis ball, peanut ball, foam roller or towel are perfect fear not if you don’t have any of these, we still have more options to use.
First things first, let’s check our working area. Making simple changes to this space is the first stage of trying to ease pain and tension.
Your work space
This is something we need to be aware of when working from home, slight changes like a chair or table can cause more problems than you think. Check your work space – Is your computer or laptop high enough so your head isn’t in a constant tucked position? If it isn’t, make a makeshift stand from books, or in my case board games. Can you sit comfortably without slouching, are your hands and wrists working at odd angles? You might not think these small changes in your posture are much, but for prolonged periods they cause your muscles to become tired and painful.
Try take regular breaks and make time for a posture check – I know it isn’t always that simple to take a break from work, but try setting an alarm for every 30 minutes. When it goes off, stand up stretch, loosen up, make a cup of tea, have a little walk, anything to stop your body staying in the same position for a long period of time. When you sit back down try not to slump, try to lift up and stretch your spine, your shoulders will naturally fall back and not be forced.
My top 7 DIY ways to relieve aches and pains
1. Tension Headaches
This will help relieve tension in your neck and head often caused by bad posture — like when you crane your neck while texting or push your head forward when slumping at a desk.
- Lay on your back with your knees bent
- Using a peanut ball or two tennis balls one in each hand between your thumb and forefinger, rest your hands behind your head so the tennis balls are on either side of the base of your skull.
- Keeping hold of the tennis balls alternate between slowly turning your head from side to side, then tucking and lifting your chin.
2. Tight Painful Jaw
Clenching your jaw when you’re stressed can give you a headache and lead to tired sore muscles around the jaw.
- Using the pads of your fingertips, press up under your cheekbones, starting at the apples of your cheeks.
- Open and close your mouth as you press up into your cheekbones.
- Do this all the way back, following an imaginary beard line.
- When you reach your sideburns, press your thumb under your jawbone and pull your fingertips down the side of your face.
- Repeat movement along your jaw, moving toward your chin.
3. If your neck and shoulders hurt
Attempting to give yourself a neck or shoulder massage with your hands actually leads to more tension, even if it feels good at the time. Try this instead.
- Stand with a tennis ball between the wall and your shoulder.
- Raise your arm, bending the elbow so it is level with the shoulder, point your fingers to the sky (L shape), keeping the elbow in place point your fingers to the floor and back up to the sky. You can also take the arm across the body and back for an added release
- Experiment with the ball in different positions along your neck and shoulders.
4. Sore forearms
This move feels good pain or no pain, but if you work with your hands a lot, maybe typing all day or doing manual labour, it’s a lifesaver. This can be done sitting at your desk and will only take a couple of minutes.
- Arms relaxed, bent at the elbow, palm facing the sky. Cup and grip just under the elbow with your opposite hand. Poke around until you find the sore muscle, which is near the inside of the elbow
- Flip your arm within your grip so your palm faces the ground.
- Repeat all down your arm until you reach your wrist.
- Remember don’t squeeze too hard.
5. Lower back
This will help the tenderness and pain in your lower back.
- Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet firmly planted on the ground.
- Place two tennis balls or a peanut ball under your lower back around where your sacrum — the large, triangular bone at the base of the spine — meets your hip bone.
- Raise and lower your hips, and move side to side kneading the area with the tennis balls.
6. Hips and Lower back
Long periods of sitting can cause hips to feel restricted and seized, often this refers to your lower back. This move will target these areas.
- Sit on the ground with your legs bent, your hands resting on the ground behind you, and a tennis ball under your bum cheek.
- Lift your leg off the ground and roll around on the ball, working into the places you feel most tension.
- Repeat on the other side.
7. If your back feels restricted and achy
- Lay on your back, knees bent shoulder width apart
- Place the foam roller or alternatively a rolled up towel across your mid back, stretch your arms up to the sky palms facing each other, and reach them behind your head causing your back to arch.
- After you have repeated this 5 times, foam roll the rest of your back, slowly creating movement and a nice stretch through your spine.
Repeat these exercises everyday if possible to stop the problems before they become chronic.
While I know these may not completely solve your pain problems, it should give some respite for a short period until you are able to book a massage appointment. If you’d like further help or have any questions please email me on [email protected]
Lynn Hall Clinical Massage Oxford