The COVID-19 pandemic has presented us with many unique challenges that we have never faced before. For many of us, some of those challenges include being told to practice social distancing and work from home. We’ve become more stagnant than normal now that gyms are closed and we only need to walk as far as the laptop at our kitchen table to get to work in the morning. Here are some tips on how to stay active and prevent any neck or back pain issues while you’re staying home:
- Don’t sit too long. Don’t forget to get up and stretch regularly. Stretching helps increase flexibility, your range of motion, improves blood flow, helps to prevent back pain, relieve stress, and calms your mind. Just five to 10 minutes a day makes a difference.
- Exercise every day. Just because your local gym had to close its doors doesn’t mean you have a free pass to sit on your couch in sweatpants all day. There are tons of exercises you can do at home. Try some core stability exercises to keep your back strong. Exercise is good for your muscles and bones, can increase your energy, can help with weight loss, promote better sleep, can reduce anxiety and can reduce back pain.
- If you’re feeling tight or stiff, apply moist heat to your neck or back. You can also take a warm bath to help reduce muscle tightness and stress.
- Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t go outside and get fresh air. Go outside and walk for 10 to 15 minutes per day, just maintain proper distance from others.
- Try and reduce your stress. This is easier said than done during times like these, but stress can increase muscle tightness which often lead to back and neck pain. Consider practicing some of these mind-body exercises to reduce your stress:
- Deep breathing. Lie down for five minutes, close your eyes, and just focus on your breath. As you breathe in and out, count for five seconds.
- Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain. You don’t have to sit to meditate, you can walk while you meditate focusing on your strides and breathing.
- Research has shown that yoga helps to reduce anxiety, depression, pain and muscle spasm. Go online and find free classes you can do in your home.
- Get adequate sleep. Sleep is your body’s chance to recover and reset. If you have back pain, try sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs, or on your back with two pillows under your knees.
- Maintain good posture when sitting and standing.
- Try not to sit for more than an hour at a time without taking a break to move around. While sitting, place two pillows under your knees to take stress off your back.
- When standing try to avoid slouching. Stand tall with your chest out and stomach in, and your head centered over your spine. For every two inches your head shifts forward it adds 20 pounds of mechanical stress to your neck, which can result in neck pain.
- Eat a balanced diet. Not only will it help you maintain a healthy body weight, which puts less stress on your muscles and joints, but eating a balanced, nutrient dense diet, provides you with essential vitamins and minerals needed to keep you strong, healthy and ready to fight off illness.
David J. BenEliyahu, DC, DAAPM, DABCSP is the Administrative Director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital.