The best stretches for a healthy spine 

If you work at a desk for over 6 hours a day, your chances of developing a Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorder (WMSD) can increase by as much as 33% for every additional hour you spend sitting. You can also experience exhaustion, dissatisfaction with your work, and hypertension. Good ergonomic chairs are worker-friendly and are designed with a special focus on features that ensure good endurance and offer maximum benefit to the user. It is very important to work on your physical well-being too.

You can perform the following simple exercises to maintain a healthy spine.  

  1. Pre-work exercises: Perform the following routine along with your daily exercises – such as walking, running, or gym.
    1. Triangle pose: Stand upright on a mat, with your toes pointed to its long side. Breathe in and spread your legs shoulder-width apart. Exhale and stabilise yourself. Then inhale deeply and raise your arms to your shoulder level, keeping them parallel to the floor, with your palms facing downward. Exhale and turn your right foot, so your big toe points to the short side of the mat. Breathe in and stabilise your pose. Now exhale and bend at your hip till your right palm comes in contact with your right ankle. Inhale and turn your neck to look up at your outstretched left palm. Gently inhale and come back to an upright pose. Repeat the exercise on the left side.
    2. Child’s pose: Start by kneeling on a comfortable mat, resting your rear on your heels. Take a deep breath and raise your arms above your head, lengthening your spine as you do so. While releasing your breath, slowly bend forward at your hip till your fingers touch the floor. Then gently lower your forehead till it reaches your knees, or if possible, the floor. Stay in this position for five deep breaths. Observe the stretch at your armpits and your lower back.   
    3. Cat/Cow Pose: Next, take a deep breath and release your body from the Child’s pose. Now rest your body on all fours – keep your palm, knees and feet flat on the mat, and back parallel to the ground. Look straight ahead. With a deep breath, raise your neck, so your nose points to the sky. Simultaneously dip your lower back, feel your hamstrings and glutes tensing. While exhaling, slowly bend your back so your navel moves away from the ground, and bend your neck, so your nose points to the ground. Repeat this set five times.
    4. Seated Twist: Release your body from the table pose and sit down with your legs stretched out in front of you. Fold your left leg, so the left foot is flat on the floor, next to your outstretched right knee. Place your right elbow on the left knee. You should feel your spine twisting. Slowly take your left palm and place it flat on the mat behind you while you face your left side. Repeat the exercise on the other side. This particular exercise improves blood flow to the spine and is also known to increase the production of serotonin.

 

  1. Stretches while you are at your desk: It is crucial that you adjust your office furniture according to your physique. Make sure your employer provides you with ergonomic chairs so you can customise them to provide you with maximum support. These chairs offer good support and even the fabric used in the seating is considered to make it suitable for workers. Notwithstanding appropriate seating postures, perform these stretches every two hours to provide relief from prolonged sitting.
    1. Arm raise: Breathe in and stretch your arms above your head. Lengthen your spine and gently sway backwards and forwards a few times.
    2. Seated twist: Lower your arms, and turn your torso so you can hold the top of your backrest with your left arm. Use the support to stretch your arm and your entire left side. Turn and repeat on your right side. You can feel an immediate relief in your spine after this exercise.
    3. Walk: Walk now and then to improve blood circulation to your feet, arms, and back. A walk can refresh your tired brain by giving you a brief break from mental strain.

 

In summary

Spinal degeneration affects over 7 million Australians. They lose thousands of dollars on treatment, not to mention thousands more as opportunity costs. In 2015, according to a study by Safe Work Australia, workers lost a total of $24 billion due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Treat your spine well – you are only as young as your spine allows you to be. You can opt for quality ergonomic chairs that enable a stronger posture and help in longer hours of work with lesser strain.