Desk jobs can cause weak or tight muscles

Build a routine for improved flexibility and strength

Sedentary jobs should come with a warning label: may result in a bad back, tight hamstrings and hips, and weak core muscles.

Kirsten Scott, a retired massage therapist, explains desk jobs typically cause irritation in three muscles. 

“The hip flexors—the front of the hip—gets shortened. The piriformis muscle [in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint] almost always is what causes the sciatic nerve to get irritated,” she says. You may also notice tightness in the psoas muscle, which wraps from the front of your spine into your hip. “You stand up and it spasms.”

The key, says Scott, is “stretching and also strengthening.”

If your muscles are feeling very inflamed and tight, it may be a good idea to start by taking a pain killer or muscle relaxant. Consult a doctor first to ensure this is a safe approach for your individual circumstance.

But when you’re able, take the time to stretch and ensure you have a quiet space. “Listening to your body is hard because we have too many distractions,” says Scott. “Take the five minutes and just focus on it.”

Don’t overstretch. “Push too hard and it gets irritated and inflamed,” Scott explains. “We can move more slowly.”

Stretch incrementally. “On the first day of stretching, stretch to where you can feel the tightness and ease off slightly; take three deep breaths and release. The next day, move to where you feel the tightness and take three deep breaths. The next day, push into the tightness.”

Stretching isn’t the entire solution, though. “If we’re stretching, we also need to strengthen. That’s where seeing a physiotherapist can be helpful.”

Incremental strengthening and building up fitness levels is equally important. 

“When we move too quickly, we injure ourselves. Our soft tissue just cannot manage it. We want results, so we push it.”

The best way to ensure stretching and fitness becomes part of our life is to build a routine. 

Try these stretches and exercises below (or online at ratcreek.org).

Cat cow
Start on your hands and knees, arms straight and under your shoulders. Slowly curve your spine by pressing your abs toward the ceiling, and drop your head toward the floor. Hold for a few breaths. | Talea Medynski
Slowly arch your back and lift your face toward the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat. Repeat 8-10 times.| Talea Medynski
Piriformis stretch
Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor and both knees bent. Lift your left leg towards your chest, then cross your right ankle across your left knee. Place your hands underneath your left knee and pull your leg towards your chest. Hold the left leg, feeling the stretch in the right hip flexor. Slowly, place the left leg back on the floor and switch sides. Repeat 8-10 times on each leg. | Talea Medynski
Quadriceps stretch
Stand with your feet close together, supporting yourself with a chair or against a wall. Bend your left leg and grab your left foot with your left hand, pulling the heel toward your buttocks until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold for 10 seconds, then place your leg back on the ground. Repeat with your right leg. Repeat 8-10 times on each leg. | Talea Medynski
Hamstring stretch
Sit with one leg extended and your back straight, then bend your other leg, resting the sole of your foot against your mid-thigh. Slowly reach toward your ankle, keeping your knee, neck, and back straight. You should feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat two times on each leg. | Talea Medynski
Bird dog
Start on your hands and knees and tighten your abs, keeping your spine and neck in a neutral position while looking at the floor. | Talea Medynski
Extend your left leg behind you while reaching your right arm forward. Keep your hips and shoulders square and don’t arch your lower back. Hold for five seconds. Slowly return to the starting position and do the move on the opposite side. Repeat 5-10 times on each side. This works your abs and back. | Talea Medynski

Featured Image: Stretching and strengthening is key to ensuring your desk job doesn’t cause you physical problems. | Image by ArtCoreStudios from Pixabay

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