Quarantine has really presented us with an unprecedented situation. It is a time of stress and confusion, but can also be a time to allow new routines to form, and give us a chance to reflect on our lives and habits. Being a Chiropractor, I have had multiple people reach out looking for advice on how to help develop a healthy movement routine at home. What is interesting, is the things I have been going over are not limited to being home, but can be taken anywhere. This is just the first time people have had the time to be interested in learning some of these techniques for home! In this article, I will give you a few tips for getting through your day, setting your posture, and reducing aches and pains.
The first is how to correctly set up your workstation if you are working from home. Being at home may offer more flexibility in your setup. The most important aspect is to set your monitor up higher. If you are going to change one thing, the monitor is the way to go. You want the top of the monitor to be level with your eyes. This allows you to sit (or stand) up straighter. In turn, this helps encourage proper shoulder, elbow, and wrist placement. In ideal posture, shoulders should be relaxed down, elbows at 90 degrees, and wrists nice and flat. Avoid arching your wrists up or down, kicking your elbows out to the side, scrunching your shoulders towards your ears, and reaching your arms forward. If you have the ability, a standing desk can make a world of difference. Start slowly if you can, standing about 15 minutes each hour, and increase from there. It can be helpful to have a stool to vary your position from time to time.
My second tip is working extension back into your system. What does that mean? Flexion in our spine is when we curve or round forward, and we live in a very flexion heavy world. When we sit on the couch, look down at a puzzle, look at our phones, or, as I have been doing, paint trim, we are putting ourselves in lumbar (low back) and cervical (neck) flexion. This flexion puts stress on the discs in our spine, which in turn can begin to irritate the nerves that live in and around your spinal column. In these homebound days, our flexion habits are amplified!
The best way to take stress off the discs and counteract all the flexion stress we put through our spine is to do the opposite, which in this case is called extension.
To get lumbar extension, lay on the floor on your belly in the “watching Saturday morning cartoons” posture. I recommend starting about 2 minutes every hour, and then doing a little bit more at night before going to bed. For the cervical spine (neck), I recommend what is called a “neck retraction”. Basically, keeping your face flat (not extended or flexed), bring your chin straight back (like the person you are talking to has bad breath). You know you are doing it right if you are giving yourself extra chins. Start slow with both of these, but they are absolutely worth working into your daily routine.
My last tip is simple, but effective: take more breaks. Whatever you are doing, working, sitting, bingeing Tiger King, deep cleaning etc., break up the monotony of that movement. We are designed for all kinds of varied, dynamic movements, and get into trouble when we do the same movements or take the same positions over and over again. Set an expectation with your partner/quarantine buddy that after every show, or every commercial, or every room, you stand and do a varied motion. I’ve even gone as far to set an alarm on my phone for every half hour to get up and move differently. This will allow your body to unwind and unkink before it gets to a painful level.
Incorporating these three tools into your daily routine can help keep your body working well and keep you free from aches and pains during this unprecedented time. And as always, be kind to yourself and others, we are in this together, and we will get through it together.