Managing a household and raising children while working from home can be extremely demanding. However, your well-being should always be a priority. And that includes regular stretch breaks.
We’ve talked with two physical therapists who share the best back and neck stretches for remote working moms. Get ready for some relief on your stiff and achy remote working body.
Why Work From Home Stretch Breaks Are Important
While working from home is a great flexible option for moms, it can have some downsides. Most remote workers don’t have a suitable desk or chair at home for proper body alignment. On top of that, taking breaks when working from home is often forgotten about. This means your body likely hunches over your computer screen more often than compared to office workers–not to mention the toll it can take on your mental health.
This is where quality stretching comes in. “Stretching can enhance your posture, boost productivity and focus, and help alleviate aches and pains,” says John Gallucci Jr., MS, ATC, PT, DPT, an award-winning physical therapist, author, and medical coordinator for Major League Soccer.
1. Shoulder Blade Pinches
Hunching over your computer for multiple hours daily can cause poor posture. That’s why routine stretching like shoulder blade pinches is needed to counteract that pesky stiff hunch. “[Shoulder blade pinches] help support spinal health by maintaining good posture and reducing the tension on your back,” notes Gallucci. Luckily, you can do them just about anywhere to combat upper back pain.
How to do it: Start standing or seated with your feet flat on the ground. Raise each arm up as if you’re getting ready to give a high-five, then move your arms backwards bringing your shoulder blades together–still maintaining that upright high-five angle. Hold and pinch for 10 seconds, release, and repeat ten times.
2. Forward Bends
There’s no doubt working at a desk all day can cause major stiffness in your back. Tawny Kross, DPT, TPS, a physical therapist and a pain and wellness coach who received her doctorate from Duke University, suggests forward bends to help loosen your spine. The key here is to practice this stretch consistently so your back muscles can get the relief it needs after a long time sitting at a computer.
How to do it: In a sitting, standing, or long-seated starting position (sitting on the floor with legs straight in front of you), position your feet hip width apart. Fold your body forward, hinging at the hips, to touch your toes–or as far as your body lets you. For best results, hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat three times.
3. Upper Trapezius Stretch
Many work-from-home moms don’t solely work from their home office desk. Often, desks can come in the form of kitchen tables, coffee tables, your lap, and even the bed. Bouncing around and positioning your head in non-optimal positions can wreak havoc on your body, causing neck pain. Gallucci recommends this stretch to improve upper mobility and ease the tension on the neck and shoulders from long work-from-home days.
How to do it: Either standing or seated with your feet flat on the ground, bring your right arm up and over your head and then down around your face so your hand sits on your left ear. Gently pull your head toward your right shoulder and hold this position for 30 seconds. Then, repeat on the opposite side. This stretch can be done three times on each side.
4. Floor Back Extensions
Floor back extensions, or cobra stretches, are great at helping loosen the spine and improve lower back pain. Interestingly enough, they also help improve digestion, blood circulation, and can reduce fatigue and stress. Kross highly suggests adding this stretch to your work-from-home routine for improved spine mobility.
How to do it: Lay face down on the floor with hands on either side of your shoulders. Press up and off the floor so your arms fully extend while your shins and feet rest flat on the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat three times.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you probably have heard what a cat-cow stretch is. Specifically for work-from-home moms–and even pregnant women–cat-cow is an excellent technique for stretching and supporting many muscles at once. “This stretch will help increase the flexibility of the upper back, neck, and shoulders, as well as increasing mobility of the hips and lower back,” notes Gallucci. In fact, many yoga poses can help relieve a stiff body such as child’s pose and downward facing dog.
How to do it: Place both hands and knees on the ground shoulder width apart. Hands should be flat and in line with your hips and knees. Take a breath in and curl your chin into your chest while also curving your back up toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Next, breathe out and arch your back the opposite way by bringing your belly button closer to the floor and looking upwards. Repeat 30 times, taking breaks when needed.
6. Shoulder Shrugs
The good news about shoulder shrug stretches is that they can be done pretty much anywhere and at any time. At your desk, on the phone during a meeting, while watching TV–you name it. The University of California, suggests practicing shoulder shrugs at the first sign of tightness or tension in the shoulder and neck area. But if you want to help avoid tightness overall, add this stretch to your regular daily working routine.
How to do it: In a seated or standing position, raise your shoulders toward your ears until you feel slight tension in your neck and shoulders. Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds, then relax your shoulders back to their neutral position. Repeat this three more times.
7. Overhead Arm Reach
Feeling tightness in your back and shoulders? Not using a firm enough chair to support your lumbar while working from home could be why. Gallucci recommends the overhead arm reach stretch as a highly effective way to reduce this tightness.
How to do it: Sit up straight and reach your right hand and left hand toward the sky. Interlock your fingers and flip your palms around so they’re facing upwards. Stretch your body tall up to the sky and then exhale while holding this stretch for 15 seconds–you should feel your back elongate.
Takeaway: Self-Care Isn’t Selfish
Remembering to incorporate neck and back stretches into your daily activities can go a long way in making your work-from-home days more comfortable and getting you back to a full range of motion. While you don’t have to do all seven of these stretches every single day, it’s a good idea to try each one and find which few work best for you. And if you need a little extra help, try a regular chiropractic adjustment for neck and back relief.
Keep in mind it’s also important to take frequent breaks when working from home. “I encourage stretches or a quick walk (1-2 minutes even) break once every hour or so,” says Kross. Taking care of your body and mind with breaks like these are the best ways to tackle your roles as a mom and a career woman, all with renewed energy and focus.
About the Experts:
John Gallucci Jr., MS, ATC, PT, DPT, is an award-winning doctor of physical therapy and CEO of JAG Physical Therapy. Currently, he is the medical coordinator for Major League Soccer, coordinating the medical care of more than 500 professional soccer players.
Tawny Kross, DPT, TPS, is a doctor of physical therapy and a pain and wellness coach. She received her degree from Duke University in 2013 and has helped Veterans with chronic pain for nearly a decade. She believes passionately in the brain and body’s innate ability to heal and now helps people take control of their pain at Kross Centered Care.