End of semester is fast approaching, which means for those of us who have exams coming up, there’s often lots of time spent sitting at a desk or in an uncomfortable study chair. This can lead to neck pain, back tension or stiffness and headaches, making the exam period much more painful than it needs to be.
One of our Senior Physiotherapists here at Move for Better Health, Bec Thiele, has a keen interest in treating these areas and has put together 3 easy and effective Pilates exercises most of you can do at home to get you through the long hours of sitting and studying.
As always, if you have any specific injuries or conditions, please see a Physiotherapist to make sure your exercises are tailored to your needs.
The first exercise is Arm Openings Level 2 (or side lying rotation stretch).
For this exercise, you will need to be lying on your side with pillow under the head or as needed for support.
To begin, breathe out to circle top arm overhead and then behind you, allowing the upper body to rotate. Then, breathe in as you circle your top arm down past your hips and back to the start position.
As you are doing these movements, make sure to keep legs and hips still. This will ensure the stretch is isolated to your upper back and shoulders.
Repeat this 15 times each side to help ease tension across your middle back and shoulder blade areas and to open out through the front of your chest. This is a lovely exercise to break up from those seated positions!
The next exercise is a thoracic extension, using a foam roller or rolled up towel. This exercise is good to ease tension across your middle back and shoulders and helps to improve middle back mobility.
Set up for this exercise by placing a half foam roller (or rolled-up towel) horizontally along the floor.
Start in a sitting position so that when you lie down, the foam roller is underneath your upper back and shoulder blades. You can interlace your hands or use pillow/s behind the you head for support if needed. You might have to move the towel up or down slightly until you find the right position for you.
To begin the exercise, breathe in and as you breathe out relax upper back over the foam roller or towel. Maintain this position for 10secs then slowly ease off stretch.
Something to keep in mind with this exercise is to ensure the movement occurs from the upper back – you want to try to keep the front rib bones heavy and the lower back down.
The final exercise is called Cat/Cow Flexion and Extension.
The starting position for this exercise is kneeling on all fours, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
Once in position, breathe out as you arch the back upwards to the ceiling, creating a long shallow upwards curve through the spine. Allow your head to nod towards the chest.
Next, breathe in as you “sag” the back towards the ground, opening through the chest and creating a long shallow downwards curve through the spine.
As you sag the back downwards, make sure not to look up too high – focus instead on the gaze moving slightly forward between the hands.
Aim for even movement through the spine, focusing on the movement starting from the mid-back and spreading in both directions. Do this by visualizing each bone (vertebra) in your spine sequentially taking part in the movement.
Continue this 20 times. The aim is to improve mobility along the whole spine and to reduce tension across middle and lower back areas.
We hope this gets you through all the time spent at your desks, and good luck with the upcoming exams!
Give us a call at the clinic if you need any personalised advice, exercises or treatment.