6 Ways to Take Care of Your Back at Home, According to Philly Chiropractors

Local pros share their go-to tips for strengthening and supporting your back while stuck at home.

Experiencing back pain and neck tension while working from home? These six tips from Philly chiropractors can help. / Photograph courtesy of Getty Images.

Going from sit-to-stand desks and proper monitor positioning to the comfort (and sometimes too much comfort) of our own homes isn’t always the easiest transition. Kitchen tables turned desks and couches turned conference rooms can lead to long periods of poor posture, achy back muscles, neck tightness, and headaches.

But the back pain you might be feeling isn’t just because of a different work set-up. Stress, whether professional or personal, can take a physical toll on the body, often manifesting in the neck and shoulders. To help alleviate pain and tension, we’ve rounded up six tips from Philly chiropractors for taking care of your back while at home.

Move your muscles frequently

Local chiropractor Hava Rose recommends setting an alarm every 30 minutes to remind you to get up and out of your seat between periods of sitting. In fact, studies have shown that interrupting sedentary activity can help you live longer. Whether that’s pacing around your make-shift office during a conference call or going for a quick walk around the block (or to the kitchen for a snack!), it’s important to keep your blood flowing, muscles moving, and spine strong.

Do some simple exercises/stretches

To help reduce back pain and neck discomfort, Katie Samsel of Samsel Integrative Health offers these four exercises and stretches:

  • Brugger’s exercise: Sit up, at the edge of your chair and spread your legs slightly apart. Turn your toes out slightly, rest your weight on your legs, and relax your abdominal muscles. Tilt your pelvis forward and lift your chest, then turn your palms up and feel your shoulder blades come together in your mid back. Hold for 10 seconds every 20 minutes.
  • Seated piriformis stretch: Place one ankle on top of the opposite knee. Hinging forward from the hips, lean forward until you feel a stretch in the buttocks. This can also be done lying on your back.
  • Kneeling hip flexor stretch: While kneeling, come to a lunge position with your right foot forward. Position your right knee in line with your right ankle and left knee on the floor. Bring your torso up so that your spine is straight, and place both hands on your right knee. Squeeze your glutes to increase the hip flexor stretch. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch sides.
  • Cat-cow: On all fours with wrists underneath shoulders, knees underneath hips, and neutral spine, inhale and arch your back by tilting your pelvis back so that your tailbone sticks up. Look up to the ceiling without craning your neck. Exhale and round your back, tipping your pelvis forward so your tailbone is tucked. Draw your navel to your spine and drop your gaze down. Repeat as needed.

Additionally, Epic Chiropractic is posting stretches, exercises, and daily tips on their Instagram (@epic_chiropractic), and you can watch the video below from Don Rocklage, owner of Philadelphia Chiropractic, for supplemental working-from-home stretches.

Consider your office “chair”

Where you’re sitting while you work can either make or break your back (okay, not literally, but you get what we’re saying). Rocklage has been seeing an increase in neck, mid-back, and low-back pain, as well as headaches, numbness, and tingling in the hands as a result of poor posture while working from home. To help reduce those issues, he recommends sitting in a comfortable, supportive chair — not on a couch or bed — that will prevent slouching or being bent forward. He also suggests sitting on an exercise ball, as it can promote core and spine strengthening.

If your work seat lacks low back support, Epic’s owner Tyler Barton suggests making use of a bath towel. Here’s what you do: fold the towel in half lengthways, corner to corner. Then, roll it tightly into a cylinder and wrap two hair bands, shoe laces, or pieces of ribbon around either end to help keep its shape. The towel, which can be placed in the region of your low back and positioned for comfort, assists in maintaining a neutral spine.

Elevate your desk space

Along with what you’re sitting on, it’s key to consider how you’re sitting. To support your neck, shoulders, and upper back, Rocklage says you should elevate your workstation so that you aren’t looking down at your monitor. An easy hack? Prop up your laptop with books to elevate your monitor to eye level. The same applies if you’re using a standing desk.

Be mindful of your overall posture

So you’ve got a supportive chair and your monitor meets your line of vision — great! While you’re working, make sure you don’t forget about your overall posture, especially when seated. According to Barton, your seat should be positioned so that your feet are flat on the ground, with your knees just below hip level. The back of your knees should be approximately two inches from the seat’s edge, and your shoulders should be relaxed and lowered (roll your shoulders down, away from your ears!). Finally, your keyboard should be in a position that allows your wrists to remain straight and below elbow level.

In addition to posture advice from chiropractors, you can also find advice or schedule an appointment with local bodywork pros like ZAKTi Body Architecture. They provide helpful advice on Instagram as well as virtual consultations on back pain.

Consult a professional

If you’re having significant back pain or issues, you should talk with your doctor or chiropractor. Many specialists are offering virtual chiropractic appointments, such as Rose, who is currently offering tele-sessions where she shows her patients specific stretches and movements to help ensure proper posture and body awareness.

Some chiropractor offices are also seeing clients in-person with limited hours. For instance, you can meet with Rocklage at Philadelphia Chiropractic on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Additionally, depending on the nature of your pain, you can also schedule an initial consultation and virtual physical therapy session with one of the exercise physiologists at Zarett Rehab.

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