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So I've started a new job and due to this I end up sitting for 12 hours a day. 8 hours at my desk and 2 hour commute each way. I know this is bad for me, especially my back. At least during work I can get up every now and then, but during my drive I feel a bit of pain in lower back so am now planning on doing stretches every day morning and night in order to prevent injury.

Can anyone suggest some stretches that would suit me, bonus points if they can be done in the car.

I have some stretches already that I am starting to do every day but would like to add some more specific ones to prevent injury from my long periods of sitting.

  • What are your reasons for believing stretching specifically will help your back? Has a medical professional stated you are having mobility issues for example? Otherwise I would believe strengthening the whole posterior chain would be helpful, and of course ensuring proper posture while driving. I leave this as a comment as I have no sources for these statements. Hope it helps a bit! – Max May 20 '15 at 7:09
  • Also I believe a common culprit of back pain in modern office workers are weak core muscles, exercises like reverse curl and certain exercises that strengthen the obliques might help. – Max May 20 '15 at 7:13
  • Can anyone suggest some stretches that would suit me, bonus points if they can be done in the car. Unless you're a passenger, I would strongly caution you against this. – rrirower May 20 '15 at 11:49
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    @rrirower haha I meant while stopped at traffic lights/traffic jam not while driving along on the freeway at top speed – Aequitas May 20 '15 at 20:34
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    You should find helpful information in this back injury prevention q/a and this sitting posture q/a including stretching, strengthening, and postural exercises. As previously pointed out flexibility is only part of the answer. Strengthening for stability, stretching for flexibility, and proper postural alignment are all important to having a balanced spine and pelvis. – BackInShapeBuddy May 22 '15 at 22:03
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Your back is probably hurting because you are immobilized in one position, something that a simple fidget can help. What actually happens is when muscle is immobilised in a shortened position (your hip flexors when you drive for example) for some time there is a loss of some muscle sarcomeres.

GOOD NEWS is that this can be reversed once you are starting to move as shown in this study http://ard.bmj.com/content/49/5/316.abstract

so best is to do movements rather than stretches that take you to opposite directions of where you are, i.e. step forward and reach back, alternate your legs, move to the side, etc. explore the movements

Static stretching itself does not prevent from getting injured http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10593217

movement is a different story.

Hope it helps

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Have a look at the "Limber 11" by a guy called Joe DeFranco. Gives you some nice exercises to help with this. There is a video of him demonstrating the routine on YouTube.. I also had some back problems and I started doing this daily. It doesn't take long (~10-15 minutes), but some of the exercises require a foam roller or lacross ball. Both are relatively cheap though.

Yoga is also really good for your back.

Good luck.

  • I've been doing the Limber 11 every morning since for about a month now. I can't say it's absolutely solved everything, but I definitely feel a lot looser around the hips and lower back when starting off the day! Foam rolling the adductors and doing the rocking frog stretch daily has been pretty useful for me. – Rikki Jun 19 '15 at 15:56
  • Glad it helped :) – son15 Jun 20 '15 at 18:47
  • +1 for the limber 11 recommendation. That video introduced me to the wonderful world of not being a victim of my active lifestyle. – Remo Williams Oct 9 '15 at 13:59
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I found myself in a very similar situation as yours. I work 8 hours a day, commute an hour, and end up watch TV a couple hours a night (after cooking dinner). I consider myself in decent shape. My back was slightly sore, but I ignored it. It's getting slightly worse and I hear of much more serious (pain down leg) from other co-workers, so I decided to find help.

My doctor suggested I visit a physical therapist where he explained the problem with sitting all day. Over the course of fours sessions, he showed me various stretches and exercise to strengthen the core and gluts (which are weakened by sitting all day).

During the four courses, I could already tell there was improvement. The key is to stretch daily. I'd also recommend seeing a doctor or finding a good physical therapist.

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For exercises at the office, you could do worse than this set of at-the-desk stretches. They're to the point and they're actually kind of fun to read. While in the car, you have limited options since even minor movements can result in the car swerving, especially with power steering, but when stopped, say in traffic jams or at lights, you have options.

  • The Freedom Stretch: This is your typical arched-back stretch. You can even brace yourself on the steering wheel to get more leverage (but have your feet off of the accelerator!). This one is good for kinks in the back.
  • Modified Cat Stretch: The opposite of the Freedom Stretch, this involves curling in and sucking your stomach in for a crunch-type motion. This helps lengthen out your back muscles and gets the blood flowing.
  • Chest Slide: This one is a bit idiosyncratic as to whether it will come naturally, but the idea is to keep your butt stationary on the seat and your torso upright, but to move your torso left to right. I find this works nicely to loosen up the muscles on the sides. Again, the steering wheel can help you stabilize.
  • Shoulder Shrug: This is a particularly good one in traffic jams, when most people get really tense. Just shrug your shoulders up into your ears and hold it for several seconds, then release. It can be considerably relaxing.
  • Shoulder Rotate: Put your hands on the traditional "10 and 2" position on the wheel and rotate your shoulders up and inwards. This one is more of a resistance exercise for me.
  • The Scream: This one gets easy when there are a lot of dumb drivers around and is one of the few ones that's safe to do while driving. Stretch your mouth open as wide as you can, flare your nostrils, and widen your eyes. Actually screaming of imprecations is optional, but just opening up your face like that is a good stress reliever.
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I'm currently trying to get into the habit of getting up from my chair every hour or so to stretch my hip flexors. I generally do this by doing a lunge while rotating my upper body over my front leg. Can be done statically in front of your desk, or dynamically by doing walking lunges along a corridor.

  • I would feel so silly doing things like lunges at work though, I just try and get up for a drink often – Aequitas May 21 '15 at 11:38
  • @aequitas: I do it. People get over it pretty quickly. They'll ask you about it the first few times, then it'll become normal. – Rikki May 23 '15 at 22:39
  • @aequitas: it only feels silly because no one else does it. No one doing it is the reason their hip flexors are trashed from sitting all day, and that's the reason you want to stretch, so it's inherently "different". If everyone in a sedentary job were getting up to stretch every hour, sitting wouldn't cause the problems it does... – Rikki May 23 '15 at 22:42

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