Lockdowns have resulted in huge lifestyle changes for millions of people in Australia. You might be set up at home for work or study, taking on home improvement tasks that you wouldn’t ordinarily do, or upping the ante on your exercise routine – all of which can impact your body. Melbourne-based physiotherapist Alice Baquie offers some simple stretches to help prevent lockdown injuries – you’ll only need to spend 30 to 90 seconds on each one to feel better and less stiff.
For lower back pain, try a gentle spine twist
If you have a sub-optimal working-from-home set-up (using a laptop in bed, or iPad on the couch for example), or you’ve taken on some manual labour tasks that you wouldn’t usually, your lower back can be the first place you’ll feel the effects. It might feel tight, compressed and painful. Lie on the floor to alleviate compression in your lumbar spine. Stretch out your arms. Lift your legs into a table-top position with knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Gently move your legs from side to side, maintaining the 90-degree angle. Turn your head to look in the opposite direction to your legs. Aim for 10 repetitions and build depth as your spine warms up.
For lower limb injuries, try supported leg raises
With gyms and fitness studios closed, many more people are exercising outdoors – this means an increase in impact sports, which can lead to common injuries like shin splints, plantar fasciitis and stress fractures (especially for those who are upping their step count). If you’ve recently started running, it’s possible you’re feeling stress in the lower limbs. Leg raises in a supported setting – which can be achieved by holding a chair, for example – provide mobility and strength. It’ll help release ankle joints and strengthen calves. Stand on one leg facing a chair. Barefoot is best for stability. Raise yourself up and down. Aim for 10 reps per leg.
For neck and shoulder pain, try these neck stretches
In most cases, neck and shoulder pain is postural – which can be impacted by how your neck is positioned when you’re looking at your phone or other screens. (“Tech neck”, as it’s come to be known.) This pressure on your muscles is compounded by the stress of lockdowns and homeschooling. The upper trap muscles often tighten, which can affect both the neck and shoulders. These simple neck stretches can act as a reset for the tension build up and help to reduce joint and muscle stiffness. Look forward with your head centred on your shoulders. Stretch the side of your neck, using your arm to gently apply pressure. Aim for two sets of 20 seconds on each side. Be careful not to overstretch.
For tight hips, try this hip flexor to hamstring stretch
Being more sedentary (more sitting or lying down for example) or increasing activities such as walking, cycling or running can shorten and tighten your hip flexors, leaving you feeling cramped and stiff through the pelvis. Tight hip flexors can impact your posture, lower back and knees, so it’s important to manage them early on. This flowing stretch – moving slowly forwards and backwards – impacts hip and hamstring mobility to help release tension. Start with one leg on the ground and one stretched out into a forward lunge position. Move gently forward into a deeper lunge. Then pull back and straighten your leg with your front foot flexed. Aim for four repetitions per leg.
For upper-back postural pain, try bow and arrow stretches
At home, and especially during snap lockdowns, we may not have our workspaces set up in an ergonomically effective way. Without access to supportive chairs or appropriately sized monitors, we can end up with rounded shoulders, which can cause a cramped and stiff feeling between the shoulder blades. Middle back pain and tightness can creep up on you slowly and can be persistent, affecting your overall posture. With regular rotation-based moves we can counteract rounded-shoulder symptoms and stay mobile through the upper back. Lie down on your side with your knees bent at a right angle. Stretch your arms out to the side. Pull one arm back as though you’re pulling an arrow. There will be a gentle stretch in your spine. Aim for 15 repetitions per side.
For anyone experiencing any trauma injuries – such as ankle sprains, disc bulges or knee swelling – it’s important to seek professional help from a doctor or physiotherapy provider to ensure you don’t put any additional strain on your body.
Alice Baquie runs an online physiotherapy-led Pilates program. See this 10-minute stretching routine via her Pilates at Home Free Session.