How to make Thanksgiving traveling more forgiving for your spine

By the SAC’s health and wellness professional Dr. Michael Li, DACRB

The human body is designed for movement. Holding any one posture for a prolonged period of time increases stiffness and tension. As a result, sitting is a common cause of neck and low back pain. Many companies advertise that their chair will prevent back and neck pain. However, there is no perfect chair, except the one that get you out of it frequently. As a general rule, you should avoid sitting for longer than 20 minutes without getting up. If you sit for longer than that you begin to accumulate a debt in your tissues that will have to be paid; but if you perform these “micro-break” exercises below you can erase that debt.

 

So during the holiday season, when you find yourself sitting in your car or on a plane for hours on end; I hope these “micro-break” exercises will make travelling more bearable. Here we go:

 

The standing overhead arm reach

Your starting position:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.

 

The movement:

  • Gently raise your arms overhead.
  • Take a deep breath in, through your nose, and hold the breath.
  • Reach your arms up to the ceiling as high as possible without letting your breath go.
  • Then let the breath go as you drop your arms

 

Repetition:

2-3 reps/ set; 5-6x/day or every 30 minutes when sitting for extended periods of time (see Fig.1)

Fig1_ThanksgivingDrLiBlog

 

 

The standing Brugger exercise

Your starting position:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your feet turn out slightly
  • Tuck you chin in slightly like you are nodding “yes”.

 

The movement:

  • Breath in (through your nose) to your abdomen.
  • Then exhale slowly while at the same time turning your palms out, with fingers extended (open your hands) as much as you can.

 

Repetition:

2-3 reps/ set; 5-6x/day or every 30 minutes when sitting for extended periods of time (see Fig.2)

Fig2_ThanksgivingDrLiBlog

 

 

 

The sitting pelvic tilt (for those who cannot get out from the chair, aka inside a car)

Your starting position:

  • Sit comfortably with some space behind the small of your back

 

The movement:

  • Rock your pelvis back and forth, and from side to side.
  • Don’t hold at the end range position. This is not a stretch.

 

Repetition:

10-12 reps/ set; 5-6x/day or every 60 minutes when sitting for extended periods of time (see Fig.3)

Fig3_ThanksgivingDrLiBlog

 

The sitting “plank”

Your starting position:

  • Sit comfortably with some space behind the small of your back
  • Put your hands at the side of your chairs/seats and feet flat on the ground.

 

The movement:

  • Push down on the side of your seat (passenger); push down on your steer wheels (driver) as hard as you can
  • Hold the push and do 5 deep breath; in through the nose, out through the mouth. It is a forceful exhale. Pretend you are blowing out candle when you exhale.

 

Repetition:

5 reps/ set; 5-6x/day or every 60 minutes when sitting for extended periods of time (see Fig.4)

Fig4_ThanksgivingDrLiBlog

 

 

 

 

Please keep your focus on the road when you are driving. If you are the driver, please take caution when you are attempting the sitting exercises. If you can pull over and take a rest stop, get out of the car and walk. That’s the best exercise you can do to counter the sitting. Happy Holidays!!

 

 

Dr. Li has been taking care of the SAC staff and members since 2010. You can find him at the lobby performing injury screen for members every 3rd Tuesday of the month. His practice, Mobility Plus Sports Rehab, is conveniently located about 10 minute walk from the SAC. You can find out more about him and his clinic at mobilityplussportsrehab.com. He can be reached by info@mobilityplussportsrehab.com.  

 ThanksgivingDrLiBlog_LogoGraphic

    

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