Top tips for tight muscles

At this time of year our remedial massage therapists see an influx of clients with back, neck and shoulder tension from spending long periods of time at a desk or sleeping poorly. Think EOFY chaos, HSC trials and cold weather making many of us “curl” into a ball to sleep.

Posture is key

Whether you’re at a desk, driving or sleeping –  or in any position that you maintain for long periods of time – it’s important to have good form. Staying in the same position for hours can result in our muscles tightening in this new “memorised” position. To help relieve this postural tension, here are a few tips:

For your lower back

Always make sure your hips are evenly aligned when you sit or sleep. Having your sit bones even slightly uneven (1-2cm) can place strain on your pelvis and back.
  • Try: 
    • Square your hips before sitting down – place your feet  squarely in front of your chair so that when you sit your hips will also be square. If you’re hopping into a car or sliding onto a chair that doesn’t allow you to stand in front of it easily, sit first and then ensuring your feet are placed squarely on the floor in front of you, do a quick semi-stand to readjust the hips, before sitting back down.
    • Cross your legs at the ankle and not the knee. If this is too uncomfortable, aim to cross your legs for an even period of time on both sides.
    • If sleeping on your side, stack your hips evenly –  bend your bottom leg and keep your top leg straight so that your hips stay aligned. If you reverse this (top leg bent with bottom leg straight), your lower back becomes twisted.
  • Avoid: sitting with one hip bearing more weight than the other.

For your upper back, shoulders and neck

Typing, holding a steering wheel or sleeping curled inwards, rounds your shoulders and places strain on your upper back and neck.

  • Try:
    • Roll your shoulders every hour when you’re at a desk – this will help to reset them back in a neutral, “unhunched” position.
    • Slide your shoulders blades down your back – Imagine your shoulder blades are anchored to your hips or are two elevators descending down your spine; the aim is to keep them from rising back up.
    • Stretch your pec muscles when you stand – if your pec/chest muscles are tight, it’s hard to keep your shoulders back. You can stretch them out using a doorframe or pillar for resistance; place your arm or hand on the frame/pillar with your body square to the surface and GENTLY lunge/lean your body forward and away from the surface so that your chest and elbow/hand are stretching further apart. Breath out as you go.
    • Sleep with your spine in neutral alignment. If you’ve ever done pilates you are more than likely familiar with placing your spine in a neutral position – this means aligning your side profile so that your ears are in line with the point of your shoulders, your hip, knee and ankle, and in front profile so that your nose is in alignment with your sternum and pubic bone and that your pelvis isn’t tilted too far forward or back. While it’s hard to monitor your posture whilst you sleep, becoming aware of your posture is half the battle. Check your posture before you drift off to sleep and again when you wake up and then adjust as needed. Eventually your subconscious will remember this new posture for longer.
    • Check your pillow –  pillows can make a HUGE difference in getting a good night’s sleep. If a pillow is too thick or too thin, your neck is forced out of neutral alignment and you can wake with neck tension which can cause headaches.
    • Avoid:  sleeping on your stomach. 

For the whole body

  • Stay hydrated even when it’s cold: We often forget to drink water in the cooler months because we don’t feel thirsty. This can result in us becoming more dehydrated than in warm weather.
  • Try:
    • Keep a glass or a bottle of water on your desk. When you finish your glass, roll your shoulders, and then stretch your legs and pecs when you go to refill your glass.
    • At night, ensure that you’re well hydrated before going to bed. Dehydration can affect neural impulses and brain waves, which can cause strange dreams and poor sleep,  and also lead to you waking with a headache.

Need more help?

If you’re not sure about one of the tips above or would like more information, please ask one of our remedial massage therapists when you’re in next. We’d be only too happy to help.

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