That wonderful feeling of stretching your sore, tight, tense muscles overcomes your body as you sit at your desk. When you’re feeling stressed out, take a few minutes away from the task at hand and stretch in order to regroup and refocus. According to The American Psychological Association, 75 percent of Americans reported experiencing at least one symptom of stress per month in 2014. I sat down with Jacob Varney, a graduate of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a Bachelors of Science in Athletic Training, to hear what stretches he recommends people do anywhere to relax and rejuvenate.
1. Neck/Trapezius stretch
The neck and trapezius muscles often hold a lot of tension. These muscles can become sore due to poor posture, using your shoulder to support your phone, long hours at a computer, spending long hours driving and emotional stress. Stretching these muscles can relieve the tension and make you feel better all around.
Start sitting up straight with your head facing forward. Take your right arm, hold the left side of the top of your head and pull diagonally down toward your right hip. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side. Once done with each side, hold the back of your head and pull forward, so your chin touches your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat the circuit.
2. Supine Piriformis Stretch
The piriformis is a muscle in your gluteal region and helps rotate your legs and almost any other movement in your hips and legs. This can cause sciatica — symptoms of lower leg pain, usually tingling, numbness or weakness that go from the lower back and into the back of the leg — or other types of back or hip pain. Stretching this muscle and the muscles around it can loosen your hips and butt muscles. Most often this stretch is completed while lying down but can be completed in a seated position when it is not possible for you to lie down.
Stretch: While sitting or lying down, put your left knee at a 90 degree angle. Place the outside of your right ankle on your knee. Pull on your right leg (holding the knee and shin) and use resistance to keep it where it is. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite side. Repeat circuit three times. And complete two to three times a day.
3. Hamstring Stretch
The hamstring is a combination of three different muscles: the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus and the biceps femoris. The muscle group helps you extend your leg straight back and bend your knee. Stretching your hamstring can increase flexibility, decrease the chance of an injury and can help relieve back pain, Varney says.
Stretch: This stretch is normally done while lying down on your back, but it can be modified to be done while sitting.
Keep your right knee at a 90 degree angle and your foot on the floor. Straighten your left leg and let your foot rest on its heel. Lean forward until you feel a stretch in your left leg and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat the circuit three times.
Lie on your back with your legs straight and on the ground. Raise your left leg so that the bottom of your foot is toward the ceiling. Hold your hands together on the back of your left thigh and pull toward you until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the opposite leg. Repeat the circuit three times.
4. Wrist Flexor Stretch
The wrist flexors are the muscles in your arm that help you flex your wrist and move your fingers. These muscles help you move your hand downward. WebMD says that stretching these muscles can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, plus, it helps you loosen up if you have been using a computer or writing for a long period of time. This stretch can be done at any time and has potential to help writers block and alleviate stress.
Start by extending your left arm out and facing your palm toward the ceiling. Then, keeping your arm in the same position, point your fingers toward the ground. Now, with your right hand, hold the fingers on your left hand and pull back toward your elbow until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite arm and repeat the circuit three times.
5. Wrist Extensor Stretch
The wrist extensors, similar to the wrist flexors, are muscles that act on the wrist and fingers. These muscles help you move your hand upward. WebMD suggests stretching these muscles to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome as well. If you have been working at a computer, driving or holding things all day, this wrist extensor stretch will help you release tension in your wrists, hands and fingers.
Stretch: Extend your left arm out and face your palm toward the floor. Bend your wrist so that your fingers are pointing at the floor. Hold the fingers of your left hand with your right hand and pull toward your elbow until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat for the right side. Repeat the circuit three times.
Do these stretches whenever you are feeling stressed out or need a few minutes to unwind. Varney says they will help increase your flexibility, range of motion and blood circulation, as well as reduce your aches and pains. He suggests doing them three times every day, even when you feel like you don’t need them. Whether you stand or sit most of the day, staying in one position can take a toll on your body. Stretching will help reduce the tension that comes with being in one position and will help you to feel your best.