Desk-based by day – Athlete by night? Great Upper Back Stretching Regime.

Are you desk-based all day either at work or studying and an athlete by night? Your posture from sitting all day could be killing your performance when competing. This weeks blog will focus on back mobility stretches that you can do to help prevent posture related pain with sitting all day, but also decrease your chance of injury in your upper and lower back when competing in your chosen sport.

“Your posture from sitting all day could be killing your performance when competing”

Many recreational, semi professional and unfortunately some professional athletes still have to work or study during the day.  This means that long hours are spent sitting in habitually slouched postures putting a lot of strain on your body including your neck, shoulders and lower back.

The headaches you are experiencing could in fact be directly from your poor posture and stiff upper back not to mention the tight lower back you are feeling during training.

Feeling Nervy?

Secondly, the tension on the nerves and muscles through the back can affect other areas of the body due to referred pain.  If the spine and its muscles become tight and stiff the nerves can become trapped. This means nerve pathways may be effected which can prevent normal signal to other muscles and can therefore lead to poor muscle activation effecting performance or causing injury.

For example it is quite common for footballers – (AFL and Soccer) to have hamstring injuries which are not purely from an isolated hamstring tear. Sometimes this may actually be from a stiff lower or upper back from poor posture all week causing the muscles to tighten up leading to the nerve responsible for hamstring activation to get trapped or inhibited.

Poor range of movement?

There are a lot of us that need a lot of upper back rotation in our sports as well for quick change of direction and twisting at speed especially in sports like basketball, netball and cricket (batting and bowling). If you don’t have enough range of movement in your upper back you are more likely to jam up these joints when you rotate or twist in your lower back to compensate. This compensation puts more load on your lower back and can lead to things like stress fractures or referred pain down into your legs.

Throwing sports are also inhibited by stiff backs as when you throw or serve in tennis for example, you get some of your shoulder range of movement by your back arching and rotating. If this doesn’t happen because you are still stiff from working/studying all day you will either put a lot of strain on your back or potentially force your shoulder joint into a position that can cause a shoulder injury.

 What to do about it

All it takes is 5 minutes at the end of your working day or before your gym/training workout to complete some of the exercises pictured below to help prevent these types of injuries. They help to open out your chest, prevent your back from becoming stiff and help improve its mobility and flexibility especially with rotation.

I can’t recommend the Foam Roller more highly for these exercises as the rigid surface and ability to roll adds extra leverage to the exercise. I have tried to give alternative options if you don’t have one but most gyms have them available so at least try to use the foam roller when you can.

 

5 BEST:

Desk Based Mobility:

These are great to break up your constant sitting/slouched posture and open up your joints through your spine. Completing these every hour or so would be ideal. Also a good reminder to re-set your posture at your desk.

 

Upper back Rotations.

Upper back Rotations.

Leaning backwards and reaching arms back over head.

Leaning backwards and reaching arms back over head.

 

Side Opener

Side Opener

 

Thread the Needle:

One of my favourites, it’s great for a shoulder stretch and also to help the rotation through the upper back. Great for those sports where you need to rotate/twist; Basketball, Netball, AFL, Cricket, Tennis, etc. Demonstrated with a foam roller for extra leverage but is still a good stretch without one.

Foam roller starts on the outside. Then reach through as far as you can.

Foam roller starts on the outside. Then reach through as far as you can.

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Thoracic Foam Roller Stretch – Vertical

Great to open out your chest/pec’s and extend the upper back after being in a slouched position all day. This stretch is easy as just literally lying over a foam roller or a rolled up towel. Very effective in opening out the joints in your spine.  I would recommend lying for 2 minutes or more with your arms out or moving your arms over your head in this position.

 

Bottom at the very bottom then lying down your head should fit on. Relax back with your palms up so you can stretch through your back and pecs. Make snow angel arms for an extra stretch.

Bottom at the very bottom then lying down your head should fit on. Relax back with your palms up so you can stretch through your back and pecs. Make snow angel arms for an extra stretch.

 

Thoracic Foam Roller Stretch – Horizontal

Same as above but with the foam roller lying horizontal. Start approximately where a bra strap would be on a female and lean back over this spot 4-5 times. Then move the Foam roller/towel just above or below this spot or to wherever you feel the tightness the most. I would avoid going too low down into your lower back – just stick to your upper back.

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Upper Back Rolling:

Lying with the foam roller horizontal in the middle of your upper back lift your bottom off the floor and use your feet to roll you along. Great to open up your upper back but also feels great as it massages your muscles as well.

 

Starting with the Foam roller near your bra strap area lift your bottom off the floor and roll along your upper back.

Starting with the Foam roller near your bra strap area lift your bottom off the floor and roll along your upper back.

 

About the author

Julia Allan
Julia Allan

I'm a physiotherapist working majority in the sports field. I'm based in Melbourne working with a variety of different athletes which is currently predominantly with the Victorian Under 19 netball side and the Victorian Fury netball side through Eltham Physio Centre. I also play high level netball myself in the State League competition (VNL) here in Melbourne and I want to share my knowledge to help all athletes prevent injury and improve performance.

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