4 Ways To Soothe Sore Muscles & Stiff Joints After All That Sitting
While some more people are starting to head back into the office, many are still working from home for the foreseeable future. This aspect of our new normal has its pros and cons: While it's often easier to control noise levels and distractions when you're in your own space, sitting at home all day can take a toll on mental and physical health.
How "extensive sitting" causes tension throughout the body.
Say what you will about commutes, but they keep people active during the workweek—especially those who walk, bike, or take public transportation to the office. Larger events, conferences, and work gatherings do the same. Without them, it's easy to go the whole day only moving from your bed to your desk to your couch and back to your bed. "Our bodies are not built for such a sedentary existence," R. Alexandra Duma, DC, DACBSP, a team USA sports chiropractor who works at FICS recovery studio in NYC, tells mbg.
According to Duma, sitting and looking at a screen for an extended period of time (like the 6.4 hours a day the average American adult spent sitting in 2019) causes the back to curve and shoulders to round forward. "This position over time can cause wear and tear and put added stress on our spinal discs and surrounding structures such as ligaments and joints," she says. It also leads to a nagging sense of stiffness throughout the day and makes us more prone to injury.
How to release tension and soothe stiffness throughout the day.
1. Take a hemp supplement:
While hemp oil is best known for its stress-reducing, mood-supporting benefits, the extract can also help with pain, swelling, and discomfort in muscles and joints.
This is due to hemp oil's plant compounds called phytocannabinoids, which can help relieve inflammation and support balance in the body.* In one animal study, arthritic mice that were given phytocannabinoids had lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines than those who were not.*
mindbodygreen's hemp+ supplement combines organic hemp oil with vitamin D, which also helps manage inflammation, for a relaxing supplement that can help ease the tension of daily life.* The nonpsychoactive supplement is safe to take during the workday, or any time you feel stiffness coming on.*
2. Break to stretch it out.
Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help keep the body nimble. Here are a few of Duma's go-to stretches for releasing the tension that different parts of your body hold while sitting:
- Cat-Camel (spine): Starting on all fours, focus on arching and extending your spine. You can also add a wrist/forearms mobilization by turning your palms in to face your knees. (To make sure there is no pain, start gradually.)
- Half-kneeling stretch (psoas): Get in position for this stretch by kneeling on the floor on one leg with your other leg bent at a right angle at the knee. Keep your back straight and your tailbone tucked under as you squeeze your glutes and shift your hips forward until you feel a stretch. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, breathing deeply. Then switch legs and repeat. Try to do this stretch 2 to 3 times a day.
- Pectoralis stretches (chest): Stand in the middle of a doorway with one foot in front of the other. Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle and place your forearm on the doorway. Shift your weight onto your front leg, leaning forward until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles. Play with the angles and bring your palms up and down, holding the stretch in different positions. You can also do this with both forearms if you can place them both on the doorway. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on each side. Try to do this stretch 3 to 5 times a day.
- Hip mobility seated (hips): While seated with a neutral spine position, cross your right foot over left. Gently fold over your hips with your back flat and gently push your right knee toward the floor with your right arm. To add more intensity, you can rotate toward your right and bring your chest lower. Repeat on each side.
3. Make an at-home recovery station.
We all know to stretch after a tough workout, but we should also be recovering after periods of intense inactivity. Consider investing in some recovery tools for the home and keeping them visible so you remember to use them at the end of long desk-side days. Some of mbg's top picks for at-home recovery include weighted blankets, foam rollers, and higher-tech recovery tool like Theraguns.
4. Switch up your work setup.
For a more ergonomic workplace setup, Duma recommends opting for a standing desk. To further engage the muscles as you work, stand on an uneven surface like a BOSU ball or balance board. "This can be great exercise for the small stabilizer muscles in your back," she says. "Also, as you stand, you can try to balance on one leg for a few seconds and then switch to the other side."
During WFH days, stiffness may feel inevitable, but it turns out there are plenty of things we can do to recover from all that sitting.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 articles on mbg, her work has appeared on Bloomberg News, Marie Claire, Bustle, and Forbes. She has covered everything from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping to a group of doctors prescribing binaural beats for anxiety. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.