To help with the painful upper back, lower back, achey wrists, and sore elbows, I turn to yoga. Here are some specific tips and videos I use to ease the ouchies caused by poor posture over my laptop at the kitchen table, or sitting on the couch, for hours at a time. I'm neither a doctor nor a physical therapist, so follow my advice with deference to your own body's needs and limitations. I've been doing yoga for a long time, and though I lack the strength for things like crow pose or headstand, I have a lot of natural stretchiness that helps me bend and twist into things like Eagle and Child's Pose.
Most of these videos are from a YouTube series called Yoga With Adrienne. After trying out a lot of different free, online yoga videos -- and with a good foundation from years and years of classes -- I found her videos to be my favorite. She's straightforward with her sequences, but friendly. She addresses the health problems with compassion and understanding. She's fun but not overly silly. Her videos are short and to-the-point without being brusque or confusing. I find them useful for both beginners and more advanced students.
Thanks to genetics, I've had a bad lower back since I was 19 years old. My mother has the exact same problem in the exact same spot that manifested at the exact same age; same with her mother. My second child, the 2 1/2-year old Juban Princeling, was so big when I was pregnant with him that he tore open my abdominal muscles and pulled on my lower back in an extremely painful way for the better part of nine months. The result was a chain reaction of problems I'm still coping with today: weak abdominal muscles, for which my lower back overcompensates to keep me upright, resulting in tight, painful hip flexors.
The bottom line: Working on your abdominal muscles helps strengthen your core and improve your overall posture. When your tummy is working to keep your back straight, your back has less work to do. And when it comes to toning abs, nothing is better than Pilates. I've used this exact video for years. It's only 10 minutes long, you can do it every day, and it tones your entire core.
Still, no matter how much I try to rebuild my abdominal muscles, I will have lower back problems for the rest of my life. This yoga video has been excellent in helping relieve even my worst lower back pain, and it's only 15 minutes long.
Upper Back and Shoulders
In recent months I've developed a lot of upper back pain as well: hot soreness right between my shoulder blades, at about the bra line. This video, another from Yoga With Adrienne, has done wonders for that. It's 12 minutes long.
A great yoga pose for the upper back and shoulders, which you can do on its own, is Eagle arms. The legs of Eagle pose (garudasana) can be tricky if you are a complete beginner, but the arms are fairly straightforward and a great way to open up and stretch the muscles in your shoulders and upper back. Follow this link for step-by-step instructions.
I know a lot of writers with such bad wrist problems -- including carpal tunnel -- that they can't do some of the most basic of yoga poses, like Downward Dog. This video from Yoga Journal presents a 17-minute flowing sequence that avoids putting pressure on wrists and hands.
If, like me, you neglect your wrists on a regular basis and then once in a while go, "Ow, my wrists hurt!" then this short, 3-minute, 40-second sequence is for you. A friend of mine who teaches yoga showed me some of the wrist stretches featured in this video and I'm not kidding when I say they changed my life. I've been typing for a long, long time, and for the past six years I've also been pushing a stroller uphill, not keeping my wrists straight and worrying more about protecting my lower back than proper arm and wrist alignment. So my poor wrists suffer. They suffer because their aches and pains usually pale in comparison to the agony in my lower back and hips. This video, though, is quick, and a good reminder to stretch out those sad, attention-starved joints between my arms and hands.
This is also a great article on specific yoga if you have carpal-tunnel syndrome.
Namaste, my friends.
What do you do to recover from the aches and pains of bending over a keyboard all the time?