Seattle is known to tourists for flying fish, rainy days, and a great cup of coffee. But us non-tourists know the greater Seattle area for one thing above all: TRAFFIC. And let’s be honest, it’s the worst. A 6 mile commute can be 45 minutes and multiple cycles of stop lights that barely get three cars through.
Everyone has their own ways of coping with the stop and go; favorite podcasts, heated seats, singing along to your favorite guilty pleasure pop song (we don’t judge). But no one can escape the discomfort that comes from sitting all day at a desk, and then sitting in the car for a long commute home: neck and shoulder tension, lower back pain and other annoying aches.
Those endless stop light cycles can be your best friend for helping to alleviate those pesky aches and pains. The average stop light is 2 minutes long. Use those 2 minutes to strengthen, stretch, and decompress after a long day. Your body will thank us, and it will make that commute a little more bearable.
Headaches- Neck Elongation: Tuck your chin in slightly and lengthen your neck as if someone is pulling you up from above by a ‘ponytail,’ aiming your ears to be over your shoulders. This helps prevent forward head posture which can place stress on your neck and upper back muscles and even lead to headaches. Repeat 5-10 times holding 5 seconds each.
Shoulder and Neck Tension- Scapular Retraction/Depression: Sitting up tall, squeeze your shoulder blades down and back as if you are tucking them into your back pockets, without arching your back. Helps with decreasing shoulder and neck tension and prevent postural related injuries. Repeat 5-10 times holding 5 seconds each.
Low Back Pain- Isometric Abdominal Strengthening: Draw your belly button toward your spine like you are putting on tight jeans. This helps add tone to your transverse abdominal muscles of your core which can help prevent low back discomfort. Remember not to hold your breath! Repeat 5-10 times holding 5 seconds each.
All of these can be done 5-10 times, holding for 5 seconds each; depending on how much time you have at the stop light. They should not cause any pain.
Of course, always obey traffic laws and drive safely, ideally these stretches would be performed by a passenger. Stretches should never take away from your focus on the road nor comprise your driving ability. Come visit one of our physical therapists for more tips and tricks for pesky pains.