Sitting all day – particularly in the incorrect position – has been linked to aches and pains in the neck, shoulders and lower back. And unfortunately, once you start experiencing back pain, it’s easy to get stuck in a loop.
“Back pain causes muscle inhibition and abnormal movement patterns to develop,” explains Lyndsay Hirst, a trained physiotherapist who runs Your Pilates Physio. “These abnormal movement patterns and weaknesses can then cause future episodes of back pain if not treated with the right exercises.”
To help, Hirst has created a five-minute Pilates workout for HuffPost UK, which is designed to ease back pain and reduce the risk of future episodes.
“The exercises shouldn’t cause you any pain so if they do, stop them and seek advice from your health care provider,” she says. “You should also check with your health care provider before starting them to make sure they are suitable for you.”
These movements are designed to mobilise the spine, then stabilise the spine. Repeat the exercises regularly in the same order to get the best results.
Staring in a four-point kneel position, take a deep breath in, as you exhale tuck your tailbone under to feel the lower spine start to curl, continue to feel the spine lift towards the ceiling and feel your back arch until eventually you can let your head drop.
As you then inhale lift up the head, drop the chest and allow the rest of the spine to move slowly into the reverse position (with the tummy dropping towards the floor). Repeat this 5-6 times. Move within the range you feel comfortable with. You want to try and imagine each vertebrae moving individually.
Staying on your hands and knees, pull your shoulders away from your ears, tuck your chin in as though you are holding a tennis ball between your chin and chest. Imagine you are holding a tray of drinks on your back. Hold the tray of drink steady. Take a breath in, as you breath out extend your right leg back and your left arm forwards. If your tray of drinks wobble then try without the arm movement to begin with.
Inhale to return then exhale with the opposite arm and leg. Repeat 5-8 times on each side.
Lie down on your tummy with a small cushion supporting your forehead. Place your hands either side of the head support. Relax the shoulders away from the ears.
Inhale prepare, exhale push to lift your head and chest away from the floor, keeping your hips on the ground. You should feel your spine stretch. Take it to the point you feel comfortable, then inhale to return. If you experience any pain then don’t continue. Repeat 5-6 times.
Breast stroke preparations
Lie back down on your tummy, with your head supported on the folded cushion. arms rest by your side. Take a breath in to prepare. As you exhale lift the shoulders away from the floor, imagine pulling your shoulder blades down to the base of your spine, lift and hover your hands, then at the same time lift your head away from the cushion and your chest (if able), inhale to lower back to the floor. Repeat 5-8 times.
After lying on your tummy, it is important to open the spine back up again by bringing yourself back onto the hands and knees then drifting your hips back towards your heels. Do this slowly in case your back feels a little stiff or tight. Hold this position for 2-3 deep breaths.
Turn on to your back and rest a cushion under your head. Place your arms down by your side. Your knees should be bent. Imagine you have a spirit level across your lower tummy and a glass of water on your left knee. Inhale and prepare. As you exhale, let your right knee drop out to the side. keep the spirit level and glass of water still. Inhale to come back to centre. Imagine the glass of water is now on the right knee and let the left knee drop out to the side. Keeping the torso still is really important to allow the rotational stabilising muscles to work. Repeat 5-8 times each side.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.