Flexibility is one of the most important aspects to nurture if we want to keep moving and avoid injuries at any stage of our lives. The more flexible we are, the better our overall biomechanics will be. Unfortunately, in today’s times we spend much more time indoors sitting at a desk or in front of the television. This can have a negative effect on our mobility and posture. Too much sitting causes our hips and chest to become stiff, leading to many other pains and aches. That’s why it is so important to focus on these two critical body hinges when we do our daily stretching routines.
The two critical body hinges to stretch for optimal health
The chest and hips do a lot of work all throughout the day. Whether we are sitting and standing up, or opening and closing a door, these main muscle groups are always busy keeping us stable and moving. We are a flexion-based society and because the chest and hips are involved in most of our activities, they are in a constant state of being flexed or tightened. If we don’t balance out these two muscle groups by stretching or massage, other muscles in the body like the glutes and shoulders will overcompensate. This can lead to injuries, neck pain, lower back pain, piriformis syndrome and knee pain.
Why sitting so much is restricting us and making us less flexible
Sitting and slouching in front of a desk the whole day without taking breaks to move will eventually shorten the hip flexors, reduce oxygen intake, and encourage poor posture. In the long term this can cause more chronic issues like permanent back pain, reduced mobility, feeling tired all the time, low mood and productivity. Here’s why:
- Sitting, especially with bad posture, closes the chest. The diaphragm tightens and we struggle to breathe deeply, reducing our oxygen intake
- Sitting promotes a “humpback” posture that causes shoulder and neck pain, and even neck spasms
- Improper lymphatic drainage, because of a restricted thoracic outlet, can lead to toxin build-up, water retention and tiredness
- Sitting limits the blood flow to the legs and further promotes poor waste removal and lymphatic drainage
- Hip flexors become tight and shortened and lead to low back pain, sciatica, poor spinal stability, and an increased risk of knee injuries
- Poor blood flow and reduced movement in the lower body can contribute to issues like constipation and poor digestion
The best stretches for opening up the chest
Stretching exercises that help to stretch out the chest and release muscle tension are easy to do in the comfort of your own home without the need of any fancy equipment. These stretches will help to increase oxygen and blood flow, helping you to feel alert and more productive. Try these three stretches at home:
- Doorframe stretch
- Towel chest stretch
- Camel pose
The best stretches for opening up the hips
Stretch exercises for your hip flexors will help to improve your posture and mobility while giving your spine proper support.
- Half pigeon
- Low and crescent lunge
- Happy baby
What’s in it for you?
Why should you take the time to stretch your hips and chest if you rarely feel that they are causing you pain? Well, if you are sitting at a desk the whole day and complained about back pain or leg stiffness at some point, these two muscle groups are the most-likely culprits. Stretching improves flexibility but here’s a few more benefits you will get by looking after your chest and hip muscles:
- Prevent pain and injury before they happen by taking remedial action
- Better blood flow and oxygen delivery throughout the body will decrease fatigue and improve productivity
- Opening up the ribcage through stretching can enhance visceral function
- Better lymphatic drainage and toxin removal
- Overall better flexibility and mobility, and improved biomechanics
If you still feel that you are having trouble getting your chest and hip muscles properly stretched at home, get in touch with us. We will guide you through the exercises and give you some helpful self-massage tips to practice in the meantime – until you are able to book a massage with one of our therapists again.