Tradies: Feel Awesome While You Work!

Written by Occupational Physiotherapist Kym Siddons.

This month is Tradies National Health month so let’s celebrate all your hard work!

We know you put yourselves under a huge amount of physical strain each day and, as a physio, I see many of you struggling with tightness and soreness as a result.

In fact, it’s a sad fact that 55% of tradies think aches and pains are just part of their job* and I want to help you change that!

It’s much easier to prevent an injury than deal with it after it’s set in, so try and slow down enough to recognise when you’re placing strain on your body.

Then you can take action- like readjusting your position, reducing your load or stretching yourself out and taking a micro-break.

Ideally your work will gradually condition your body so you become ‘Fit for Work’, feeling and performing better each day.

I like to call this developing ‘physical resilience’ in your body, so you can do all the things you want to do- at work and home- and feel great while you do them!

This will only happen, however, if you don’t overload your muscles, ligaments and joints more than they can recover from- before you next load them up again next time.

Taking snippets of time out during your workday- even just a few moments here and there- plus aiming for some time to unwind your muscles after work can really help.

So, here’s a couple of stretches to inspire and help you get started: You can watch this video and give them a try, or follow along below

Upper back, chest and shoulders- If your mid back is stiff from being bent forwards a lot, it’s only a matter of time before your neck and low back feel the pinch.

Here’s my favourite way to easily loosen it up on the go:

  • Lock your fingers together and place your hands behind your head so your elbows are out wide.

  • Open your elbows and chest nice and wide, Breathing in and out deeply for about 10 seconds.

  • Relax your elbows then repeat, taking your elbows a little wider each time as comfort allows.

Neck- our poor neck often suffers from hanging forwards while we work. This stretch can really help the tight muscles across the top of your shoulders and neck.

  • Position your head so your ears are over your shoulders and gently draw your neck tall from the crown (don’t lift your chin up).

  • Slowly lower one shoulder down and slightly back until you feel a stretch. If you’d like more stretch in your neck, keep that shoulder DOWN and tilt your head down towards your opposite shoulder.

  • Each time you breathe in and out, take your shoulder a little lower.

  • Hold 10-15 seconds and repeat x3 each side.

Low Back- we often feel sore across our low back because of tightness in our hip flexors at the front from leaning or bending forwards. Here’s 2 stretches you can do anytime that will help.

  • Hip Flexor: Stand with one foot behind, weight on the ball of that foot (heel off the ground). Keeping both hips facing forwards, tuck your ‘tailbone’ under (imagine you have a tail and tuck between your legs) until you feel a stretch in the front of your BACK HIP / THIGH.  Hold 10-15 seconds and repeat x3 each side.

  • Low Back: Reach up overhead to grasp with both hands on a car door, post or door frame. Push your hips out to one side and a little backwards until you feel a stretch in your trunk, low back or hips. You’ll be hanging off your anchor, making a ‘C-curve’ with your body and can manoeuvre your hips forwards or backwards until you feel a stretch in the area that feels good for you. Hold 10-15 seconds, breathing deeply, and repeat x3 each side.

    Forearms: Many tradies get sore elbows from repetitive gripping and using tools repetitively. These stretches can help;

  • Inner forearm and elbow (e.g golfer’s elbow): with arms by your sides, bend your wrists and fingers up so you’re in a ‘Penguin waddle’ position. Shoulders stay down, wrists up and arms straight as you take your arms away from your body, back and forth into a slight stretch. Do not hold this stretch, it helps glide of your nerves as your stretch your inner forearms. Repeat x20.

  • Top of forearm and outer elbow (Eg tennis elbow): with arms by your sides, rotate forearms so you’re the back of your hands are touching your thighs. Bend your wrists and fingers up.

  • Keeping your shoulders down, arms straight and wrists up, take your arms away from your body so you feel a stretch down the top of your forearms.

    Do not hold this stretch, it helps glide of your nerves as your stretch your outer forearms. Repeat x20.

As always, do not push into pain, just stretch and please see a health professional if you’re stiffness or soreness increases or doesn’t go away within a couple of weeks… early intervention is the key!

If you’d like more information of helping you or your team be ‘Fit for Work’ please reach out to me [email protected]

Reference:

*Australian Tradies – Health Research report June 2018 – a national survey of tradies by Empirica Research for the Australian Physiotherapy Association.