Stories from Active Recovery

The Best Ways to Relieve WFH Aches and Pains, According to Our Editors

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerApril 1, 2020

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Photo: Getty Images/ franckreporter

There’s a particular kind of havoc that working from home wreaks on your body. You’re likely contorted into a non-ideal posture on a bed or couch all day long, and after a while you really start to feel its effects from your neck all the way down to your toes. Because of this, integrating a muscle recovery home remedy into your routine has become more important than ever—even though you might not be moving around as much as usual.

The good news? There are a lot of ways to give your bod exactly what it needs, without having to leave the house. With the help of some experts, we on team Well+Good  (where knowing about recovery is quite literally part of the job) have gotten very creative in the ways we’re treating our aches and pains from the comfort of our couches. From relieving jaw tension to combatting tech-neck, read on to see how we’re giving our bodies the love they need right now.

1. So. Much. Stretching.

“Sitting at home all day long without all of the regular movement that my body is used to has led to a lot of tightness and aches—despite trying my best to have proper WFH posture, there’s tension in my neck and lower back,” says beauty and fitness editor Rachel Lapidos. “To combat this as much as I can, I’m stretching pretty regularly throughout the day to keep my body loose and give it some relief, and doing yoga twice a day (on good days), because even mini yoga sessions help me to open up my body and decompress my spine.” If you’re feeling the same sort of tightness, try these stretches to combat sitting.

2. Jaw release

Personally, I’ve been holding all of the stress of this uncertain time in my jaw, and DIY massage has been saving me. I use a warm wash cloth to loosen the muscles, then slather on some facial oil and rub from my chin to my temples until I feel some relief. Tools like a jade roller, a gua sha, and even a tiny cork ball have also come into play, and my night-guard has never gotten more use.

3. Percussive therapy

“Two days into my new life of social distancing, I developed the wildest crick in my neck—We’re talking, can’t-rotate-my-head-90-degrees-to-the-right-and-definitely-no-sudden-movements-level of bad,” says executive editor Abbey Stone. “Normally I can take care of knots and aches with stretches and self-massage, but this one only subsided when I called in the big guns—literally, my Theragun.” The Theragun ($427) uses percussive therapy (aka rapid pulses) to relieve tension in your body. Stone (along with the entire rest of our editorial team) is a fan of using it on her neck and shoulders, but the Theragun app has loads of ideas for different ways to use it.

4. Hot baths

There are few things more relaxing than dipping into a hot bath after a long day, and now what better time to do it than when you’re stuck at home? “I internalize most, if not all, of my stress, so aches and pains are a real thing. With this being such a tumultuous time, I’ve been turning to hot bubble baths to calm me down and help relieve body pains,” says managing editor Samantha Leal. “It’s a nice way of signaling to my brain that it’s time to shut down from ‘work mode,’ and I incorporate things that also relax me: aromatherapy oils (my favorite is Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax, $48, for obvious reasons), candles that smell heavenly (Diptyque Jasmin, $68, or Bath and Body Works Stress Relief, $25, have been lifesavers), and Spotify’s “Chill Vibes” playlist. A glass of chianti doesn’t hurt. I emerge a new person, sans aches and (some) stress.” For an added dose of muscle relief, pour in some epsom salts, like Bathing Culture Big Dipper Mineral Bath ($30) to help reduce inflammation.

5. Gua Sha

“Since I don’t have my Gua Sha with me in quarantine, I’ve been keeping a spoon in the freezer. Then, either in the morning or before bed, I use the smooth back part the same way I use my gua sha tool to scrape over the tight parts of my neck and shoulders—moving it down and out,” says associate video producer Allie Short. “It’s great because you can control the pressure, and the coldness helps in relieving the tension.” There are a number of benefits associated with full-body Gua Sha, since it digs into your fascia—the system of connective tissue around your muscles—and helps loosen it up. For a move that will melt your neck muscles, if you turn your head to the side and scrape along your neck from basically your ear to your shoulder. “It feels so good,” says Short. You can also use a Gua Sha tool, like the Mount Lai Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool ($28) (or a good, old fashioned spoon) to treat your skin, since it helps break up mini-capillaries to create micro-trauma to the skin, which stimulates a healing response that brings elastin and collagen to the surface.

6. CBD

CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it ripe for addition into any recovery routine, work from home-related or otherwise. Freelance writer Erin Bunch swears by Sagely Naturals Relief and Recovery Cream ($38), which uses CBD, menthol, and peppermint to soothe and relieve muscles.”I have chronic right shoulder pain from spending hours of my life hunched over a keyboard, and I apply this cream before bed when the pain becomes most acute and distracts me from sleep,” she says. “It’s delightfully numbing.”

7. Self-massage

The best massage tool to keep in your arsenal? A $5 lacrosse ball. “I’m so tight from walking and sitting and doing nothing else that I basically just sit with my lacrosse ball all day,” says director of creative development Ella Dove. The best way to use a ball to get a deep-tissue massage is to place it on a hard floor (so, wood is better than carpet), sprawl the tight muscle on top of it, and roll slowly. For something slightly less intense, use it up against the wall or roll with your hands.

8. Hanging exercises

According to pros, one of the best things you can do to stretch out your spine is literally just hang out. “I haven’t been using my boyfriend’s pull-up bar for better upper body strength, but I do make a point of hanging from it the moment my spine starts to feel janky,” says staff writer Kells McPhillips. “It kind of feels like I’m a piece of taffy getting stretched out after crunching my spine all day. It’s heavenly.” Hanging uses your body weight to create more space between your joints, which will relieve tension in your elbows, shoulders, ribs, and vertebrae. If you don’t have a pull-up bar at home, try one of these equipment-free spinal stretches, instead.

If you’ve been spending your WFH days sitting criss-cross-applesauce, these stretches will help loosen up those hips. Plus, why you should probably think twice about being barefoot all day long

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