When your job requires you to sit at a desk all day, it can really take a toll on your spine and leave you with back and neck pain. On top of that, our busy lifestyles make it difficult to get in the exercise we need. While you should still make an effort to exercise outside of the office, these quick stretches can help you relieve back pain and tension throughout the day.
1) No hands!
Don’t use your hands when you stand up and sit down ― it’s more of a challenge than you might think! You’ll really feel it if you do this move repeatedly. Try sitting up and standing down repeatedly while answering phone calls and when getting up throughout the day.
2) Look with your eyes, not your head.
This is important whether you are at your desk or texting on your phone. When you get caught up in what you’re doing, you tend to hunch over without realizing it. It’s important to keep your computer monitor at eye level so you aren’t tempted to slouch while you’re working. Ideally, you should also hold your phone at eye level to avoid text neck, but your arm can get pretty tired if you need to hold your phone up for a long time. If having your phone or computer monitor at eye level isn’t an option, that doesn’t mean you need to hunch over. Train yourself to look down with just your eyes, not your whole head. It may take some getting used to, but your neck and shoulders will thank you.
3) Shrug your shoulders and shake your head (at your boss is optional).
Shoulder shrugs are great for neck and shoulder tension. Lift your shoulders up to your ears, hold them there for a second, then drop them. Repeat the shrugs a few times, then shake your head as if you were saying “yes” and “no.” Shake your head up and down a few times, then side to side. This really helps to release the tension from hunching over your computer.
4) Do the twist.
This move helps to stretch the spine. Hold onto your desk with your left hand and place your right hand on the back of your chair, twisting your upper body to the right. Try to stretch as far around as you can, but not so far that it’s very uncomfortable or painful. Hold for 10 seconds, then release and repeat on your left side.
5) Go on and give yourself a hug.
Place your left hand on your right shoulder and your right hand on your left shoulder. Hold this stretch for a few seconds to release the tension between the shoulder blades. Next, lift one of your knees, bringing it up toward the chest. Grasp the back of your thigh with your hands to pull your leg toward you, keeping your back straight. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then repeat with your other leg. You’ll feel the stretch in your lower back and glutes.
6) Extend those legs.
While sitting, lift one leg straight out in front of you so that it is parallel to the floor and hold for two seconds, then repeat with the other leg. Repeat with each leg at least 15 times. This move will engage the leg and core muscles. To make it more challenging, extend both legs at the same time, pointing and flexing your toes five times before releasing the stretch. This move can even be done throughout the day as you are answering your emails.
By doing these moves throughout the day, either during or in between your work tasks, you’ll find that you feel better, sit up straighter, and have less tension in your back. Try setting alarms for yourself to stretch every hour, or do some stretching in between tasks. They may seem like small moves, but they can make a big difference in how you-and your back-feel throughout the day.
For more on healthy living and prevention, visit Michael A. Gleiber, MD