Many of us spend the majority of our waking day sitting in front of a computer or relaxing in front of the television. Sitting in front of a computer every day can wreak havoc on our bodies, especially since most of us don’t have the ideal ergonomic set-up. This lack of variation, along with hunching the shoulders and an uncomfortable chair, can cause headaches, back pain, and tension in your neck and shoulders.[i] Yet, regular breaks with stretching can help keep your neck and shoulder muscles flexible, strong and healthy to reduce the risk of muscle strain or joint injury.[ii] The following five flexibility exercises are designed to be done at your desk, with an emphasis on neck, back, shoulder, hips, and glutes.
- Wrist flexor stretch – While seated, extend your right arm forward at shoulder height. While keeping your elbow straight, grab your right hand with your left and slowly bend your wrist backwards until you feel a stretch in the bottom of your forearm. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Then bend the wrist downwards until a stretch is felt on top of the arm and hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.
- Chest stretch – Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet hip-distance apart. Reach your hands back to grasp the back of your chair with palms facing you. Draw your bellybutton in towards your spine with a straight back and press your chest forward. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds or for a time that feels comfortable.
- Shoulder stretch – Place your hands on your thighs while sitting up straight. Roll your shoulder toward the front and then up to your ears, and then drawing them back and down. The shoulder blades should be squeezed together while you bring your shoulders around in a clock-wise motion. Repeat a few times and then reverse directions.
- Neck rotations – Sit up straight with your hands resting on your thighs. Tilt your head back and gaze towards the ceiling, rotating your head clockwise. Bring your head all the way around until you’ve made a full rotation. Be sure to drop your chin to your chest at the halfway point. Repeat the same steps but in a counter clockwise motion.
- Low-back rotation stretch – Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, twisting your upper body so your shoulders rotate to one side. Use the chair for support, holding on to get a deep muscle stretch. Go as far as you feel comfortable. Hold for 30 seconds, and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Though attention to your work is important, it’s even more important to make time for stretching. Incorporate the stretches above into your daily work routine, and see what it can do for any muscle or joint pain. For more resources, check out the Advil Resources Center for more articles, tips, and tricks to make pain a distant memory.
i. Calling all desk jockeys: Stretching to ease neck and shoulder pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/calling-all-desk-jockeys-stretching-to-ease-neck-and-shoulder-pain. Accessed 04/29/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 1, paragraph 1 in the source PDF.
ii. The importance of stretching. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching. Accessed 04/29/2020. Referenced text is highlighted on page 1 in source PDF.