Working at a desk all day every day can cause major back, neck, and shoulder issues as well as cause strain in other parts of the body. Repetitive activity, poor posture, and remaining in the same position can develop or aggravate musculoskeletal ailments. A desk job entails staying in one place while doing repeated activities. While being at a desk may seem like minimal activities are actually required, without the proper ergonomic work-station set up, you are at a higher risk of chronic pain, keeping your body in the same poor position for 8+ hours at a time.
When working at your desk you’re likely in a forward flexed posture when you’re seated, your hips are flexed, your head is inclined forward, your shoulders are rounded, and your spine is rounded in this position. What you need are stretches that are specific to office workers to help move your body, and avoid tension in certain areas of the body for long periods of time. These stretches are designed to stretch your body in the opposite direction from where it is seated. Below are some exercises that the Desert Edge Physical Therapy team recommends based on our expertise.
Because most of us spend so much of our time slumped forward, stretching the chest and shoulders may be one of the best workouts you can perform for your body.
Take your arms behind you and, if possible, knot your fingers together in a sitting or standing posture. Straighten your arms and raise them a few inches till you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds. If you have shoulder difficulties, stay away from this stretch or simply modify it so that you do not strain your injury further.
A resistance band can also be used and held overhead. Alternatively, place your forearms on each side of a doorway and gradually press forward until your chest stretches.
The form of your leg position will change based on how mobile your hip and knee joints are. The short adductor muscles at the front of the groin can be opened up by aiming for a 90° angle at the knee and hip. Your knees should be on the ground, about hip’s length apart. Reach your arms forward and allow your head to rest between your arms while you reach forward. As you ease into the stretch, notice your spine stretching, you should feel like you are lengthening your body through this stretch.
Though we may not experience stiffness in our chests as a result of sitting all day, a few chest exercises can help us improve our posture and allow us to take a few deep breaths which can help reduce stress and tension while resetting the body and mind a bit.
Interlock your fingers behind your back while standing with your arms at your sides. Arms should be straightened. Slowly elevate your clasped hands, keeping your arms straight, until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Your elbows can also be rotated inwards and your palms turned away from you. Hold this position for a minimum of 10-15 seconds. Repeat the process twice more.
While shoulder shrugs improve circulation, this upper back action stretches all of the muscles between the shoulder blades, as well as the traps and shoulders.
Stretch your arms straight out and twist your hands such that the palms face away from each other when seated or standing. Cross your arms so that your hands are squeezed together, engage your abs, round your back, and reach away while relaxing your head.
Instead of collapsing, envision yourself curving up and over an imaginary ball. For 10 to 30 seconds, hold this stretch. If twisting the arms isn’t your thing, just wrap your fingers together.
After long days at a desk, these muscular areas are especially prone to tightness. To keep ’em long, here’s a morning and after-work stretch. Kneel down on the ground (top of the shins and feet as your base, torso straight). Pick up your left leg and place it on the floor with the knee just above the ankle. As you extend your body toward the wall in front of you, sliding the knee forward, keep both hips horizontally aligned. Your calf and Achilles may feel stretched. Support yourself by placing your hands on the top of your left leg. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Change sides. Repeat.
Sitting for lengthy periods of time causes our spine to round out in all the wrong places. The muscles that surround the lumbar spine become especially weak, and the hamstrings might become loose. Lie down on the floor or on a mat on your stomach. If you are looking to challenge yourself a bit, lift your legs off the floor, keep your legs on the floor for a simple, less strenuous version. Interlock your fingertips behind your neck by bending your elbows (thumbs on either side of your neck, pointing towards your upper back). Look ahead with your chin up. Inhale while tightening the muscles around your spine to elevate your torso as high off the floor as you can, albeit lightly. On an exhale, lower yourself. Rep 10–15 times more.
Now sit back on your heels and bow your knees (tops of the feet still touching the floor). Your body should be supported by your legs, and your head should be supported by the floor or a cushion. Extend your arms in front of you, walk your fingers forward, and pull your shoulder blades down your back. To incorporate a lat stretch, keep your buttocks on your heels while you bring up your brow and walk your hands to the left, then to the right.
De-stress your spine after a long day of sitting. Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Rock softly by drawing both knees into the chest. Then, with the right knee clutched to the chest, stretch the left leg straight on the floor. Take a few deep breaths and relax your hamstrings. Then, with your left hand, guide your right knee over the midline of your body, towards the floor, while keeping your right shoulder on the floor. It’s fine if your knee doesn’t make contact with the ground. If you experience any pain, stop the stretch. Draw that knee back to center after 30 seconds. Replace your legs and repeat the process on the opposite side.
It might be difficult to remember to stretch throughout a regular workday because there is so much going on. If you can’t bear the thought of adding another item to your To-Do List, set a timer to remind you every hour or two. If you are located in the Greater Phoenix region and are looking for a dedicated Physical Therapist to help get your body back to feeling its best, Desert Edge Physical Therapy is the team to call. Our team can put together a specific recovery plan for you, based on your current pain and situation. We want to make sure that as we grow our facilities, we’re continually introducing new technology, learning new therapy methods, and giving our patients the best chance to heal from injury as quickly and naturally as possible.
It’s vital to speak with a professional about your individual needs. To book your consultation, call Desert Edge Physical Therapy now.