Work-related disorders aren’t just limited to heavy manufacturing or construction jobs. They can occur in all types of industries and work environments, including office bound jobs. Research shows that repetitive motion, poor posture, and staying in the same position can cause or worsen musculoskeletal disorders.
Staying in one position while doing repetitive motions is typical of a desk job. The habits we build at our desk, especially while sitting, can contribute to discomfort and health issues, including:
Hunching the shoulders and slumping in your seat can cause back pain, headaches, tension, and tightness in your back, neck, and shoulders.
The good news is that moving or stretching is a buildable habit. For starters, you can set a timer to remind you to take a quick walk or stretch. If you’re pressed for time, there are even certain stretches you can do at your desk.
Wrist and Forearm Stretch
Desk-bound jobs tighten our forearm muscles and can be harsh on the wrists. This could be due to bad posture, desk not set-up correctly or repetitive use of the wrist. This simple move helps stretch those muscles in the forearms and wrists. This can be done seated or standing, stretch the right arm out and turn the hand down so that the fingers point towards the floor. Use the left hand to gently pull the fingers towards you, feeling a stretch in the forearm. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other hand.
Sitting for long periods of time can affect the lower back, leaving it tight and achy. This twisting stretch will help gently work out some of that tension.
In a seated position cross left leg over the right, contract the abs and gently rotate the torso towards the left, using your hands on the chair handles or the seat to help deepen the stretch. Twist as far as it’s comfortable and hold for 10-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch on the other side.
Holding tension in the neck can lead to headaches and upper back tension as well. Sitting in your chair, reach down and grab the side of the chair with the right hand and gently pull while tilting your head to the left, feeling a stretch down the right side of the neck and shoulder. If you want a deeper stretch, use the left hand to gently pull the head towards the left shoulder. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Being seated most of the time, tension and tightness builds in our back. The forward bend helps stretch out the back.
Stand several feet behind your chair. Raise both arms overhead and ‘hinge’ forward from your hips, keeping your back straight. Hold on to the back of the chair to keep steady for 10 -30 seconds, then rise back up to stand straight.
The shoulders and neck hold a lot of stress and tension from typing and hunched over posture. This makes the shoulder muscles tighten with tension. This stretch can be done seated or standing. Lift the shoulders up towards the ears take a breath in and squeeze them as hard as you can. Hold for a couple of seconds and roll them back as you relax and exhale. Repeat this 8 – 10 times and then roll the shoulders forward.
When you spend all day sitting down, the lower body also gets tight. Using the desk for support, stand up and raise your leg behind you, grabbing hold of the ankle (or your shin if you can’t quite reach). Hold in this position for 10 – 30 seconds and swap legs.
Upper Arm Stretch
This stretches the back of your upper arm and shoulder. Lift one arm and bend it behind your head. Place your other hand on the bent elbow to help stretch your upper arm and shoulder. Hold the stretch for 10 – 30 seconds. Relax and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the stretch with the other arm.
We spend a lot of time hunched over books/laptops or phones. This chest stretch aims to open the chest out and reverse the “hunch”.
Exhale as you lift your hands up and pull your shoulders back. Hold for 10-30 seconds. If you have shoulder problems, best to avoid this stretch.
Even if you are careful about your posture, you may find yourself sinking back into a hunched position, which can make your backache. This simple move will stretch all the muscles in your back, sides, and arms. Seated or standing, lace the fingers together and stretch them up towards the ceiling. Take a deep breath as you stretch up as high as you can, then exhale. Repeat 6 -8 times.
Our osteopaths and physiotherapists at Woodside Clinic in Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard are very happy to advise you on the exercises to help with back ache. Please call us on 01582 608400 or 01525 372477 for more information or to book an appointment.
We also offer small group or 1 to 1 Pilates classes which may help your posture. Click here for our studio timetable.