What are some quick things you can do right now?
If you’re like many people, you probably spend much of your day sitting at a desk.
This sedentary behaviour puts you at increased risk for spending prolonged time in poor posture, potentially causing pain and discomfort.
There are a number of stretches and exercises you can do at your desk to help reduce and manage pain. But before we get to those – here’s 4 things you should do, right now to help your neck and back feel better at work.
1. Adjust monitor height and keyboard placement
Place your computer monitor directly in front of you with the center of the screen level with your nose.
If the monitor is too low, you will angle your head downward and increase stress on your neck.
If you work primarily on a laptop, use a secondary monitor if possible.
Position the keyboard close enough to you so your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees when typing.
Set the keyboard high enough so you aren’t forced to slump down through your shoulders to touch the keys. Place the mouse at the same level as the keyboard.
2. Stand Up
Sitting in an office chair seems simple, but it can be fatiguing.
The longer you sit, the harder it is to hold good posture.
Each day, try to spend at least an hour or two on your feet that you would otherwise spend in a chair.
One popular option is to use a standing desk.
If a standing desk is not an option for you, there are inexpensive desktop converters that enable you to keep your desk and temporarily convert it to a stand-up desk.
3. Limit phone screen use
People tend to bend their heads forward even further when looking at phones and tablets, especially when using a touchscreen to text or email.
Holding a head-forward posture to look down at your device for prolonged periods can cause painful muscle strains in the short term and may contribute to disc or joint injuries in the long term.
Any time you can, answer emails through a desktop computer rather than a phone, as this offers the best chance for good posture.
4. Take a walk
Walk around the office every half hour to reduce the risk of developing back, neck, and/or shoulder pain from sitting.
It can also help to get up and move around if you start to feel some achiness or tightness developing.
An easy way to do this is to set a silent alarm on your smartphone to go off every 30 minutes.
It may not be possible to get up every time the alarm goes off, but it can be a good reminder that you’ve been sitting for quite a while, especially if you skip the alarm a few times in a row.
If you give one or more of these tips a try, you may experience a healthier and more productive day.
Now that you’ve got that sorted – lets take a look at what we are actually in danger of by sitting at a desk all day.
Since when has a desk job been dangerous, you ask?
Well… read on, my friend!
We go to work hoping our days spent at the office will challenge us professionally, but in reality, living the 9-to-5 (or 6 or 7) desk jockey life can be demanding on the health and wellness front, too.
In general, the blame lies squarely on how long you sit working at your desk.
“The issue that we’re really up against is that we’re not made to sit—certainly not for extended periods of time,” says Michael Fredericson, sports medicine physiatrist at Stanford Health Care.
But when your office job calls for you to sit at a desk for hours on end, “You tend to hunch forward, and your neck protrudes, and there’s eye strain. It’s stress that goes through your whole body.”
DANGER NO. 1: LOWER BACK PAIN
Whether it’s an occasional twinge or an ongoing ache, back pain can keep you from performing at your best.
Sitting chained to your desk for hours at a time can lead to lower back pain, the most common work-related back problem.
So, what exactly is going on back there?
Slumping back in your desk chair or slouching forward means your spine is out of alignment. That puts a strain on the ligaments and muscles in your back.
DANGER NO. 2: WRIST STRAIN
Spending your days and nights pounding away at your keyboard responding to emails or writing reports can cause injuries that can become a serious health issue.
A combination of overuse and how you’re positioning your wrists at your keyboard are to blame.
“Whenever you operate a keyboard or mouse, the tendons in your wrists go back and forth,” Aguilar says.
“These tendons are parallel to each other, so they glide back and forth and create friction, which [is called] a microtrauma. That repetitive motion causes fatigue, and the tendons may become inflamed.”
A less obvious factor that plays a role in wrist pain: Poor posture, in particular having your shoulders hunched forward.
That’s because the position decreases the blood flow downstream, including to your hands, causing soreness or in some cases, a tingling sensation or numbness.
DANGER NO. 3: NECK AND SHOULDER PAIN
You never realize just how much you move your neck and shoulders until they’re injured—and then you feel every single shift and twist.
These aches and pains may come from placing your keyboard or computer monitor too far away on your desk, causing you to jut your neck and shoulders forward, throwing them out of alignment with the spine and straining the muscles and soft tissue.
DANGER NO. 4: TIGHT HIPS
Over time, being stuck sitting in a bent position on a daily basis—from your desk at work to your couch at home—shortens your hip flexors, a group of muscles located at the front of your hips, causing pain.
Tight hipflexors also contribute to lower back soreness, another common complaint.
So, what can you do to limit the risks of the dangerous desk-job?
Here’s 4 Simple Desk-Based Stretches For Effective Lower Back Pain Relief
1. Lower Spine Stretch
By doing this exercise, the muscles surrounding the length of the spine will get a good stretch in a sideways direction.
With your feet flat on the floor and your armrests low down, sit firmly on your chair making sure your sitting bones are in contact with the seat.
Place your right hand on the armrest and reach your left hand up above your head, bending your spine slightly to the right.
Hold this position for 30 seconds making sure you breathe into the stretch.
Repeat on each side three times.
2. Long Spinal Stretch
This exercise allows your spinal muscles to stretch in a forward motion. It’s important that the muscles get stretched in more than one direction to help restore alignment.
In your chair with your sitting bones firmly placed on the seat, place your feet flat on the floor and spread them out wide apart.
Sit up straight and tall then slowly slide your hands down your legs until they reach the floor.
Place your fingertips on the floor between your feet, and with each breath try to stretch further down until your palms are flat.
Don’t worry if you can’t do this, just go as far as is comfortable for you.
Hold for 30 seconds and breathe into the stretch.
Repeat three times.
3. Deep Hip Muscle Stretch
Stretching your hip muscles can help relieve lower back pain as they can tighten when sitting for long periods of time and especially when you already suffer from lower back pain.
When doing this stretch, be aware of numbness or a pins and needles sensation as this is an indicator that you are over-stretching.
Sit near the edge of your seat with both feet flat on the floor.
Lift up your right ankle and place it on your left thigh just above the knee.
Sitting up straight and tall, slowly bend forward from your hips, keeping your spine nice and straight. This will create a stretch through the back of your right hip.
Hold this position for 30 seconds and slowly come back up remembering to keep your spine straight.
Repeat three times and then repeat with your left ankle on your right thigh.
4. Hamstring Reach
We don’t always think about our leg muscles when we have pain in our lower back, but tight hamstring muscles can affect the natural curve of the spine.
Loosening them up will go towards relieving your lower back pain.
Sit close to the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor.
Sliding your right leg out with your heel to the ground, keep your knee straight and flex your toes up towards your shin.
Start to slowly reach forward towards your toes keeping your back and spine straight.
Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Repeat with your left leg.
Five minutes is all it takes to help alleviate and prevent lower back pain.
It’s recommended to repeat these exercises once every hour or as often as possible throughout the day if you find yourself sitting a lot at your desk.
Always consult with a doctor before doing an exercise regime if you’re suffering from any back pain, but doing these on a regular basis will help align your back and stabilise your muscles and joints. Of course, whenever you’re in pain, you should consult your physician to get a handle on any underlying problems or treatment concerns.
4 Simple Desk-Based Stretches For Effective Lower Back Pain Relief
5 Simple Exercises To Fix The Damage Your Desk Job Does
Reducing Neck and Back Pain at Work