Here’s an uncomfortable fact: people weren’t physically built to sit down at a computer all day. But the reality is that it’s how many of us make our living.
In fact, it’s resulted in many people experiencing significant discomfort and even caused the rise of the term “tech neck,” a physical ailment caused by consistently looking downward at your devices.
So, we sat down with Debra O’Reagan, a Launch Workplaces member and the owner of Dragonfly Pilates, Yoga, and Aerial Yoga, to learn some simple stretches you can do at work to reduce muscle tension and discomfort.
Check out our full interview with her below.
Why Does Working at a Desk Cause Muscle Pain?
There are two things people talk a lot about when it comes to muscle pain caused by desk work. The first is the fact that sitting is problematic. And the second is tech neck.
All of these things combine to create future neck and back problems.
The problem with sitting too long is that your quadricep muscles, which connect from hip to knee, often get tight as a result. This causes the hip flexor structure, which connects your legs to your torso, to tighten up as well.
The position of your body when seated at a computer can also cause strain on your neck, shoulders, back, and even your hands and wrists.
Another common stressor is that, when we use our technology–such as phones and computers–we have a tendency to look downward. This creates a forward head posture. People become slightly stooped and their head position actually becomes forward of vertical, in turn leading to shoulder stress and back pain.
What Can People Do to Avoid Work-Induced Muscle and Neck Pain?
While these kinds of problems are common, the good news is that there are some simple stretches you can do at your desk to help alleviate existing discomfort and prevent future discomfort.
I typically advise people to do both seated and standing stretches.
Seated Stretches to Do at Your Desk
When it comes to seated stretches, I recommend focusing on your:
- Side-to-side stretch: Take your right hand and place it on your left shoulder. Press lightly down on your left shoulder as you take your right ear to your right shoulder. You should feel the stretch in your left shoulder. Do this five times, then switch sides.
- Neck turn: Place your hands on a surface in front of you, such as your desk. Then, with a light pressure on the surface in front of you, look to turn your gaze and look behind you as you pull your shoulders down from your ears.
- Shoulder Shrug: Lift your shoulders all the way up. Imagine that you’re trying to remove all of the space between your ears and shoulders. Then, release the tension and drop your shoulders back down. For an added stretch, you can also roll your shoulders down into a circle and bring them up to the front.
Wrists, hands, and fingers:
- Jazz hands: This is a simple stretch but can help relieve some of that tension from typing away at a keyboard. Simply squeeze your hands as tight as you can then open your fingers and palms as wide as possible. You can wiggle your fingers as well.
- Wrist rolls: With your hands in a fist, roll your fists in circles at the wrists. Your goal is to try to make a 360-degree circle all the way around.
Standing Stretches to Do at Work
If you’ve got a little bit of space to move in your workspace, I’d advise that you might want to focus on these areas of your body:
Pecs, neck, and shoulders:
- Pec and shoulder stretch: Using one arm, place your hand on the doorframe. Then, take one big step forward. This will pull your arm backwards and away from your body, in turn helping to open up your chest. Hold this for 10 seconds, then switch sides.
- Back and shoulder stretch: Grab the edge of the doorway with one hand with your thumb facing down. Walk your body towards that arm, rotating towards your shoulder until you feel a stretch. Look over your shoulder to intensify the stretch. Hold this stretch for 3 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
- Lunges: Place a foot up onto a chair without wheels, a file cabinet, or something else in your workspace that’s relatively low to the ground. Keep the knee of your elevated leg bent, your other leg stretched slightly behind you, and then lean in. The goal is to feel the stretch in the front of your back leg.
- Calf raises: This stretch is simple but great. All you need to do is hang onto the doorway and lift up onto your toes before dropping back down. Repeat this stretch 5 to 10 times.
On top of these stretches, another pro tip I’d offer is to lift your devices up so you’re not looking down. Whether that’s holding your cell phone higher up in front of your face or raising up your computer screens, keeping them as close to eye height as possible to avoid looking downward and causing unnecessary strain on your muscles.
Working hard is great, but so is looking after your physical wellbeing. So, make sure to take some time out of each workday to stretch. Your body will thank you for it. If you’d like to learn more about how pilates and yoga can help reduce the impact of your workday on your body and keep you physically stronger, get in touch with Debra today.
And if you’d like to learn more about how Launch Workplaces helps support the wellbeing of our members by offering benefits like sit-stand desks, yoga classes, and massages as well as mindfulness seminars, discount gym memberships, and more, get in touch with us today. Our team is available to answer any questions you might have.