“Sitting is the new smoking” is an increasingly common analogy in health fields these days.
Given the number of hours most of us tend to sit in the day, there’s likely a lot of truth to the sentiment. But even beyond the effects on overall health, desk jobs have long been associated with neck and shoulder pain. So, what can you do to curb that pain and also make your desk job healthier? Adding regular stretch and movement exercises to your day can make a significant impact. Let’s have a closer look.
First, start by imagining the top of your head is attached to a string that extends from your spine, pulling your spine and neck toward the ceiling. Picture each of your vertebrae stretching up to the sky, gently expanding and lengthening your back and neck. Then incorporate these exercises:
- Slightly tuck your chin in (as if you’re looking toward the bottom of your computer monitor) and then gently push your head back as though you’re pressing against a headrest. Hold that position for 5 seconds and repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
- Gently tilt your head to the left to feel a mild stretch on the right side of your neck. Repeat on the opposite side. If you look down toward your opposite knee, you’ll notice a bit more stretch. Repeat for 8-10 repetitions on each side and try to keep your upper back and shoulder muscles relaxed during the stretch.
- Loosen your shoulders further by rolling them back and forth, and then focus your attention on your shoulder blades (also known as your scapula). Imagine the bottom of your scapula pulling down and toward the middle of your back. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat for 8-10 repetitions.
- Next, stand from your desk and find a doorway or a hallway to try a stretch for your chest muscles (the pectoralis). Rest your forearms on either side of the doorway and step gently forward – you should feel a stretch across your chest. If that’s too intense, just try resting one forearm on the doorway but make sure to repeat on both sides. Hold for a few seconds and repeat 8-10 times.
Finally, remember to get up and walk around at least once every hour. Maintaining prolonged positions is likely a contributor to neck and muscle pain and regular movement is the best prevention.