Whether you work from the office or home, at a desk or the kitchen table, we all experience aches and pains. Even when you work from an ergonomic office workstation, complete with an office chair customised to your liking and the monitor at optimum height, occasional pain and discomfort are still a problem. So how can you prevent those workplace aches? What are some simple exercises you can do at your desk?
Why do we need to do exercises?
It’s well-known that sitting too long is not good for us. Research links sitting for extended periods of time with several health concerns, like high blood pressure, heightened blood sugar, high cholesterol levels and too much body fat around the waist. Sitting too much is also linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Besides this, staying in any position for too long is uncomfortable. However ergonomic your set-up is, sitting for too long will eventually lead to aches and pains in some areas. Getting up every hour and stretching or exercising is an excellent way to prevent this.
The way you sit also affects your back muscles. For example, sitting means your spine gets less support, leading to weakness in other areas if you sit for too long.
Did you know that regular breaks also boost your productivity? No matter how short, taking that opportunity to reset your brain is good for you. Say you were stuck on a problem with your work. Going away briefly and returning to it allows you to look at your work in a new way. Taking as many short breaks as you need throughout the day increases your productivity and morale. They don’t have to be exercise breaks – but why not use them?
So, what are some desk exercises to reduce aches and pains?
Let’s take a look at 5 great ways you can stretch out and relieve those office aches and pains:
1. Posterior shoulder stretch
You often see people do this stretch warming up before a workout.
- Hold your arm across your body, parallel with your chin, with your other arm.
- Pull your elbow into your chest.
- You should start to feel your shoulder stretch gently.
2. Spinal Rotation
You can do this by standing up or sitting down, but you may have to move forward a little in your chair for this stretch. A great way to stretch out your lower back!
- Cross your arms over your chest, grabbing onto your shoulders.
- In this position, rotate your body from your waist – turn left to right as comfortably as possible.
- As your lower back stretches out, you will feel tension on either side.
3. Shoulder Shrugs
This exercise is one of the easiest to perform at your desk.
- Gently lift your shoulders.
- Allow your shoulders to fall slowly.
- As your shoulder drop, you will then feel any tension get released.
4. Shoulder Extensions
Shoulder extensions are a great way to stretch your back out. Here are two types:
Shoulder extension (a):
It may not be possible to do this one in the limited space of the office!
- Hold both your arms up above your head.
- With your palms facing upwards, link your hands together.
- Reach both your arms up as high as possible.
- You will feel your shoulder stretching!
Shoulder extension (b):
- Standing up, stretch your arms out behind you.
- Then, with your arms together or hands clasped, lift your arms gently.
- You will feel your shoulders and chest stretching out.
5. Back Extensions
This stretch is one that many office workers do without realising.
- In a chair, sit straight with your feet together.
- Place your palms into the small of your lower back.
- Lean over your hands and feel as your lower back stretches out.
What else can I do to prevent aches and pains from work?
Some discomfort is par for the course in any line of work. But, besides moving away from your workstation and stretching out your body at regular intervals or attending physiotherapy, what else can you do to make aches and pains less likely at work? Here are some of our top tips:
Have an ergonomic set-up
One good thing to take a look at is your office setup. For example, when you sit at your desk, check that your chair is a comfortable distance from the table. Don’t sit too far away, but do sit at a comfortable distance.
You should also ensure that your feet are entirely on the floor and adjust the height of your chair if this is not so. If you have a computer chair, adjust the height and back until you are comfortable. If you’re using a standard chair, try using cushions, your jacket, or even rolled-up towels or other soft objects to give you maximum comfort at the small of your back.
What about your screen? A good rule is to have your computer screen level with your eyes and an arms-length away from you. If you use a monitor, you’ll probably be able to adjust the screen. Using a laptop means placing it on boxes or using a laptop stand to bring the screen height.
One other thing you can do that’s easy to overlook is to keep things within your reach at your desk. For example, with office tools like staplers, calculators, or pencils within easy distance from where you’re sitting, you won’t have to lean across your desk and compromise the good back support you get from your chair.
Though making time to stretch at your desk can go a long way in the fight against back and shoulder pain, checking that you are sitting appropriately is also crucial. Here’s what you should check:
- First, make sure your hips are above your knee.
- Next, sit back in your seat – this will mean your entire back is supported.
- Your lower back’s natural arc should fit against the curve of your backrest.
- Your back should slightly recline – think 10 or 15 degrees.
- Keep your elbows above the desk, around 90 degrees, and relax your shoulders.