We all know that prolonged sitting has negative implications for our health. However, for many, long hours in front of a computer are inevitable. At Zenith, we commonly see patients with sedentary jobs coming in with a variety of resultant musculoskeletal problems including:
Low back pain and stiffness
Mid back pain and stiffness
Hip pain and stiffness
Tight/painful neck and shoulders
Although common, sitting related pain and stiffness doesn’t have to be inevitable! Here are a handful of things you can start doing today to combat office job related aches and pains.
Optimize Your Workstation
Take a look at your work set up. Do you find yourself hunching down to look at your screen or lifting your shoulders up towards your ears when using your keyboard? If so, it's time to adjust your setup. This may entail raising your monitor so that your eyes are level with the top third of the screen, or getting a detached keyboard so that your wrists sit in a neutral position and your elbows are bent at a comfortable 90 degrees.
Vary Your Position Throughout the Day
Try a sit to stand desk, so that you can switch between sitting and standing throughout the day. This setup does not have to be a fancy one, you can use a counter and some textbooks to optimize your screen height and overall setup.
Set yourself reminders or phone timers to move every 30-60 minutes. It is easy to get engrossed in work tasks. Taking the time to move intermittently will not only positively impact your productivity, but your body will thank you.
Stretch it Out
The best way to combat stiffness and tightness is usually with movement!
Give these five desk stretches a try.
As with all stretching, go far enough into the range to feel a stretch/pulling sensation, but do not push into pain. Respect the limits of your body/tissues. It can be helpful to breathe into the movement, holding the position while you take several breaths through your nose.
Start sitting up tall with your weight even over your sit bones
Twist your trunk over one shoulder as if rotation on an axis through your spine
You can grab onto the back of the chair to deepen the stretch
2. Shoulder Squeezes
Start by sitting up straight in your chair
Draw shoulder blades towards each other and down your back
At the same time, bring your chin straight back, lengthening the back of your neck
3. Standing Sliders (hip stretch)
Begin standing and reach one leg back behind you, lowering into a mini lunge position (feel a stretch in the front of your hips)
Simultaneously reach both arms overhead
4. Side Stretch
Start sitting tall with your weight centered under your sit bones
Reach your arm overhead and to one side to feel a stretch in your shoulders and side
5. Back Bends
Stand up and place your hands on your hips
Bend backwards, allowing your spine to stretch
When you come back up, return to neutral standing position
If the wonderful stretch feeling you get from these exercises aren’t enough to convince you, there is research backing the effectiveness of workplace stretching as well. Research studies have been conducted where office workers were given a series of stretches to perform throughout the day. A significant 64% reduction in sitting related pain was found in the stretching group!
Give these tips a try to improve your physical health at your office workspace. As always, if you have any further questions, or need more individualized help, feel free to reach out to us at Zenith Wellness and Performance here and schedule an appointment today.
da Costa BR, Vieira ER. Stretching to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review. J Rehabil Med. 2008 May;40(5):321-8. doi: 10.2340/16501977-0204. PMID: 18461255.
Marangoni AH. Effects of intermittent stretching exercises at work on musculoskeletal pain associated with the use of a personal computer and the influence of media on outcomes. Work. 2010;36(1):27-37. doi: 10.3233/WOR-2010-1004. PMID: 20555173.