Try these stretches at work to avoid aches and pains later.
Tightness in the shoulder, neck, and back often leads to fatigue, injury, soreness, and lack of mobility. It’s a casualty of the modern desk job. Good flexibility allows a muscle to lengthen and the joints to operate through a full range of motion. When muscles are elastic, your posture improves and you breathe deeper. Using more lung capacity sends more oxygen-rich blood to your brain to keep you alert and productive.
Employ the 20-20 rules, advises Alan Hedge, Ph.D., a professor of ergonomics at Cornell University. Every 20 minutes, stand for 20 seconds and stretch or shake things out. “Just 20 seconds away from your computer screen reduces fatigue and increases blood circulation,” says Hedge. Now you’ll have the power to sit up straight.
Every 2 hours, try to the following series of postural correction moves and rejuvenating stretches that will make tight muscles feel great and improve your oxygen efficiency.
1. Chest Elevation
Sit in a chair with your arms at your sides and your feet flat on the floor. Gently raise your chest toward the ceiling, but don’t look up. Keep your chin level with the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then relax, and repeat 5 to 10 times.
2. Scapular Retraction
Get into the position for the chest elevation stretch while sitting, but this time place your hands on your hips. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, feeling the stretch in your chest. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax, and repeat the sequence 5 to 10 times.
3. Chin Tuck
Assume the chest elevation position while sitting. Keeping your chin level with the floor, pull your chin, head, and neck inward (not down). Hold for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat.
Tip: Placing your finger on your upper lip may help guide your head through the proper range of motion and correct any mistakes.
4. Upper Cervical Spine Flex
From the chest elevation position while seated, dip your head forward slightly as if you were nodding “yes.” Feel the stretch in the neck at the base of the head. Pause for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat 5 to 10 times.
5. Upper Back and Neck Scapular Strengthening
To strengthen the rhomboids, try this version of the scapular retraction. Stand upright. Clasp your hands behind your head. Flex your elbows back while pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax, and repeat 5 to 10 times.
6. Rhomboid Range of Motion
Stand upright. Clasp your hands behind you at the small of your back. Pinch your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds, then relax, and repeat 5 to 10 times.
7. Corner Chest Stretch
Stand facing the corner of a room. Raise your hands to shoulder height, and place your forearms, elbows, and hands against each wall. Lean inward to stretch your chest muscles. Hold for 15 seconds (or until you feel loose).
Tip: By raising or lowering the position of your arms, you can alter the stretch to focus on different parts of the pectorals.