What are the most common musculoskeletal complaints of my patients that work at a desk all day? Headaches; pins and needles in the fingers or hands; mid-back pain and tight shoulders! All of these symptoms have a very common postural pattern in common, us osteopaths call it the 'upper crossed posture'. Rounded shoulders, tight muscles where the neck meets the skull, weak back and a weak neck - sound familiar? Now there's lots of tweaks you can make to your desk set up to help your posture (take a look at a previous blog post of mine here for extra tips) but ultimately, when you are sitting at a desk 8 hours a day 5 days a week minimum.. there are a certain amount of aches and pains that are unavoidable. So here's a couple of very simple exercises you can do during the day, when things are feeling a bit stiff or sore (as always, please get your pain diagnosed for more specific advice relating to your problem!)
1) Stretch your wrists
Minimum 30 second hold! This is a great stretch for the forearms, a good opener for anyone who may be concerned about carpal tunnel or repetitive strain injuries from typing all day. Make sure the fingers are straight, and then begin to push the wrist forward.
2) Chest opener - An oldie but a goodie! And another one you can get away with doing at your desk without your colleagues giving you too many odd glances!
Stretching the pecs helps to open out the chest, helping to prevent or reduce that slouched rounded shoulder posture, and it takes pressure off of the base of the neck and nerves that pass through the shoulders down to the hands. Again, 30 second hold minimum for maximum benefit!
3) Neck stretch - 2 for the price of 1 here! My advice for at the desk is to either hold on to the base of the seat of your chair, or simply sit on your hand, to provide some traction down through the shoulder. Note that there are two head positions here that hit different muscles that support the neck and shoulders, be sure to try out both!!
4) Spinal twist - these last two stretches are a little more mobile, so apologies now for any funny looks in the office. Spoiler alert - it's pretty difficult to get the spine moving without actually moving! Seated spinal twist, keep the hips pointing forward and twist with your upper body, don't twist your neck too far round in an attempt to twist further as I don't want any cricked necks from this! The twist is focused to the mid back so make sure you can feel it there, sit up nice and straight in a good posture before entering the twist and once there, breathe into it a few times - then repeat to the other side!
5) Seated cat-cow - This final exercise is a bit more fluid rather than a static stretch, round and extend the spine a couple of times repeatedly to feel the benefit from this one - think about moving every segment of the back to really mobilise through the spine.
Giving these a try today? Why not let me know how you get on via the facebook page or on twitter, or tag me @balancedosteo in your pictures on instagram! Have a good day at work and thanks for reading,
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