Many of us come home from work feeling stiff and sore despite the fact that our jobs aren’t physically demanding. The culprit is often bad posture, a side effect of spending a lot of time at a desk or glancing down at your mobile device throughout the day.
Poor posture isn’t just uncomfortable — it can be downright unhealthy. Leaning forward while seated, for instance, can make you prone to clenching your jaw and at risk of developing problems with your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). If you tend to hunch over your keyboard, you might suffer permanently rounded shoulders, early degeneration in the spinal column, or even breathing troubles. Prolonged hunching can also affect your muscles, causing headaches, neck and upper back pain, shoulder problems, and weakness in the upper and lower back.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods of time. These five exercises can help to improve your posture and ease tension in your body, whether you’re logging time at your cubicle or relaxing at home.
Neck Range of Motion
Moving only your head, drop your chin down towards your chest and hold for a count of five. Tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear towards your shoulder. Hold for a count of five and then repeat on your left side. Do this 3-5 times, and try to perform every couple of hours to ease stiff muscles in the back of your head and neck.
From either a sitting or standing position, raise your shoulders and shoulder blades to your ears. Hold for five seconds and then pull your shoulder blades down and towards each other. Do this 5-10 times every couple of hours to reduce muscle tension in your shoulders.
Find an empty corner and stand with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls on either side. Keep your elbows at shoulder height. Then place one foot ahead of the other and lean your body toward the corner, bending your forward knee. You should feel a good stretch in your chest as you hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this 2-3 times and do it twice a day.
Squats or Chair Pose
Stand up and raise your arms in front of you to shoulder height. Then bend your knees and sit down, but stop before your bottom touches the seat. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat three times. Make sure your knees are over your toes, but don’t go beyond your toes. Try to keep your back as straight as possible and contract your stomach muscles. This will build strength in your core and counteract the spinal compression that comes from sitting for long periods of time.
Standing Side Bend
From standing, touch your left hand to the left side of your head and then lean to the right. You should feel a stretch along the left side of your body and your shoulder. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then switch sides.
Getting up and moving around every 20-30 minutes can also help you avoid getting stiff if you sit for long periods of time during the day. Some easy ways to do this are:
- Standing when you’re talking on the phone.
- Filling your coffee or water glass half full to force yourself to get up to fill it twice as often.
- Setting a timer to remind you to get up and move around.
- Moving your printer to a separate room further down the hall.
- Keeping snacks or your lunch up or downstairs from where you’re sitting.
There are many stretches and exercises you can do at home to help release tension and improve your posture. To help ease back pain, you can try this quick 10 minute routine, or ask one of our physiotherapists at your next appointment. We can help tailor these exercises to your needs, and as always, new clients are welcome without a doctor’s referral.