Working at a computer involves the constant use of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints in the hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and upper back. It also involves physical stress put on the vertebrae of the spine keeping you at the same posture. This is why doing stretching exercises at work is very important.
It’s vital to realize that any of these muscles, joints, etc. being used for many hours and days can be over-worked and therefore become irritated and fatigued, and may, in time, begin causing pain, weakness, inflammation, or even makes you more prone to injury.
In general terms, it’s all about a subtle balance between the body’s limits and the load placed on it.
You are often pushed to your limits by the task of combining work and home duties. This balance you can see as a kind of weighing scale. As long as the weight of the duties (load) does not over-weigh the body’s limits, the body is healthy. In other words, once the daily load is greater than what the body can handle, disbalance is created and physical complaints such as pain, for example, maybe the resulting symptom.
Office work, especially the sort that demands many hours under time pressure means that the physical limits are more easily reached. This has to do with a great amount of physical stress being used up for fulfilling the tasks needed, leaving you with great tiredness and the likelihood of developing physical complaints. This is common in professions such as journalism and writing, and secretarial work, but can actually occur in any job where sitting at a desk behind the computer is what is done during much of the day. Most of the people in these professions underestimate the importance of rest, relaxation, and a good night’s sleep to refresh the body and regain balance.
If you want to prevent physical complaints, you can decide to take mini breaks at your desk about every hour. During the break, you need to walk around, then do 3-4 stretches. Stretching muscles makes for a great active break, and stretching diminishes tension in the muscles, leaving you relaxed, tense free and ready to go on with your work.
1. Upper Back Stretch
This stretch is great to relieve tension in the neck and shoulders. You start the stretch by interlocking the hands behind your neck and bring the elbows towards the chest as is shown in the picture. Then you extend the back and stretch your elbows sideways and looking up. This stretch is repeated at your own pace 3 times.
2. Lower Arm Muscle Stretch.
This stretch is very important to prevent repetitive stress injury from over-use of the lower arm flexor muscles. These muscles flex the fingers and the wrists which are prone to fatigue when sitting at the computer for hours without taking a rest to relax and stretch.
To stretch the lower arm on the right side, you extend the right elbow and turn the wrist down so that the palm of the right hand is facing you. You hold the right hand with the help of the left hand and keep the right shoulder down so that it is leveled with the other shoulder (see picture). Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds. Then repeat. Change sides.
3. Neck Stretch
We all know that maintaining a good posture at your desk for many hours is not an easy task, . Making sure the neck muscles are not getting too tense will help you to keep the neck from being brought too much towards the computer screen and will help remind you to keep the chin tucked in a bit when working at the computer.
To do the stretch, you simply sit and place one hand on the side of your head. Let’s say you choose to begin with the right hand like it is shown in the picture, then gently pull the head as much as possible to the right shoulder until you feel a stretch on the left side. You hold the stretch for 10 seconds, release and repeat. To variate the stretch, you can add a twist by turning the head a bit downwards while in the stretch. This will give the stretch a different feel.
Try it. Another variation is to start with the head stretch to the ear and then turn the head to the side. Hold every variation for at least 10 seconds.
4. Two-sided Shoulder and Wrist Stretch
This stretch is great. You interlock the hands behind your back when the arms are extended. You pull the arms all the way back until a stretch is felt at the front part of the shoulder and lower arms and wrists. This is a great quick stretch that covers both sides in one go. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat twice.
5. “Hug and Turn” Stretch
This stretch is great to release tension in the spine joints and muscles of the lower as well as the middle back. It’s very easy to do.
All you do is put your hands on each opposite shoulder, breathe in, and, while breathing out, turn your torso all the way to one side. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds while breathing normally. Change sides and then repeat twice.
6. Shoulder blades Stretch
This stretch releases tension in the shoulder blade area. You simply push both shoulders forward, hold for 10 seconds, then push the shoulder back so that you feel the shoulder blades are getting closer.
7. Arms to the Air Stretch
This stretch may lift some eyebrows at work, but it’s actually very much used in our everyday lives. To try it out, you simply stretch your arms out and up until they reach the sides of your ears or alternately until you feel a stretch in both arms and shoulders.
8. The Leaning Forward Stretch
You simply stand up, lean your buttocks against the wall and bend forward. You stretch the torso and release all tension by relaxing the head, arms, and lower back. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds and then slowly come up.
One last tip I want to share with you today for staying healthy at work is to reduce repetitive movements. These movements can lead to strains and stress. Reduce unnecessary movements as much as you can by keeping items you use a lot within arm’s reach and using tools, such as a phone headset for example. You may also change the hand you use to operate your computer’s mouse.