5 Stretches to Tackle Home Office Muscle Tightness Without Ever Leaving Your Chair
It’s been eight long hours of never-ending zoom meetings, spreadsheet work, phone calls, making lunch for the kids, and rushing back to a conference call that you hope isn’t interrupted by the barking of your dachshund letting your entire department know that the gardener is here. All while trapped in the same office chair you bought years ago without truly realizing how important it was to focus on ergonomics. After all, the office and your company took care of making sure wrists, vision, seat height and neck were all confirming to ergonomic standards for safety and comfort.
Your shoulders hurt, your neck is tight, the lower back starts to bark by 2pm and your glutes are numb. This is a common and daily occurrence in 2021 as a great percentage of folks still work from home during the pandemic. In fact, a recent study from the University of Wisconsin states that repetitive motion and poor posture can cause or worsen musculoskeletal disorders.
Preventing the Zoom Aches
Fear not keyboard conquistadors. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the simple task of taking time for stretches can do immeasurable good for your neck, arms, back, shoulders – not to mention your mental health.
To prevent or reduce stiffness, try the below stretches throughout the day. Not only is it important to stand up and rest your brain to reset your focus for five minutes every hour, it’s just as critical to spend another five minutes stretching multiple times daily – even if you don’t leave your chair.
The Chest Stretch
Sometimes we have no idea just how hunched over we really are during the day as we’re typing away. At least we have smart watches to tell us when we’re forgetting to breathe during stressful moments but when we realize just how hunched over we’ve been only when we get neck pain. Luckily, a simple, big stretch of the chest and shoulders can hit reset, adjust your alignment and quite frankly just feels good.
How to: In a seated or standing position, take the arms behind you and, if you can, lace your fingers together. Straighten the arms and gently lift your hands up a few inches until you feel a stretch in your chest. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Or, put your forearms on either side of a doorway, gently pressing forward until you feel a stretch in the chest. Take care with this stretch if you have any shoulder or other issues, and always talk to a doctor before attempting something that might aggravate existing conditions. Exhale as you lift your hands up and pull your shoulders back.
The Lower Back Stretch
This is another easy exercise that can be done from the chair, but instead of leaning over chest and back first, this one brings your knees up towards your chest with a straight back, stretching both the buttock and lower back.
How to: While sitting and keeping your back straight, bring one of your knees toward your chest. Using both hands, gently pull your thigh toward you. You should feel tension in your lower back and upper buttock. Stretch for 30 seconds, relax and return to starting position for other leg.
The Shoulder Shrug
The shoulders and neck hold a lot of stress and tension. This one is simply getting those shoulders up, around, and back down, and reversing the motion.
How to: Seated or standing, lift the shoulders up towards the ears, squeezing them as hard as you can. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds and roll them back as you relax down. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps and then roll the shoulders forward.
Upper Body Arms/Tricep Stretches
How to: Clasp hands together above the head with palms facing outward. Push your arms up, stretching upward. Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
Triceps: Raise your arm and bend it so that your hand reaches toward the opposite side. Use your other hand and pull the elbow toward your head. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
The Spinal Twist
This one is another lower back stretch that helps work out the tension caused by sitting and hunching for a prolonged period of time. No need to over-rotate on this stretch as you’ll feel the results with very little twist.
How to: In a seated position with the feet flat on the floor, contract the abs and gently rotate the torso towards the right. Use your hands on the armrest or seat of the chair to help deepen the stretch. Only twist as far as you comfortably can and keep the back straight while keeping the hips square. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
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