6 Ways to Stay Ache-Free Working a Desk Job
Each workday, we sit at our desks, staring at our screens, waiting for that clock to hit 5p.m. so we can get moving and head home. For you, that may be heading downstairs to join the family if you’re working from home, or maybe it’s starting your hour-long commute for those of you still working in the office in 2020. But have you ever considered what toll sitting at a desk for 8+ hours a day takes on your body? As a species, humans are meant to be active and always on-the-go but some professions call for focus and a more sedentary work style. To counteract these negative effects, we have some tips on how to stay healthy while working at your desk.
On average, Ergotron, an innovator for standing desks, determined that almost 70% of Americans sit all day for their careers, even though they hate doing so. But now, according to the CDC, one in four American adults sit for at least eight hours a day. And to keep from going insane from all the sitting, they reported that 36% of full-time employees make excuses to get up and moving for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, another 26% find reasons to stand for at least 30 minutes a day, whether for food or otherwise. Most of these breaks are used for symptom relief, whether it’s back pain or a sore neck so to prevent further discomfort, try these…
Take the Stairs
Stairs…. some of our worst enemies! It’s very easy to jump on that elevator and get where you’re going in no time flat but if you already know you’ll be sitting for quite a while, get a head start and be active before you settle in for the day. On top of improved leg strength, did you know that if you were to walk two flights of stairs at minimum a day, you could lose six pounds just from that alone? And you don’t have to worry about eating those Cheerios either because stair climbing actually improves the amount of “good cholesterol” pumping through the body too.
Keep the Breaks Coming
Though some employers may see this as a loss in productivity, how productive can you really be if you’re miserable? If you feel the urge to stand or move around in the middle of your day, take a few minutes to get active and clear your mind. Sometimes just talking to a coworker or walking to the fridge is break enough to ease some of the tension you may be feeling. Don’t let these breaks monopolize your time or become too much of a focus though. You still want to achieve your goals but soothe some of the aches and pains brought on by sitting.
Proper Posture: Sit Up!We cannot stress enough how important posture is, but even more so when you have chronic back pain. Just a slouch alone can cause muscle tension in both the upper and lower back. If you normally slump a bit in your chair, sitting up straight can feel foreign and a little taxing at first. You’ll start to notice though that by lengthening your spine, your giving back the natural curvature that keeps your body upright every day. Not only will you see an improvement in back pain, but you’ll also sit taller and ooze confidence even if you aren’t feeling it.
Stretch at Your Desk
Stretching doesn’t require much energy, or even that much space either. This is perfect for those who sit at a desk but want to relieve some of that stiffness in your back and shoulders.
- Over-the-Head Stretch
You do it every morning when you wake up, might as well do it again in the middle of your day. Raise your arms and clasp your hands over your head. Outstretch your arms upwards and lean your torso slowly from side to side, or forwards and backwards. You’ll feel a good stretch along your sides, back, and shoulders.
- Neck Rolls
It’s as easy as it sounds. Lean your head back until the back of your heads rests on your shoulders. Slowly roll your head from side to side. You’ll feel a nice stretch in your neck and along the tops of your shoulders.
- Touch Your Toes
The best way to stop leg or sciatic nerve pain is to get up and get moving, but when that isn’t an option, try this simple stretch. Stand up, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the waist and bring your torso down towards your knees. Reach for your toes, or the end of your shoes, until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. If you feel that the hamstrings are too tight for this movement, modify the stretch by following the same steps, but slightly bending your knees through the stretch to relieve some of the tension.
You may make more frequent trips to the restroom, but we said take mini breaks, right? Our bodies are composed of approximately 60% water so to say hydration is important would be an understatement. When you become dehydrated, your body can no longer regulate its temperature, especially in hot environments. Because of this, you become more susceptible to muscle cramps all over the body. For those working at desks, those muscles may tense up more in your back in reaction to lack of water. If you already suffer from chronic back pain, a random muscle spasm in your back will certainly not help. And if you already get frequent headaches, dehydration can trigger a powerful migraine so stay vigilant and drink your suggested 64 ounces of water a day!
Easy Massages from Your Chair
If you’ve tried everything above and you still have aches and pains that just won’t quit, try massaging out those tense knots manually. There are plenty of trigger points throughout the body that can be targeted with firm pressure to cause a muscle release. Because tension forms an actual knot within the muscle, applying pressure for a release offers instant pain relief. Many have tried placing a tennis ball between their back and a wall and rolling the ball along their back for pain relief but why try this when there are tools that are much simpler, and more discreet, than the tennis ball maneuver? Try a massage cane that has specific knobs for each individual trigger point. These are relatively small, are good for travel, and can be used right from your office chair. Who said massage therapy had to cause a scene, right?
Just because you spend your work days in a chair doesn’t mean you have to take daily aches and pains sitting down. Stand up to back and shoulder pain by staying active and keeping your body in tip-top shape. Your body and mind….and your employer will thank you for taking care of yourself and reaching those goals!