Sitting hunched over a computer all day can leave you feeling stiff, sore and in pain.
Muscles get tight from our hunched-over seated posture, which not only causes us pain, but can also cause us to get injured during our workouts.
If we want to live injury free AND get the most out of our workouts, we need to take time to roll out and stretch those tight muscles.
Below are some great stretches to help you alleviate those desk job aches and pains.
10 Essential Stretches For Anyone With A Desk Job
1. 3 Way Neck Stretch – Bend your elbow and reach one hand behind your back. Then grab that wrist with the other hand. Pull the arm behind your back toward the opposite side. You want to create a “chicken wing” with the arm that is pulling. Then lean your head to the side you are pulling to. Do not tense your shoulders and bring them up toward you ears. Relax into the stretch. Start by looking straight ahead. Then look up and hold for a second or two. Then look back straight ahead. And then look down. Move your chin as you look and not just your eyes. Changing the direction of where you look, will change exactly which muscles in your neck and upper back that you stretch.
2. Forearm, Wrist and Bicep Stretch – Stretch one arm straight out in front of you. Point your finger tips down toward the ground. You can do one stretch with your palm facing away and one with your palm facing toward you. Take the other hand and press down on the fingertips, pushing them back toward your body As you press down, you should straighten your arm more so you feel a stretch down your forearm and up into your bicep.
3. Thoracic Extension on a Roller – Lie on your back with the roller at the bottom of your upper back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Drop your butt down to the ground and then lean back over the roller, trying to drop your head to the ground behind you. Move the roller up higher on your upper back and then drop your butt to the ground and extend back over again. Work all the way up and down your upper back. Extend back over the roller and breathe deeply while keeping your butt on the ground.
4. Scorpions – Lie on your belly with your arms out straight at shoulder height. Your legs should be out straight behind you. The swing one leg up and kick it behind you. As you kick it back over your body, bend the knee and reach your toe over and behind you back a bit toward your head.. Kick your leg back over your body, trying to touch your toe back behind you. Tap it down then bring that leg back down and then reach the other leg over your back. Alternate reaches, bringing your toe back over your body and toward your head.
5. Star Stretch – Lie on your back with a foam roller or ball to your right side. Bend your left knee to about 90 degrees and pull it across your body so that your left knee is resting on the ball/roller. Place your right hand on top of your knee to hold your knee onto the ball or roller. Reach your left hand across your body and touch the floor on the right side with your palm. Then open that arm back up to the left side, trying to touch the back of the hand down to the ground. Relax the arm open, trying to drop the shoulder to the ground. Try to open up the chest as much as possible without letting the knee move from the roller or ball. Hold for a second or two and then bring the hand back across and repeat. Complete all reps on that side before switching.
6. Standing Lat Stretch – Place the side your hand on a wall, bookshelf or desk and then straighten your arm and bend over and walk away. You want to push your butt back and lengthen from your hand all the way down your side. Even rotate a bit so you are looking under the arm on the desk or wall and then away from the arm. Feel a nice stretch down your arm and into the side of your back. Hold and repeat on the other side. Child’s pose can be another great way to stretch your lats and your upper back as well as your lower back.
7. Kneeling Bridge – Start by kneeling on both legs with your feet flexed and toes tucked under. Sit back and place your hands on your heels. Then arch up off your heels, driving your hips forward and chest out, keeping your hands on your heels. Relax your head back and arch as much as you can, getting a nice stretch down your chest, core, hips and quads. Hold for 1-2 seconds and relax back down. Repeat. If you are less flexible, do this stretch with a couch, chair or table behind you. Kneel down and place your hands back behind you on the couch or table. Press your chest out and arch as much as possible away from the piece behind you while leaning your head back. Then relax back down and repeat.
8. Kneeling Hip Circles – Come to your hands and knees on the ground. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Lift one leg out to the side, keeping your knee bent to about 90 degrees. Lift your foot back and then bring your knee up around and forward. Then drop the knee down and around back to the starting point. Make big circles with your hip, going clockwise and then counterclockwise. Keep your arms straight as you circle.
9. Crescent Pose to Hamstring Stretch – Start in a high plank position. Step one foot up between your hands with that front knee bent and your back leg straight behind you. Your front heel should be down while your back heel will be up. Lift your hands up off the ground and reach them back and overhead as you stay in a low lunge. Feel a nice stretch down the hip and quad of the back leg. Then bring the hands back down to the ground and hike your hips up to straighten your front leg. Lean your chest over and feel a stretch down the hamstring of the front leg. Sink back into the lunge and reach up and back overhead again to stretch the hip and quad before repeating the hamstring stretch. Complete all reps on one side before moving back into the plank and switching to the other side.
10. Bear Squat – Kneel on the ground with your hands on the ground in front of you. The closer you place your hands to your knees, the harder the stretch will be. Press your butt up into the air, driving your heels into the ground. Feel a nice stretch down your calves and hamstrings as you try to get your legs as straight as possible. Hold for 1-2 seconds and then drop back down to your knees before repeating.
Have nagging aches and pains from sitting all day? Want help to get rid of them? Comment below and I’ll get back to you with suggestions!
Let’s face it…Even if we are pretty active, we spend a great deal of time hunched over a computer. Which generally leads to bad posture and upper back and neck pain.
Because most people sit looking at a computer screen all day, muscles get out of their proper alignment. For instance because you hunch over the computer, your upper traps may become active (aka you may be tense a lot with your shoulders up by your ears). If your upper traps are overactive, most likely your lower traps will be underactive. Muscles therefore aren’t working the way they should be.
When muscles aren’t properly aligned and working the way they should be, other muscles compensate, leading to injury.
Below are some great trigger point release, stretches and strengthening moves you can do to alleviate minor aches and pains in your neck, shoulders and upper back. These moves will release and stretch any muscles that would be tight from sitting all day. They will also strengthen those muscles that are underactive.
NECK – Be careful when rolling out your neck. Use a very softer ball and stand against a wall with the ball between the wall and your neck. Do not go over your vertebrae. Dig in lightly to any tight spots. Look side to side and up and down to release any trigger points.
UPPER TRAPS AND SHOULDER BLADES – Stand with your back to a wall. Place a tennis ball right behind your trap (just to the side of your neck). Roll the ball out toward your shoulder and then back in. Then roll it down your shoulder blade and back up. Hold on any tight spots. You can even stretch your neck away from the side of the ball and then relax to help dig out the trigger point. As you work your way down your shoulder blades, you may even cross one arm (the arm on the side with the ball) across your chest to allow you to really work under the shoulder blade. Hold on any tight spots and relax and breathe.
CHEST – A big foam ball works best if you do this on the ground. Take the foam ball and place it in your chest near the shoulder joint, but not on the shoulder joint. Lie face down on the ground with the ball in your chest. Reach your hand overhead and then bring it back down by your side. You can even reach out to the side and then bring your hand back in. Hold on any tight spots. You can also do this standing with a smaller ball against a pole, door frame or corner of a wall into a hallway. Place the ball on the wall in your chest near your shoulder joint. You should put it in the side of your chest that isn’t blocked by the wall so you can stretch your arm out in front of you. Stretch your arm out in front of you at shoulder height. Then raise it over head and lower it back down to the ground. Move the arm around to help dig out any trigger points.
LATS – You can use a foam ball or a ball. I prefer the roller because I can hit my lats and also roll out my upper back and work on thoracic extension. Lie on your side with the roller under one armpit. Rock forward and backward and then move the roller down your side toward your belly button. Work down your lat to about the end of your ribs. Rock forward and backward as you move to really dig out the lats. If you use the blue ball, you can actually start in your chest and then roll the ball under your armpit and up between your shoulder blades. It is a great move if you want to hit your back, lats and chest all in one!
THORACIC EXTENSION – Take a roller and roll out your upper back. Let it roll from about your ribs to your shoulders. You can lean a bit to either side to change exactly where the roller hits. You can also use a ball to roll out your upper back. I like the roller though because after your roll out your back you can do a nice little stretch. With the roller in your upper back, drop your butt down to the ground and then lean back over the roller, trying to drop your head to the ground behind you. Change where the roller is in your upper back and then drop your butt to the ground and extend back over again. Really works on thoracic extension since we seem to be in thoracic flexion for 8 hours a day while sitting in front of the computer screen!
For more great foam rolling techniques, check out the Redefining Strength video library.
THREE WAY STRETCH – You can do this move seated or standing. Reach one hand behind your back and then grab that wrist with the other hand. Pull the arm behind your back toward the opposite side. Then lean your head to the side you are pulling to. Do not tense your shoulders and bring them up toward you ears. Relax into the stretch. Then change the direction of your gaze. Look up and hold for a second or two. Then look straight ahead. And then look down. Move your chin as you look and not just your eyes. Changing the direction of where you look, will change exactly which muscles in your necks and upper back that you stretch.
HEAD NODS — There are three types of head nods I like. The “yes” head nod where you look down toward the ground then lean your head back and look up at the ceiling as if doing a big nod yes (move slowly trying to open up your range of motion). The “no” nod where you look side to side, trying to look as far both ways as possible as if you doing a big slow no nod (do not move to quickly and make yourself dizzy). And the “rooster” nod where you pull your chin back in toward your chest as if trying to create a double chin and then you extend your chin back out (it kind of reminds of the rooster head movement). All should be done slowly and with the shoulders relax. If you feel your shoulders creeping up by your ears, stop and relax them. You may even want to slightly reach down toward the ground with your hands to keep them relaxed.
WALL SLIDES – An oldie but goodie, this one works on thoracic flexibility. Stand against a wall with your core tight and your butt and upper back firmly against the wall. Place your forearms against the wall with your elbows bent. Then try to reach your forearms and hands up the wall as far as possible without losing contact with the wall. Don’t let your head, butt or upper back move from the wall either and try to keep your core tight. Slide your hands up and down, increasing the range of motion if you can with each rep.
KNEELING THORACIC EXTENSION – On your hands and knees, reach one hand down your neck and spine. Fingertips should be pointing down your back toward your butt. Then rotate your core so that your elbow goes under your arm on the ground. Then rotate open driving the elbow up toward the ceiling. Try to focus on just opening up your back and not really shifting your weight in your lower body. Then rotate back closed and repeat.
CAT/CAMEL – You can do this move standing or on your hands and knees. The basic move is that you round your back as much as possible and then you extend back the other way as much as possible. So on your hands and knees. Round your back up toward the ceiling. Then drop down and arch your back driving your belly button toward the ground and even looking up toward the ceiling with your head. If you do this standing, you will round forward as if hunching over your desk. Even bring your hands and arms forward as you round. Then extend open, opening your arms and even looking up toward the ceiling. Really exaggerate the extension if you can.
UPPER BACK AND LAT – Probably my favorite stretch of all time shown to me by Mark at the gym. Kneel on the ground. Then lean forward and rotate onto one side. Drop the side of your head and shoulder down to the ground. Reach the bottom arm out in front of you. Then reach the top hand back and overhead. Really try to rotate your chest open toward the ceiling. Hold and then repeat on the other side.
LAT STRETCH – Child’s pose can be a great way to stretch your lats and your upper back. You can also simply place the side your hand on a bookshelf or desk and then straighten your arm and bend over (if needed) and walk away. Even rotate a bit so you are looking under the arm on the desk or wall and then away from the arm. Feel a nice stretch down your arm and into the side of your back. Hold and repeat on the other side.
CHEST STRETCH – A doorway, pole or corner is great for this stretch. Place your hand or forearm on the side of the doorway. Step through the doorway until you feel a stretch down your chest and into your shoulder. Do not rotate toward the arm in the doorway. Try to face straight ahead. Hold and then switch.
SCAPULAR PUSH UPS – These are hard for many people to do so you may want to have someone watch your form the first time. This is a very small range of motion. Set up in a push up position from your knees or toes. Create a nice straight line with your body. Then pinch your shoulder blades back and together and press your chest out. Then relax. It is really only a few inches of motion. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR CORE TO MOVE. Many people will drop their hips and move their core or bend their elbows. All you are doing is pinching your shoulder blades back and together. Do not let your shoulders shrug up by your ears.
SCAPULAR WALL HOLD – An essential move if you sit at a desk all day. Stand with your back to a wall. Bend your elbows with your arms at your side. Drive your chest out and pinch your shoulder blades down and together. Do not let your shoulders shrug. Lean back into the wall. Only your elbows and maybe your head should touch the wall. Walk your feet away from the wall only if needed to increase the resistance. Press your chest out and draw your shoulder blades together as you hold. You create the tension and this move will only be difficult if you really activate the muscles.
CORNER ROW – A dynamic scapular hold. Stand in a corner in the same position as the scapular hold. Place one elbow on each side of the corner. Drive up into the scapular hold and then relax back into the corner and repeat. Do not let the shoulders shrug up as you row out. Also the farther from the wall your feet are, the harder the move will be.
LAT TOWEL PULLDOWN – You can do this move with or without a towel. It is very much like the wall slides except you aren’t against a wall. Reach your hands up with your elbows bent. Your hands should be on either side of your chest with your palms facing forward. You can hold a towel tight between your hands. This sometimes helps to remind you to keep tension between your shoulder blades and activate your lats. Reach your hands up overhead, keeping tension on the towel. Then pull the towel back down, pulling with your lats as you pinch your shoulder blades down and together. Repeat, keeping tension between your shoulder blades and using your lats to pull.
BAND SCAPULAR FLY – For this one you need a light resistance band. Hold the resistance band with your hands about shoulder-width apart. Arms should be straight out in front of you at about shoulder height or right below. Keeping your arms straight, open your arms out to the side. Pinch your shoulder blades together as you open. Do not let your shoulders shrug up. Then once you open the band to your chest with your arms straight, bring your arms back together so your arms are about shoulder-width apart again and there is no slack in the band. Repeat.
Many of these moves can even be done in your office when you need a quick break from looking at the computer screen. I tell clients all the time that at least every hour or so they should get up and do a couple quick stretches and a scapular hold for a minute or two. Great way to reverse the effects of hunching over AND a great way to become even just a little bit more active!
Here is actually a great move to extend EVERYTHING that is basically flexed all day at the computer.
NOTE: Anyone love…I mean hate…burpees? Look out for some cool burpee variations to come later this week!
Many of us sit at a computer for hours at a time, maybe even whole days, typing.
Which means our wrists are bent and flexed in an unnatural position for HOURS. And then when we are done typing, we go and “grip” things.
We carry grocery bags or go to the gym and lift weights or hold pencils and pens. We hold spoons to stir the dinner in the pan that we are also holding. (And it’s funny because most of us need to work on grip strength, which while important to improve, can also add to our pain).
Our hands and wrists are constantly in flexion (even our elbows are flexed a lot).
And this leads to a lot of hand, wrist, forearm and even elbow pain. (Shoot even if you play a sport like tennis and have some elbow pain…THIS CAN HELP!)
So what are some tips to help you alleviate the pain?
Where ever there are muscles, you can foam roll and probably should be foam rolling.
Take a golf ball and place it under your hand on a table or flat surface. Roll the golf ball around the palm of your hand. You can add a little bit of extra pressure by pressing down with your other hand.
You can then take the golf ball or a tennis ball (or small trigger point roller or foam roller) and roll out all of the muscles from your wrists to your elbow. Make sure to get the top and bottom of your forearm. To dig in deeper as you roll out, you can tense and relax your forearm on the ball or roller. To tense, make a fist and then relax over the roller. You can also dig in deeper by applying pressure with your other hand.
If you are suffering from elbow pain, you may also want to roll out your tricep and bicep right above your elbow. You can take a roller or ball and place it on a low table and roll your arm out on it. You can also place the roller or ball against a wall and press your arm into it (this works well for the tricep but not as well for the bicep unless you are in an opening or doorway). Again, you can apply more pressure and dig in deeper, by pressing down with your other hand. Make sure to rock back and forth and not only move the roller up and down.
Wrist (and Hand) Stretches:
- Hand Circles – Clasp your hands together and draw circles and figure eights both ways with the hands together. Try not to tense your hands, but relax them through the range of motion.
- Under Forearm stretch – Kneel on the ground and place your palms down on the ground. Turn your fingertips back toward your knees. Then sit back on your heels and feel a stretch down the inside of your forearm. Sit back as far as you can without letting the heel of your palms come up. Rock back and forth. Do not hold the stretch but move slowly.
- Inside/Outside Stretch – Kneel on the ground with your palms on the ground and your fingertips pointing out away from each other. Lean forward a bit into your hands so that there is some pressure on your palms and wrists. Keeping the pressure on the hands, flip one hand and then the other so that the finger tips are pointing in and the back of your hands are down. Then, one at a time, flip the hands back out.
- Side to Side Extension – Kneel on the ground with your palms down and hands about shoulder-width apart. Fingers should be pointing outward away from each other. Then rock side to side slowly and smoothly.
- Prayer Stretch – Place your hands together. You can do this with the fingertips pointing up or down (do both if you have time). Press the fingertips together. If your fingers are pointing up, you are going to try to press the hands down as low as possible without the heels of the palms coming apart. If your fingertips are pointing down, you will try to raise your hands up as high as possible without your hands coming apart.
Tricep and Bicep Stretches:
- Wrist and Bicep Stretch – Stretch one arm straight out in front of you. Take the other hand and press down on the fingertips, pointing them down toward the ground. As you press down, you should straighten your arm more so you feel a stretch down your forearm and up into your bicep.
- Hugs – Swing your arms open as wide as you can to feel a stretch through your chest and biceps. Then swing your arms across your body as if you are hugging yourself. Reach your hands around back as far as possible and then open up again as wide as possible. Repeat never really holding in one position.
- Overhead Tricep Stretch – Reach one hand up overhead and then down your back. Reach as far down your back as possible and then take the other hand and press down on the elbow to increase the stretch. Try not to arch your back as you do this stretch. You can also do this with a towel. Reach one hand over and down the back from the top. Hold a towel in that hand and then reach up the back to grab the other end of the towel. Pull down on the towel to increase the stretch.
- Across the Chest Tricep Stretch – Reach one arm across your chest and take the other arm and pull it tighter to your chest. You can relax the arm across your chest down into the bent elbow of the other arm. Make sure to keep the shoulder of the arm across the chest relaxed down and back.
Probably one of the best simple cure-alls for the lower arm is the rubber band finger extensions. It works all the way up your forearm to loosen everything that is constantly flexed.
To do it, get a rubber band (you can use a basic rubber band or get one of the thicker ones designed for this) and place it around the outside of your fingers. Place it around that middle knuckle. Then extend your fingers open as far as possible before bringing them back together. Do a number of reps (I recommend starting with like 30-50 depending on the tension of the band).
These are all quick fixes you can do to alleviate hand, wrist, forearm and elbow pain. None of them take a lot of time and can even be added to your workout warm ups.
If you sit at a desk all day, you can easily do some of these every few hours when you get up for a break. You could even add in the scapular hold and some neck and trap stretches too!…Hint…hint…
NOTE: If you have sever pain please see a Physical Therapist. These are meant to alleviate minor aches and pains. Ice can also be a great tool if an area is super inflamed.