Working from home can have its benefits but many are finding they are spending more time sitting in the same position without the natural breaks of office life. It can put more strain on your body if you have a sub-optimal desk set-up or you're moving less in your day. Here we’ll run you through stretches to relieve tension that may have built up in your body through computer use or sitting, and you will feel amazing if you can keep this routine up.
Ok, so not technically a stretch but it's such a vital part of keeping your body in good shape while slogging it out at the computer. We may end up taking fewer breaks at home or taking a lot fewer steps in our day but these times away from our desk and up on our feet are so important for both our mental and physical wellbeing. Try and plan regular breaks into your day and in those breaks get up, go for short walks and try some of the stretches below. Ideally, aim for five minutes to get up and move every half an hour. Good for concentration, too!
You’ll get benefit from any stretches that move muscles held in a static position for ages, or those muscles that are used repeatedly in tiny movements, such as keyboard or mouse taps, otherwise this can lead to repetitive strain injuries. Here at Healthwords we find the following three movements are a good place to start: first, bring your hand into a fist then stretch out your fingers as far apart as you can, maybe pushing them back for that satisfying push.
Second, touch the tip of your thumb to the tips of each of your fingers and then to the base of your little finger. The last one is flexing and extending your hand at the wrist. You can also massage your fingers, thumb, and forearm to help relieve any tension.
Neck pain is so common across WFH'ers. Your neck will thank you for some attention, as it bears the brunt of our lazy postures as the working day wears on. Try this one: tuck your chin to your chest and hold it for five seconds, perhaps adding the weight of your hands on top of your head (but don’t push your head)- then release and repeat. This can be particularly beneficial for people who sit with rounded back and chin jutted forwards when concentrating, reading or looking at the screen.
Other great neck releases are to drop your chin to your chest and roll your head slowly in a semi-circle from one side to the other. Next is to start with your head upright then ease the ear towards the shoulder – you can add the weight of your hand on the other side, above the other ear – again, don’t push your head. Hold it for five seconds, release and repeat.
For your shoulders, you’re aiming to release the tension that has built up in them. Some people experience shoulder pain from just constantly using a mouse. Circle your shoulders to get them moving, move them one way then the other way. Take a deep breath in and hunch your shoulders towards your ears in a shrug - on the out-breath drop them all the way back down. Repeat this a few times as you feel the tension release out your shoulders – the breathing helps with movement and tension, and your shoulders reset to their natural position.
You don’t even have to get up from your chair to do these exercises, and your spine will feel amazing for being released. First up is a spinal rotation stretch: plant your feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart, and try to keep your hips still. Rotate your body round as if your shoulders are turning to the back of the room – avoid straining your neck around, as this is a spine stretch, not a neck stretch, so just keep it in line as the upper body turns. To increase the stretch, you can put the hand now facing forward to the outside of the opposite thigh and gently apply pressure.
Next, facing forwards, place your hands on your lower back and gently lean backwards (make sure your chair is stable enough for you to do this and that it won’t fall backwards). This only needs to be a little movement, and, again, avoid overstretching your neck, the movement comes from the back.
The last one is best done on your feet. Take a slow gentle roll down from standing. Drop your chin to your chest and gradually curl your spine into a C-shape, until you need to bend your knees and your hands reach towards the floor or touch the floor, depending on your flexibility. You can rock gently side to side once there. Then slowly reverse the process starting to uncurl your lower back then middle and upper back, and finally the shoulders and the head. Repeat this three or four times – it's a great one to do when you’re first out of bed, too.
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