Office workers who spend their days sitting at a desk hunched over their computers are among the many who complain of having a stiff back. This type of work can wreak havoc on your body, especially since most of us do not have the best posture to begin with. It is important to realize that hunching your shoulders and slumping in your seat can cause back pain, headaches, tension and tightness in your back, neck and shoulders.
The good news is that whether you are a cubicle dweller or have your own office you can perform some simple stretches to help alleviate a stiff back. The following stretches work to target the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders as well as the hips and backside. Taking just a few minutes to do some of these stretches throughout the day can help increase flexibility and reduce tension and stress. It is important to remember to do these stretches in the right position and to do them gently to prevent injury.
• Chest Stretch
This may one of the best exercises you can do for your body, since most of us spend much of our time hunched forward. This stretch can be even more effective when done using a resistance band or a towel. You may do this exercise either standing or seated. Raise your arms over head, press your arms back slightly, so they are just beyond your ears. You should feel a light stretch in your chest. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
Notes: You should avoid this move if you have shoulder problems. You can find resistance bands at most sporting goods and department stores and they are easy to keep in your desk for quick stretching or strengthening moves.
• Shoulder Shrugs
You can do this stretch either seated or standing. Begin by lifting the shoulders up towards the ears, squeezing them as hard as you can. Hold for 1-2 seconds and roll them back as you relax down. Repeat this stretch for 8-10 reps.
Notes: Because the shoulders and neck hold a lot of stress and tension, shoulder shrugs are a great way to relax the shoulders and get a little circulation going.
• Upper Back Stretch
You can do this stretch either seated or standing. Begin by stretching the arms out in front of you and rotating the hands so that the palms face away from each other. Cross your arms so that the palms are pressed together, contract the abs and round the back, reaching away as you relax the head. It is important that you do not collapse but instead imagine you are curving up and over a large rubber ball. Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds. If twisting your arms does not feel good, you can simply lace the fingers together.
Notes: This stretch can be very effective especially if you hold the phone against your shoulder or use your mouse a lot. The shoulder rolls described above may help loosen your neck and shoulders for this upper back stretch.
• Chair Twist
This stretch can help you work out some of the tension and stiffness from your back that results from having to sit all day. Begin in a seated position with your feet flat on the floor. Contract your abs and gently twist your torso towards the right, using your hands to help deepen the stretch. It is important to make sure that you only twist as far as you can comfortably go while keeping your back straight and your hips square. Hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat on the other side. Repeat this stretch periodically through the day.