How could you possibly injure yourself at a desk job? It seems impossible that your body could be harmed in any way just by sitting at a desk, right? Sedentary postures particularly the day in/day out kind can put a strain on your body. I am sure you may have felt your body talking back to you during or at the end of a work day with physical complaints of stiffness or pain. Why does this happen? Sitting for long periods of time in one posture will cause the body to shorten certain muscle groups. For example, your hip flexors (where your body meets your leg) are shortened to let you sit. Also, your hamstrings on the back of your thigh can become shortened and tight. You may also experience pressure on the large nerve in the back of your leg (sciatic nerve) that can send pain down the entire length of your leg. If you assume poor sitting posture by sitting slouched forward, you are also affecting the joints and muscles around your chest and neck and overstretching those of your low back region. Here are a few simple exercise stretch ideas you can do right at your desk to avoid the above issues. If you have 5 minutes, you can do these stretches!
1. Sit on edge of your chair with legs together. Reach arms out to your sides at shoulder level with palms facing down. Slowly rotate your torso and arms to the left followed by turning your head to look to the left. Hold for a breath in and out. Then slowly rotate to the right side and repeat. Alternate sides for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
2. Move to the middle of your chair with your legs together. Interlock your fingers and turn so your palms are facing forward. Reach your arms straight up overhead and look up. Lean to your right side for 2 breaths then repeat to your left side for 2 breaths. You will feel a gentle stretch along your sides. Alternate sides for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
3. Stay in the middle of your chair and reach your right hand behind your back while holding your wrist with your left hand and gently pulling it toward the left side. Then, tilt your head away from your right shoulder. Lastly, with head away from shoulder, look up, look forward and look down while holding this stretch. Take a full breath in each position. Repeat sequence for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
4. Now, sit back in your chair and extend your right leg such that it is parallel to the floor. Place your hands on top of one another and on top of your right knee. Round your back as you slowly slide your hands along your shin as far as you can. Hold for 3 breaths then sit back up, switch legs and repeat. Alternate legs for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You should feel a stretch but no pain with this exercise. Do not do if it produces sciatic pain.
5. Sit with your feet resting flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and hold your ankle steady with your left hand. Keep your back flat as you slowly bend forward as far as you can. Hold 30 seconds then repeat on the opposite side.
Simply getting up from your desk several times a day to walk to the drinking fountain or copying machine or just standing up for a minute periodically will go far to also help break that chronic seated position. Stay flexible, stay healthy!