There just aren’t enough hours in the day. At least, that’s what we tell ourselves. Most of us struggle with busy schedules, too many time demands, and desk jobs. That doesn’t help with the aches and pains—tight necks, sore backs, sore shoulders, tired muscles—that many people deal with every day. It is quite common for people who are “tethered” to their desks and “chained” to their computers to suffer from chronic pain and stiffness. Too many hours of sitting in stationary positions, craning your head toward computer screens, and performing repetitive movements like typing and using a mouse can cause muscle tissue damage and weakness. Stress can also cause overuse of certain muscle groups, resulting in tissue damage and pain.
One thing that can definitely help build muscle and relieve stress, counteracting the effects of too many sedentary hours, is exercise. But who has the time? And even if we spend several hours a week getting healthy exercise (highly recommended and beneficial), it may not be enough to combat a week of sitting and staring at screens for both work and play. What works best for conditioning muscles and relieving chronic pain and stiffness is a combination of routine exercises that increase the heart rate (walking, running, swimming, dancing, weight lifting, etc.) with specific stretching and light exercises performed at short intervals throughout the day. , every day. This can be achieved by spending just five to ten minutes every few hours on small, quiet movements that target specific muscle groups.
For example, to perform computer work, our arms remain in a position with shoulders forward, elbows bent, and wrists locked. This forces our biceps and pectoral muscles to continually contract, and the rhomboid muscles in the back to overstretch. To correct the daily damage this causes, it is necessary to perform the opposite movements, which means stretching the muscles in the arms and chest, and shortening/relaxing the muscles in the back. There are very simple stretches that can accomplish this, and they can be done anywhere, anytime, even in the office while sitting at our desks!
This is one of these sections. Begin by assuming a comfortable posture, with your arms hanging long and loose at your sides. Focus on pulling your shoulders back and relax your neck. Keeping your head up and looking forward, drop your shoulders, bend your right arm at the elbow, and bring your right arm up until it rests against your back. Enjoy the stretch for 10 seconds; then lower your right arm so that it hangs freely at your side. Perform the same movement with your left arm, holding it behind your back for 10 seconds. Then, with your left arm still behind your back, bring your right arm back to rest against your left arm, which is still pressed against your back. To stabilize the position, you can grab your right wrist with your left hand and hold. Gently push your chest forward and shoulders back. Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Enjoy the proud posture (and even the discomfort, if any) knowing that your muscles are being released from daily constrictions. Relax your arms at your sides for a moment. Drop your head down to stretch the back of your neck; then lift your head to face forward again. Repeat the entire stretching sequence three more times for a full set.
This is just one of the very simple stretches that need to be done every few hours throughout the day. It requires little time to carry out and is not detrimental to the work environment. But it’s well worth the effort, as it allows overworked muscles that have contracted in limited positions to release tension and increase blood circulation. There are many other simple stretches and exercises, like this one, that can help correct problems caused by limited, repetitive desk work and computer use. A little effort, luckily, goes a long way.