We all know how hazardous sitting in front of a computer is for our bodies, especially if you do not have an ideal ergonomic set-up for your workstation. Most of you are probably more aware of your ergonomics while at work in the office, but we know that many of our clients are struggling to get properly set up in their makeshift working-from-home offices. That’s why we created our new Virtual Ergonomics Assessments to help you feel more comfortable and productive while working from home! Our sessions include an initial ergonomic consultation, an analyzing period, an implementation session, and follow up appointments to check on the progress of our action plan. Head to the service page or give our team a call to learn more about how we can help you feel less pain while working from home.
In the meantime, we want to arm you with stretches you can do right now to improve your working set up. If you find yourself sitting in the same position for hours at a time and are noticing the toll it is taking on your body and mind, then this blog is for you! Here are our team’s top 5 upper body areas you should stretch out throughout the workday to reduce any aches and pains you are feeling. It’s always a good idea to stretch in the morning and take regular work breaks so that you are breaking up prolonged sitting periods, so we recommend incorporating as many of these into your self-care routine as possible for a full upper body stretch.
#1: Chest Stretch
If you have a tendency to catch yourself hunched forward over your work, then this is one of the most important stretches for you! You can do this chest stretch sitting or standing. Simply put your arms behind you, lace your fingers together, straighten your arms, and gently/slowly lift your hands up until you feel a stretch in your chest. You can hold this for anywhere between 10-30 seconds but don’t forget to exhale as you lift your hands and try to pull your shoulders back to feel the entire stretch properly. This is also a great shoulder stretch but avoid this one if you have shoulder problems.
#2: Neck Stretches
Another area we hold the most tension while working is the neck area which can lead to headaches. Relieve some of this tension with side-to-side stretches and neck rolls. Sitting in your chair, grab the side of it with your right hand and gently pull while tilting your head to the left. You should feel this stretch down the right side of your neck and shoulder. Hold this for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. Then, sitting up again with your shoulders straight, slowly turn your head from side to side two times, up and down two times, and finish with some careful neck rolls while letting your head feel as heavy as possible to really feel this stretch.
#3: Shoulder Stretches
We have two great options for stretching out your shoulders which is also incredibly important if you hunch or have poor posture while at work. The first stretch can be done sitting or standing and simply involves stretching one arm across your body. Using your opposite hand, pull the arm towards your chest until you feel a good stretch in your shoulder. This one sounds simple but it does wonders for releasing all the stress, tension, and tightness that we often hold in our shoulders.
We also love the classic shoulder shrug which can also be done both sitting or standing. Start by lifting your shoulders up towards your ears, squeezing them as hard as possible, hold this for three seconds then slowly roll them back down as you relax. Repeat this for 10 reps and then roll your shoulders forward. This stretch is great for getting your blood moving through your shoulders and traps (which extend over the back of your neck and shoulders).
#4: Forearm Stretch
Don’t forget about your arms! If you work at a computer, you may not even realize how tight your forearms can get until the day is done and you go to stretch them out. Our last upper body stretch focuses on helping to loosen up the muscles in your forearms and wrists. Seated or standing, stretch your right arm out in front of you. Turn your hand down so that your fingers point towards the ground, then use your left hand to gently pull your fingers towards you. Be careful not to pull too hard but with enough force to feel this stretch in your forearm. Hold this for 30 seconds then repeat with your left arm.
#5: Upper Back Stretch
While the shoulder stretches you just did will help get your circulation going throughout your upper back, there are other stretches that we recommend for working on all the muscles between your shoulder blades. The first stretch is great for posture correction because it stretches all the muscles in your back, sides, and arms. Either sitting or standing, lace your fingers together and stretch your arms towards the ceiling. Take a deep breath as you reach as high as you can before exhaling, unlacing your fingers, opening your arms, and sweeping them back down. Repeat this move 10 times.
The second one is the extended arm stretch which can be done sitting or standing. Simply stretch both of your arms straight out in front of you and rotate your hands so that your palms face away from one another. Then cross your arms so your palms are now pressed together. Squeeze your abs, round your back, reach away from you, and relax your head. Try not to simply collapse your body, but instead focus on curving it and hold for 30 seconds.
We hope that this blog helps you put together a quick and easy upper body stretch routine that you can add to your workday! Set a timer to remind yourself to take regular breaks throughout the day to stand up and stretch – not only will your body thank you, but your mind will too as stretching breaks commonly increase productivity. Don’t forget to check out our new Virtual Ergonomics Assessments to reduce the risk of pain or injury while enhancing your productivity, quality of work, safety, and comfort.
Give us a call at (519) 880-1733 or fill out our contact form with any questions and to learn how physiotherapy can enhance your overall quality of life. We’re also always happy to help answer any general physiotherapy and wellness questions, provide you with health tips, and schedule a consultation. Just ask!