Top 5 Desk Stretches to Maintain Correct Posture and Prevent Back and Shoulder Pain

In today’s modern lifestyle, the majority of occupations tend to be more sedentary, confined to desk based work in front of a computer.  Contrary to what is commonly thought, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ posture, but it is the length of time spent in those positions that can feed into pain or discomfort.

To counteract this issue,  it’s a good idea to incorporate changes in position and, or regular movement breaks. Here are some of our top recommendations to consider implementing into your work day to minimise the chance of pain or discomfort. 

Every 1-2 hours

1. Change your position from sitting to standing
2. Alternate between these positions whilst you work
3. Go get a glass of water 
4. Bruegger exercise:

Stand up with your arms relaxed at your side.
Rotate your arms so your thumbs are pointing backward to open the chest.
Squeeze the shoulder blades together, keep your chin tucked and hold this position for the recommended time.

At lunch

Think about incorporating movement into your day. This could be a 10-20 minute walk outside, some light yoga, pilates or some of the following exercises/stretches:

Thoracic extension stretch

Prolonged sitting can lead to discomfort in the mid-upper back if you have been in a ‘hunched’ position. The thoracic extension stretch helps counteract this forward flexion and promotes a more upright posture.

  • Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Interlace your hands behind your head, elbows pointing out to the sides.
  • Gently arch your upper back, leaning back slightly.
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, repeat 5-10 times until it feels easier to move

Seated Forward Fold

This stretch targets the lower back and hamstrings, both of which can feel tight from sitting for prolonged periods in a shortened position.

  • Sit tall on the edge of your chair with one foot out in front (this is the side you’re stretching)
  • Slowly hinge forward from your hips, feeling the stretch through your hamstrings and secondarily, the lower back.
  • Hold this position for 10-15 seconds, repeating 4-5 times per leg

Shoulder girdle mobiliser – Wall angels

  • Stand or sit on the floor with your back and buttocks against the wall. Place your head (chin in), your shoulders, elbows and wrists against the wall with shoulders and elbows at 90 degrees.
  • Keeping the entire body in contact with the wall, slowly slide your arms upward along the wall.
  • Breath normally during movement and slowly return to the initial position – repeat 10-20 times.

Neck Stretch

Neck pain and stiffness are common issues resulting from being fixed on screens, and from being hunched over a keyboard for extended periods of time. This simple series of movements encourages bloodflow and working into all available ranges rather than being too static in one.

  • Position your head and neck in neutral position (looking forward, chin slightly tucked/not jutting out and sitting tall – imagine a thread being pulled from the top of your head) 
  • Imagine a large clock on the wall in front of you.
  • With your eyes open move your head and neck in a clock pattern. Start at the centre of the clock tracing away toward the number. When you get to the end range add a gentle over pressure to increase the stretch and then return to the centre of the clock after each number.

Incorporating regular stretching (and movement) breaks into your desk routine can significantly improve posture, alleviate back and shoulder pain, and enhance overall wellbeing, but if you are experiencing pain rather than tightness, it’s worth getting booked in for an appointment so we can provide a thorough assessment and treatment plan.