Short Stretch Breaks at Work

Whether you work at a corporate office or shared work space sitting at a desk, or at home working from your bed or couch, sitting still for countless hours with poor posture will eventually cause some part of your body to experience discomfort (e.g. the neck, back, shoulders, wrists, etc).

Examples of bad posture

Over time, the body will adapt to prolonged postural stresses and repetitive muscular actions. As a result, some muscles will tighten up and shorten while their opposing muscular group will weaken and become stretched and strained. The good news is that simple strategies are available to counter act this problem. The first thing you can do to help yourself with these problems is to arrange your work area with good ergonomics. Use the graphic below as a quick start guide.

Computer desk ergonomics

The second action would be to take regular stretch breaks. All it takes is 3 to 5 minutes ideally every 1 to 2 hours throughout your workday or as much as is practical for you – doing one round per day is better than none. In those 3-5 minutes, you just need to get up, move around, and stretch out. It will help to break up your postural stagnation, relieve the buildup of muscular tension, and discomfort. Also, if you’re stuck on a creative problem, it helps to just walk away from your work and take a mental break. Go outside, get some fresh air and sunshine. Come back to your project refreshed and re-energized.

Neck pain

The stretching movements linked in this post (I’m working on a series – see links at the bottom) are not “magic bullets”. I’d bet that most people instinctively know how to move around and stretch their body. And that’s the point – just get up, move around, and stretch out for a few minutes. Odds are you’ll feel at least a little bit better.

Each post in this series will suggest a sequence of complimentary stretching and mobility exercises you can perform in short spurts throughout your workday to address the common trouble spots. They should take no more than 5 minutes to complete. You won’t need any special equipment and you’ll likely be able to perform this right in your work area.

Prioritize the specific movements you believe help you the most. Make it into a routine that works for you.

Part 1: Chest and upper back stretch break
Part 2: Shoulder and Neck

More to come – neck, shoulder, back, wrist-fingers, legs.

Published by Mitchell Diaz, LMT

I'm a licensed massage therapist practicing in South Miami, FL.

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