As technology becomes greater, our fitness levels become weaker. Today, most of our labor force is working in front of a computer, which can lead to success for your career but problems with your body. Working in an office can be very stressful and can keep you away from the gym. This can and will lead to even bigger problems down the road. Some of the biggest problems that occur when sitting in a desk day in and day out can take time to manifest, but when it happens, it can make everyday life very uncomfortable. Two of the biggest problems that will occur due to prolonged sitting and poor posture are neck pain and tension headaches.
“Most people will have a minor neck problem at one time or another. Our body movements usually do not cause problems, but it's not surprising that symptoms develop from everyday wear and tear, overuse or injury. Neck problems and injuries most commonly occur during sports or recreational activities, work-related tasks, projects around the home OR POOR POSTURE,” according to Dr. William M. Green.
Neck pain may feel like a kink, stiffness or severe pain. Pain may spread to the shoulders, upper back or arms, and it can cause headaches. Neck movement may be limited, usually more to one side than the other. Neck pain refers to pain anywhere from the area at the base of the skull into the shoulders.
Sitting at your desk everyday for eight hours leaning over with your head forward puts a severe amount of stress on your cervical vertebrae. Every inch your head is over the mid-line (head mid-line is the imagery line from your ear to your shoulder) is eight pounds of pressure on your neck. Over time, this will cause problems, in some cases very dangerous problems. Below is a picture of the spine and how pulling from the cervical spine can cause pain all the way down the lumbar spine.
Tension headaches are one of the most frequent types of headaches. They can be triggered by stress, anxiety, depression, hunger, anger, fatigue, overexertion, poor posture and muscle strain. Tension headaches may come on suddenly or gradually. Prolonged sitting, poor posture or eyestrain can also trigger tension headaches.
Tension headaches are the most common problem associated with working at a desk for long periods of time.
As society becomes more dependent on technology, our employees will spend more time in chairs and less time in the gym. These problems will just continue to get worse, not to mention the increase in obesity and everything that comes with it. In society today, it’s hard enough to find time to relax let alone find time to workout, so the only thing we can do is bring the gym to your workplace by using equipment around the office.
Working the correct muscles will help these issues, but we must also perform our daily activates correctly as well. Most people sit leaning forward at their desk with their shoulders rolled forward, causing a rounding of the thoracic-lumbar spine. The issues can be addressed by just sitting correctly at your desk and strengthening and stretching the correct muscles. Pictured below is the incorrect (left) and correct (right) way to sit at your desk, followed by a workout all office employees can do on a daily basis to correct poor posture.
Push Ups on a Chair
- Place your hands on the armrest of the chair slowly flex your elbows, lowering your chest toward the center of the chair.
- Allow the elbows to open to the sides so that the shoulders move through horizontal abduction.
- Maintain an aligned position from the ankles through the ears, everything straight and core tight. Avoid the hips from falling or lifting.
- Pause at the bottom of the movement, then slowly extend the elbows and press back up to the starting position.
Single Leg (Split) Squats
- Place one foot on the chair and the other firmly on the ground.
- Flex the front leg lowering your self into a deep squat; maintain good posture with your shoulders back and your spine in anatomical position.
- Make sure the knee does not pass over the toes, pause at the bottom
- Contract your gluteus the straighten the leg to the starting position.
- Stand as you would as if you wore performing a bent-over row.
- Arms should be hanging straight down just slightly in front of your feet, rotate the hands outward with thumbs pointed away from midline.
- With a slight bend in the arms, perform a shoulder abduction, contracting the muscles between the scapula (i.e., rhomboids).
Shoulder Push Press
- Angle you body in a 45 degree angle from the floor to the wall (as seen in the picture).
- Keep everything in perfect aliment, with the core tight.
- Slowly flex your elbow, making sure elbow flexion is towards the floor.
- Pause at the end point and then straighten your arm and return to the stating position (the closer your shoulders get to the wall, the harder the exercise becomes).
Triceps Push Ups
- Set your body up just like you would in the normal push-up but place your hands on the seat it self instead of arm rest.
- Slowly flex your slowly lowering your body toward the center of the chair.
- Make sure when you bend your elbows that bend towards your hips.
- Maintain an aligned position from the ankles through the ears, keep everything straight and core tight. Avoid the hips from falling or lifting.
Isometric Towel Curls
- Start by weighting your chair down (so that you can not lift it).
- Wrap a towel around one of the armrest of the chair.
- Grab the towel and squat down about six to 12 inches and then pull the towel, causing a contraction in the bicep.
- This is not your traditional curl, but you’ll feel a burn in both the bicep and forearm (this is also great for someone who has weak wrists or carpal tunnel syndrome).
Abdominal Leg Lifts
- Sit on the chair like you normally would with your hands on the armrest, then slide to the end of the chair and lean back, while elevating your feet.
- Keeping your shoulders back and core tight, raise you legs by only allowing movement in the hips; do not allow movement in the knees to occur.
Each stretch needs to be performed once every two hours and held for 30 seconds each (should be completed after every workout).
- Stand tall with core drawn in and gluteus contracted.
- Grab the towel used to perform the curls.
- Hold the towel out in front of you with your arms slightly bend.
- Take your hands over your head and stretch the chest.
- Maintain perfect posture.
- Start in anatomical position, with your shoulders back and shoulders blades retracted and depressed.
- Make sure your core is tight and engaged.
- Bring an arm across the body with the hand turned towards the body.
- With the other hand, grab the arm and pull it towards your body.
- Start by sitting normal in your chair and place your hands on your desk with your shoulders back.
- Place right hand supinated (palm up) underneath left hand.
- Slowly lean forward in your chair.
- Allow the head to turn in the direction of the stretch.
- Repeat entire movement for the opposite side.
- Position yourself with one leg elevated on your chair or desk.
- Slowly lean forward and stretch your hamstring.
- Stand tall with perfect posture, flex the knee and grab your ankle with the same hand.
- Slowly pull on your ankle and perform a posterior pelvic tilt that will stretch the quadriceps.
- Stand near a wall or sturdy object.
- Bring one leg forward for support; use your upper body to lean against wall.
- Your outstretched leg should form one straight line, and press the heel into the ground to feel the stretch.
- Start in anatomical position, with shoulders back.
- With one hand, grab the other around the finger and slowly pull the hand back towards the body and hold. Repeat.
- After performing twice, perform the same stretch with the other hand.
This workout will not make you the next Mr. Universe, but it will keep you active and help you combat the symptoms associated with sitting for prolonged periods of time (i.e., poor posture!). Performing the above exercises and stretches will keep your spine in alignment and prevent some of the dreaded side effects of having an office job, such as tension headaches, eye strain and neck pain, therefore making you a more productive and happy employee.
- http://www.webmb.com/neck-pain; Primary Medical Reviewer: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer: Robert B. Keller, MD – Orthopedics: WebMD WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise