PT on the Net Research

Office Stretch Handout

This handout was created for the office employee who spends most of the day seated at a desk. The following tips will help you to survive during an average workday.

  1. Sit with proper posture: Slumping in your chair may feel better at times, but in the long term, your body will pay for it. This position puts a lot of strain on your spine, causing more pressure on the disks between the vertebrae, thus possibly leading to an injury. Sitting with poor posture will also increase the risk of low back pain and muscle stiffness.
  2. Adjust your computer: Be sure you are not straining your neck trying to look down or up at your computer screen. The monitor should be visible by looking straight ahead.
  3. Switch ears: If you are consistently using the telephone on the same side, be sure to switch. Most people rest the phone on their shoulder, causing the shoulder and neck muscles to tense. Failure to switch sides will cause muscle imbalances and possibly lead to headaches and neck and shoulder stiffness. Ultimately, a headset (hand-free phone) should be used to help alleviate such complications.
  4. Remodel the work area: Periodically, be sure to change your work area, especially for commonly used items. This will prevent your body from developing muscle imbalances due to repetitive stress.
  5. Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Throughout the day, frequently stretch your fingers (spread them apart and flex and extend them) and stretch your wrists (flex and extend them and move them in circular motions) to prevent chronic strain. Also, having a proper set up at your desk will help in the prevention of this syndrome: 1) align your wrists so your fingers are in line with your forearm; 2) make sure your keyboard is not tilted up in the back. It is better to have it tilting down; and 3) try to type lightly.
  6. Take mini breaks: Sitting in the same position all day long will cause lack of circulation throughout your body, leading to tingling in your fingers and toes as well as swelling in your feet. Taking small intermittent breaks throughout the day will help regain the circulation. Also, when sitting for a long period of time, your spine remains in a state of compression. Therefore, small breaks will help to decompress your spine, which will help reduce the chance of back pain. Lastly, relieving yourself from work, even for a short period of time, will help decrease mental stress. Taking a small break can be taking a walk to the restroom or coffee machine, walking up a flight of stairs, stretching or simply moving your body.
  7. Stretch your muscles: There are common muscles that tend to tense for those who spend the day sitting. These muscles include, but are not limited to, the neck, shoulders and back. Common stretches include:

    Neck and Shoulders:

    • Sitting or standing, allow your arms to hang at your sides.
    • Tilt your head sideways to your shoulder.
    • Put slight pressure on your head by pushing down with hand (If your head is tilted to right shoulder, use right hand).
    • With opposite arm, reach for the floor.
    • Hold for 15 seconds.
    • Repeat on the other side.

    Back and Shoulders:

    • Standing or sitting, reach one arm over your head.
    • With the opposite arm, reach toward the floor.
    • Hold for 15 seconds.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.


    • Standing or sitting, place hands on your hips.
    • Slowly twist at your waist as if you were looking over your shoulder.
    • Hold for 15 seconds.
    • Repeat on the opposite side.
  8. Performing mini exercises: Just as the above stretches will help to strengthen your body and maintain good posture, performing mini exercises throughout the day is also extremely beneficial. Common exercises include:

    Seated Posture (very important exercise):

    • Without using the backrest, sit with feet flat on the floor.
    • Keep your chest up high.
    • Keep your shoulders back, with your palms facing forward.
    • Take four deep breaths (from your belly).
    • Perform frequently throughout the day.


    • Stand in proper posture.
    • Draw belly button inward (as if you were making your waist smaller).
    • Slowly squat down as if you were picking up something.
    • Keep your knees straight in line with your toes.
    • Repeat 5-10 times.

    Wall Push-Ups:

    • Stand at an angle to a wall, leaning forward.
    • Place both hands on the wall, slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
    • Lean forward, bending your arms at the elbows.
    • Keep your chest up, and be careful not to overarch your lower back.
    • Legs should remain straight and feet flat on floor.
    • Push back to start position.
    • Repeat 5-10 times.
  9. Lunch breaks - not just for lunch: Walk to a nearby restaurant, walk for half of your lunch hour, roller blade, go to a nearby gym... the bottom line is to move as much as possible! You will be amazed by the power of exercise. It helps to reduce physical and emotional stress, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment, it keeps your body healthy, and it is a great way to stay in shape.
  10. Fuel your body: Drink plenty of fluids. This will help you to keep your body hydrated and working most efficiently. Dehydration can cause you to feel tired and sluggish. Eat small meals throughout the day to fuel your body properly. Think of your body as if it were a fireplace. If you put too much wood (food) on the fire at once, the fire will get smothered and burn out. If you continually add wood (food) to the fire, it will eventually die out. However, if you add small amounts of wood (food) all day long to the fire, it will continue to burn. This is analogous to your metabolism. If you do not continually fuel it, it will burn out. Don’t make the mistake of smothering your metabolism; small meals every three hours will keep it burning. Overall, you will feel more energetic and you will not be hungry. Thus, you will be more efficient at work.