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Back Pain at Work? Three Exercises You Can Do Right at Your Desk

Back Pain at Work? Three Exercises You Can Do Right at Your Desk

Even though I’m a coach, I spend a significant portion of my day at my desk, huddled over my keyboard and computer screen, furiously typing away emails and reports, often finding myself with sore muscles and an achy back without having done much of anything physically taxing…or so it seems.

For the most part, your achy back and muscles are from the way we sit. We aren’t necessarily designed to be sitting for long periods of time. When we sit and work away on our computer screens, our neck protrudes, our shoulders hump, and we lose our posture in our back. It’s only natural to start to slouch when you are sitting for eight hours a day, or more likely nine or ten hours with the extended work hours you have been putting in.

However, there are a few simple things you can do at your desk to help strengthen you and bring some relief to your achy muscles and stiff back.

Lower Back Pain

Sitting at your desk all day can lead to lower back pain. “Pain in the lower back, or lumbar region, is the most common work-related back problem,” (AFSCME, 2016). However, there are a few simple exercises you can perform at your desk to help you, and give you some strength in your back.

Exercise One: Draw in Your Breath

This exercise will strengthen your abdominal muscles and help with core strength.  Have both feet flat on the floor while seated in your desk chair.  Be aware that you are practicing good posture, arms at your side.  Draw a deep long breath in through your nose.  As you exhale your breath pull the abdominal region in, as in pulling your belly button into your spine.  Try to keep the abdomen contracted for 5-10 sec.  Repeat this exercise 10x.

Exercise Two: Retracting Your Shoulders

This exercise will help strengthen your back muscles.  Make sure you maintain good posture throughout this exercise and control your breath.  At your desk with your back pulled away from the back of the chair, place both feet flat on the floor and relax your arms on the arm rest.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together; think about trying to make your shoulder blades touch.  Hold for 3-5 seconds.  Bring back to neutral position.  Repeat this exercise 10-12x.

Exercise Three: Shoulder Shrugs

This exercise will loosen up the tense muscles in your upper back while also help strengthening your neck and shoulder area. Again make sure you are maintaining your proper posture and maintaining your breath throughout. While at your desk and in your chair, place your feet flat on the ground, your arms on your side and pull your back away from the chair back. Inhale your breath and hold it while bringing your shoulders straight up as high as possible to your ears and squeeze them. Breathe out and just let your arms drop back down. Do about eight to 10 shrugs per set for three sets.

The back pain you are experiencing is a very common problem shared by many other people. However, if you take a few minutes every day with the above exercises you may be able to strengthen and prevent some of the pain you are feeling.

~Sean Hogan has coached hockey at the international and collegiate levels for over ten years. He has spoken at numerous events about culture building, goal setting and healthy lifestyles. He holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Recreation and Sports Science with an emphasis in Coaching Education from OHIO University.

References:

Injuries Caused by Poor Ergonomics. (2016). Retrieved June 29, 2016, from http://www.afscme.org/news/publications/workplace-health-and-safety/safe-jobs-now-a-guide-to-health-and-safety-in-the-workplace/chapter-7-ergonomics-preventing-strains-sprains-and-back-injuries/injuries-caused-by-poor-ergonomics