Some people might think the only way to stretch in order to relieve tension after sitting for long periods of time is to do standing stretches. While it is true that it is always a good idea to stand or walk around for a few minutes for every hour of sitting, there are good stretches you can do to relieve muscle tension even if you can't get away from sitting at your desk. In fact, many good exercises recommended by physical therapists are expressly performed while sitting. In this post, we will discuss various stretching exercises that you can do at home or at your office.
This is a great exercise designed to relieve tension and stress around the neck and shoulder area. While sitting straight in your chair and looking straight ahead, imagine you have a ball behind your head and you are attempting to push that ball back into a wall. Slowly push your head back and then come back to a neutral position for 2 sets, with 10 reps in each set. Keep your chin in a neutral position, don't tuck your chin or look up at the ceiling. In fact, if you have about a 6" plastic ball, you can position your chair near a wall with the ball behind your head, tuck a pillow in your mid-back region and complete the exercise in this position as well. You should feel the pull along the back of your neck on either side and along the top of your shoulders.
Upper Trapezius Stretch
This is a great stretch for the upper trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles found in your cervical region and along your shoulders . Sit up straight in your chair, looking straight ahead with your head in a neutral position. Slowly drop your head to the left and allow your left hand to rest on top of your head. Breathing in and out, relaxing for 20 seconds. Then repeat the exercise on the right side. It is not necessary to try to pull your head farther to the left or right with your hand; this is not an attempt to force your head down to your shoulder. The point of the exercise is to relax and stretch your muscles. Work up to repeating the exercise four times on each side. You can eventually make the stretch a little more challenging by taking your opposite hand and tucking it under the chair, your leg or behind your back.
Levator Scapulae Stretching
This is a great exercise to stretch the muscles on the side and back of your neck. To perform the exercise, sit up straight in a chair, and look straight ahead with your head in a neutral position. Slowly look down toward your left underarm. Place your left arm on top of your head, breathing in and out and relaxing through the stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat the sequence for 20 seconds on the right side. Gradually work up to four stretches on each side for 20 seconds each. This is another exercise you can eventually make more challenging by taking the opposite hand and tucking it underneath your leg, behind your back or hanging on to the chair seat.
Lumbar and Mid-Back Stretch
This is one of the "aah" stretches that you might never want to get up from. This stretch is great for providing relief to both the lumbar (lower back) and mid-back regions. Ideally, this exercise is performed on a chair that has wheels that will allow you to move a bit. Position your chair far enough back from your desk or a small table so there is almost enough room for you to bend completely forward with your hands in the air. Sit up straight in your chair, looking straight ahead and then slowly bend forward, raise your arms and grasp the desk or table in front of you. If you need to, push your chair back a bit so the upper part of your body forms a horizontal bridge between your chair and the desk or table. Relax, breathe, and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Feel free to repeat this sequence several times.
By performing these stretches consistently every day or at least every time you need to sit for an extended period of time, you will find yourself able to sit with less neck, mid-back and lumbar strain. These exercises will help reduce your pain level, as well as the wear and tear on your spine. Enjoy!