April 21, 2023

Complete these easy desk stretches every day for a healthier neck and spine — and to avoid injury.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults engage in flexibility exercises at least two to three days a week — preferably daily — to help improve range of motion and to ease the activities of daily living.

“Stretching can help reduce the discomfort caused by sitting at a desk for long periods of time,” said Wilma Traughber, ergonomics program manager at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Occupational Health Clinic. (Traughber works with faculty, staff and clinicians to track ergonomic injuries and target at-risk jobs and departments.) “Desk stretches for home or the workplace can be done regularly, throughout the day, about every 30 minutes,” she continued. “In addition, it is helpful to take time to get up and walk around regularly.”

Here are some stretches that can help you follow this recommendation while working in an office or at home.

  1. Arms/shoulders/upper back stretch: Interlace your fingers and raise your arms above your head with your palms facing up. To feel the stretch, try to push your arms up and back. You should feel this stretch in your arms, shoulders and upper back. Hold for 15 seconds. Try to breathe deeply and do not hold your breath.
  2. Sitting stretch for upper body: Sit upright in your chair and straighten your arms out in front of you with your fingers laced. You should feel this stretch in your arms and your upper back. Hold stretch for 20 seconds, do at least twice.
  3. Neck and back stretch: While seated, lay your torso over your lap, fully relaxing your back and neck. Let your arms hang limp, while breathing deeply. Hold for 15 seconds.
  4. Lower back and side hip stretch: In a sitting position cross your left leg over the outside of your right knee. Turn your shoulders to your left using your right hand to push against your left knee while your left hand pushes against the back of your chair. Exhale slowly and turn your head to look over your left shoulder. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Do both sides.
  5. Shoulder blade pinch: Sit up straight in your chair and relax your shoulders. Place your hands behind head, interlace your fingers and pull your shoulder blades together. Hold for 4-5 seconds. You should feel this stretch in your shoulders, upper back and even a little in the pectoral (chest) muscles as your chest moves upwards when you work to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Repeat 3-4 times.
  6. Wrist flexor stretch: While holding the arm straight, gently push fingers and thumb toward the forearm. Hold for 15 seconds and switch hands.