Lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder aches and migraines – these are common muscle tension and pains we experience more of the older we get. Such discomfort and soreness may be associated with old age or brought upon by an injury, but it’s not uncommon to experience them in your twenties or thirties as well.
The truth is, the muscle aches and pain could be from doing nothing. The discomfort and soreness are caused by sitting at the desk or being a couch potato for an extended period of time. This is what they call ‘living a sedentary lifestyle’ – a lifestyle of sitting down or lying down with little to no exercise.
Modern living keeps us inactive for long hours during the day – we’re usually sitting hunched over the computer or laptop, watching television, and repeatedly looking down at smartphones and other devices – all of which have led to a rise in the number of us experiencing back and neck pain.
If you’ve been sedentary for some time, it’s a good idea to start exercising. Physical activity stimulates blood flow to your muscle tissues, which reduces the tension and relieves the knots in your muscles.
I know, the word ‘exercise’ might put you off. However, I’m not suggesting that you run a 5k or start to be a gym freak. In fact, here are four easy stretch exercises which you can do – right in the office!
1. Wrist rotation, extension and flexion
Stretching and doing simple wrist exercises helps in loosening up tight muscles around the wrists and forearms.
Begin your wrist rotation exercise by having your arms and wrists straight out front, and moving your hands in a circle. Do this exercise 5 times in a clockwise and anti-clockwise direction.
Then, continue with the wrist extension exercise by having your right arm straight out front, slowly bending your wrist back towards you with your left hand until you feel a light stretch at the back of your wrist. Hold it for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat with your left arm.
The wrist flexion exercise is having your right arm straight out front, slowly bending your wrist downwards with your left hand until you feel a light stretch in your forearm. Hold it for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat with your left arm.
2. Shoulder Stretches
You may feel the tight muscles around your shoulders after you’ve been sitting at your desk for hours. To relieve the tension, do the following:
Cross-body arm stretch:
Cross a straight right arm across your chest and use your left hand to gently pull your upper right arm closer to your body. Hold for 5 seconds, relax and repeat with the left arm.
Roll your shoulders backwards in a fluid motion for 10 times. Then reverse the movement by rolling your shoulders forward for 10 times.
Cow face pose:
Raise your right arm straight up, then bend the elbow and let the hand fall behind your head, resting against the right shoulder blade. Raise your left hand over your head and gently pull your right elbow closer to the side of your head. Hold for 5 seconds, relax and repeat with the left arm. This stretch exercise also helps to loosen tight muscles around your lower back.
3. Half Downward-facing Dog Pose
If you want to do one yoga pose in the office, the half downward-facing dog pose is one of the best poses. It stretches many parts of your body, and reduces tension in the shoulders, relaxes the neck, stretches the wrists and hands, and most importantly, stretches the lower back and legs.
Stand about a metre away from your desk. Bend forward from your waist into half-down dog position, and rest your hands flat on your desk. Press into your feet, lengthen your spine for a nice stretch on the back of your legs. Breathe normally as you stretch for 5-8 seconds. Then bend your knees, walk your feet forward to the desk and slowly stand up.
Walking is the best exercise for your legs, lower back, spine and gluteal muscles. This is a great exercise especially for those working in offices, because prolonged periods of inactivity restricts blood from flowing adequately to the lower half of our bodies. Studies have shown that even ten minutes of walking can reverse the detrimental consequence of sedentary lifestyle.
Every now and then, do stand up, stretch and walk around in the office. Even if this means walking to your colleague’s desk, to the photocopy machine or to the pantry. You can even drink lots of water because this means you’ll have to walk to the toilet more often!
Do you know of other stretch exercises that one can do in the office to ease muscle aches and pain? Let us know for we would love to hear from you!