6 stretches to relieve muscle tension in the office

6 stretches to relieve muscle tension in the office

How to help reduce those aches in your neck, shoulders, wrists and head – without leaving your desk.

Neck stretches
(Photo: Christy Yip, Howard Law)

Walk into any office and you would probably see the majority of workers sitting at their desks, backs hunched forward, shoulders rounded, and heads sticking out in front of their bodies.

Over long periods of time, this position can lead to an exaggerated rounding of the upper back, altered breathing patterns, and tight back and shoulder muscles. This muscle tightness can sometimes cause pain in your hands, too.

Sound familiar?

“On average, most people sit for eight to nine hours each day," said Dr Micaiah Meuer, senior chiropractor at Urbanrehab. When you adopt the same position for a long period of time, your joints and tissues "create a sort of mould around that posture, making it more difficult for you to get into a better position later," he said. That is why correcting posture is so important.

Also, the average human head weighs about 4.5kg. For every inch (2.54cm) you extend your head forward, you add about 4.5kg of stress to your neck structure. This is why a forward head posture can cause headaches as well as neck tightness and pain, which are common office-related injuries, according to Calvin Goh, physiotherapist at MyPhysio.

With the increased use of mobile devices, said Goh, many people have formed the habit of looking to one side to read, looking down excessively, and over-using one hand to type, so neck tightness, and wrist and hand pain are common.

Other than adopting good ergonomic practices, Natalie Dau, founder and CEO of The Daily Escape shares six simple stretches that you can perform without leaving your chair – and without inviting too many awkward stares from your colleagues.


Neck stretches
(Photo: Christy Yip, Howard Law)

  1. Extend your arms towards the ceiling and push them up, extending your upper back as you do so. 
  2. Tilt your head up and drop your neck back to stretch.


Shoulder stretches
(Photo: Christy Yip, Howard Law)

  1. Breathe in deeply while simultaneously lifting your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold for three seconds.
  2. Exhale slowly while simultaneously lowering your shoulders back to their original position.
  3. Repeat 10 times.


Upper and middle back
(Photos: Christy Yip, Howard Law)

  1. Sit upright and wrap your arms around yourself. Place your left hand on your right shoulder, and your right hand on your left shoulder.
  2. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, while taking a few deep breaths.
  3. To increase the intensity of the stretch, bend forward while keeping your back straight. Hold the position.
  4. Release your arms back to your sides slowly.  


Lower back stretches
(Photo: Christy Yip, Howard Law)

  1. Lift one knee towards your chest and clutch the back of your thighs with your hands. Flex your toes upwards.
  2. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Release your leg slowly.
  3. Repeat the process with the other leg.


Hip stretches
(Photos: Christy Yip, Howard Law)

  1. Sit at the edge of your chair.
  2. Straighten your back before rotating your torso slightly to the left.
  3. Bend your left leg in a right angle and extend it as far behind you as possible.
  4. Press your right hip towards the floor. You should feel a nice stretch in the right hip flexor. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  5. Release your left leg slowly.
  6. Repeat the process with the opposite side.


Wrist stretches
(Photo: Christy Yip, Howard Law)

  1. Clench both hands into fists.
  2. Stretch out both fists in front of you.
  3. Make circling movements with both wrists 10 times in the clockwise direction. Repeat in the counter-clockwise direction.
Source: CNA/bk