Neck and back pain…and desk stretches

August 20 2021

Are you spending most of your working day sitting at a desk? Have you been experiencing problems with pain and stiffness in your neck, back, shoulders or joints?  If so, the two things are probably connected!

Many of us are spending most of our working day tied to the desk and this can have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing. It’s something we all need to be aware of and has become a bigger problem through people working from home during the pandemic.

In most cases, the normal office working environment is designed so that desks, chairs and other equipment are set up to aid employees during their daily labours while encouraging good posture. This isn’t always the case with remote working as people have been operating from their sofa, coffee table or bed – all of which can cause problems to health.

The cause

Musculoskeletal pain (MSK) is resulting in 28 million sick days a year in the UK and it is estimated that 30% of all GP consultations relate to MSK problems. MSK pain refers to the pain we feel in our shoulders, neck, back, arms, joints, muscles, bones, nerves, tendons and ligaments which can be brought on by something as simple as sitting awkwardly in the same position for long periods of time.

We have all suffered from it but It is something we can do something about! Our medical director Dr Joseph Pearson is keen on prevention and says stopping employees from getting problems like lower back issues is much better than waiting for them to develop and then having to seek treatment.

He says stretching and mobilisation is a good way to prevent issues developing and has put forward some simple stretching and movement exercises that can be done while you are at your desk. We hope they will help:

  • Neck and shoulder stretch – Sit on one hand and turn your head away to the opposite side, then dip your head forwards towards your shoulder. Repeat the exercise while sitting on your other hand. 
  • Rotate the neck – Keep your back straight, hold your head upright and turn it from side to side while trying to move it past the line of your shoulder.  
  • Back stretch – Sit up straight in your chair and place your feet together. Place the palms of your hands into the small of the back and then gently lean back.
  • Rotating the spine – Sit upright and then cross your arms over your chest, grabbing hold of each shoulder. Keeping the lower part of your body in the same position, rotate your upper body from the waist, turning alternately from left to right and back again.
  • Stretch those arms – Stand up for this exercise and stretch your arms behind you, clasping your hands. From this position, raise and lower your arms. As a variation, put your arms above your head, clasping your hands with palms up and then reach as high as you can.

Other things to consider for a healthier day’s work include taking regular breaks, walking around to keep those joints moving, standing up and sitting down repetitions while at your workstation and staying active during your lunch break by going for a walk, run or doing an online workout. 

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