Breaking Out of Your Work Chair
“For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings,
Because they sat too long in their damn chairs,
And they did not get up enough and stretch.”
-William Shakespeare, RICHARD II Act 3, Scene 2, early draft.
Man, even Bill Shakes knew sitting was not good for you. Seems everybody (including us at Hosmer Chiropractic) are yelling at you not to sit. Which is great, until you realize you have to make a living at a job that requires you to sit. But have no fear, my dear, because we are going to show you the 3 BEST STRETCHES FOR DESK JOCKEYS.
“Crap. Am I gonna have to buy some weird ball or foam roller thingy for this?”
No! You don’t need a dang thing but your fine self. These stretches can be done anywhere and at anytime (but preferably not during a presentation for the board members. You will be fired).
So let’s get started shall we?
1. Seated Spine Twist
(Addresses spine, shoulders, neck)
Now, contrary to the popular/wrong belief, the goal of this is not to “crack” or “pop” your back. The goal is to decompress the spine and get a great stretch.
- Try to stay tall to keep the joints open; do not let your spine bend forward.
- Place your left hand on the inside of your left knee, and exhale as you rotate to your right. (You can use your right arm to hug or brace the back of your chair if that helps).
- When you breathe in, turn back to neutral, and then repeat on the other side. Repeat 5-10 times per side. If you realize one side is tighter than the other, try to spend more time on the tight side. One way you could do this is to perform this exercise on that side twice for every once you do the looser side.
2. Levator Scapulae stretch
Are you ready for a 2 for 1 special? This stretch not only relaxes the overactive levator scapulae muscle in your neck, but it also gives you a chance to covertly make sure your deodorant is working (more about that second part later). This little stringy muscle is supposed to ASSIST the upper trapezius muscles, but just like that new intern that wants to prove himself, he goes and tries to do everything. This leads to neck pain and stiffness. Let’s put this guy in his place, shall we? To do this stretch:
- Sit or stand tall
- Turn your nose/chin into your right arm pit
- Place your left hand on the back of your head
- Gently apply pressure downward
- Place opposite arm behind your back. Your cue is to look for the fingers of your opposite hand.
- Hold for thirty seconds to a minute
- Repeat on the other side
You should feel a nice stretch from the base of your skull down the back of your neck. As you can see, this also allows/forces you to test your deodorant! Throughout stressful days, you can simply (and rather loudly) say, “Man! Is my neck tight! I better (sniff,sniff) give it a good stretch.” If anyone asks, “Oh my gawd, are you really trying to smell your armpit?!” Just respond with, “No, I’m stretching my levator scapulae, which you would know how to do if you went to Barre class.” Boom. See if they ever have the audacity to ask if you are smelling your armpit again.
3. Seated pigeon stretch
One of the cruelest things sitting does is it shuts down your beautiful glute muscles, and tightens your obnoxious piriformis muscles. That crazy piriformis, much like the levator scapulae, then tries to do the work of your entire butt, which leads to squeezing/pinching of your sciatic nerve, to say nothing of the cosmetic damage to your rear; let’s just say it can give you a bad case of “withered butt.”
- Cross your right leg so your right ankle is resting on your left thigh.
- Keep your back straight, and using your arms, keep your right leg horizontal.
- Next, pivot at your hips–NOT YOUR BACK. Keep your back flat and be sure not to round it.
You should feel a good stretch deep in your gluteal cheek; what your feeling is your piriformis being put in its place, and you winning. Be sure to repeat this with your left leg so your left piriformis gets what it needs. And deserves.
Now, I know I said the 3 best stretches for Desk Jockeys, but, because I love you, I will present a free bonus fourth mobilization. No, I insist. This will practically guarantee you a promotion, if not make you the CEO. Are you ready for it? You should be getting up once an hour to walk around and get blood circulating.
“Oh come on. I don’t have time for that! There’s too much work to be done!” Actually, numerous doctors and scientists would disagree with you. You get more done in less time when you add activity to your day. According to Dr. James Levine, author of GET UP! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, he states simply, “You will make money if your workforce gets up and moving, the science is not refuted.”
It is time to start working smarter, not harder.
But wait! There’s more! Here are some bonus desk jockey stretches for you to do!
“But Craig, you’ve already improved my life so much!”
I know, I know. My problem is I love people too much. Anyway, here are 4 extra stretches to mix it up:
Hip flexors (standing lunge)
The muscles in your front hip get wicked tight when you sit for an extended periods of time, and, similar to the to those pesky piriformis muscles, can shut down your butt muscles. Here is a great way to remedy that:
- Stand up with left leg back, and your front leg forward.
- Keeping your spine tall, tuck your butt under like a dog that is in trouble. This should intensify the stretch in your hips, if it doesn’t–
- You can then intensify the stretch by extending your left arm straight up.
Note: don’t do this stretch when the boss comes out and mentions he wants volunteers for downsizing. It will appear you are enthusiastically volunteering. Unless, of course, it’s time to move on and the severance package is sweet.
Hamstrings (hinge stretch or forward bend, come back up one vertebra at a time)
Ugh. Hamstrings are always tight. We do not need another reason for them to be tight. Yet, here we are, sitting, and they are getting tighter. Once again, here is a muscle that can shut down your beautiful butt muscles when they get tight. Plus, tight hamstrings will screw up your running, and lifting like no other. A great way to treat this the Hinge Stretch.
- Squeeze your glutes, brace your stomach.
- Slowly, and starting up at the neck, lower vertebrae by vertebrae and try to touch your toes. IF YOU SUFFER FROM BACK PAIN OR HAVE A DISK INJURY: only bend from the hip, and if you need to, you can use a desk or the back of a chair to hold on to; this will help unload your lower back.
- Slowly return vertebrae by vertebrae until standing tall.
Along with tight hamstrings comes tight calves. Especially with dress shoes. Even men’s shoes can have a high enough heel to cause extreme calf tightness. Add that with hours of sitting, and you got yourself a recipe for varicose veins, poor circulation, and pain. To help prevent the laundry list of maladies tight calves can give you, do this:
- Get close to a wall, and put your forefoot against the base of the wall, with your heel on the floor.
- Keeping your leg straight, lean in, and hold for :30 – 1:00 per leg.
Superman Chest Stretch
Sitting can cause our shoulders to slump, strain our neck, pinch nerves, and make us look like we should be helping Dr. Frankenstein look for dead bodies in the morgue. The doorway chest stretch will help remedy that.
- Place either hand on the outside of the door frame
- Keep your head back, and chin retracted
- Take a step through and try to contract your shoulder muscles. You should feel stretch across your chest and front shoulders.
And there you have it! We would recommend getting up every 30-45 minutes to stretch. The more often you can do these stretches throughout the day, the more you keep chronic pain at bay!