How a few back stretches at your desk can prevent pain

According to the American Chiropractic Association, 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. It’s also one of the most common reasons for missed work.

And it’s not merely because people are forgetting to lift with their knees.

In fact, if you’re reading this while sitting in front of your computer or craning your neck over your phone, you may be helping to lay the foundation for your own future discomfort.

Prolonged periods of sitting — done often in today’s office environment — have been linked to bad posture, poor circulation, and neck strain.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take a lot to help prevent potential problems from occurring. Periodic stretching of the arms and upper back muscles, including the rhomboid and trapezius (or “traps”), should be part of your daily work regimen.

The key is to find a few easy exercises that you’re comfortable doing at your desk, and then stick with them.

Here are four simple upper back muscle stretches that can be done just about anywhere you find yourself seated — in the office, on an airplane, or even at the kitchen table.

Just remember to take it slow whenever you begin a new exercise routine.

  1. Begin by sitting upright, relaxing your shoulders, and placing your hands on your lap. Carefully lean your right ear over your right shoulder.
  2. Slowly move your chin down and let it drop toward your chest while keeping your back straight.
  3. Bring your head up until your left ear is over your left shoulder. Gently roll your head back and around to your right shoulder once more.
  4. Even out the rhythm, keep your breathing calm and smooth, and repeat 5 to 10 times in each direction.

Think of these as something akin to pushups for your shoulders.

  1. With your feet flat on the ground, straighten your back and allow your arms to hang down at your sides.
  2. Inhale and hold your breath while bringing your shoulders straight up as high as possible, then squeeze them tight for about 2 seconds.
  3. Breathe out and just let your arms drop back down. Do about 8 to 10 shrugs per set.

For a bit more of a challenge, consider adding some lightweight dumbbells to the mix.

  1. This one starts out like a shoulder shrug. But after pulling your shoulders up to your ears, move them back and down in a circle.
  2. Repeat the same movement in the forward direction as well. Doing 5 rolls both toward the back and front should do the trick.

This stretch makes a nice compliment to neck rolls and helps to strengthen the rhomboid and pectoral muscles.

  1. Sit up straight and touch your fingertips to your shoulders with your elbows pointed out to the side.
  2. Keeping your fingers in place, exhale and slowly pull your elbows together in front of you until they touch.
  3. Breathe in and allow your arms to move to their original position.

Back pain is extremely common in today’s work environment. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help relieve some of that tension and pain.

These exercises can help lingering back pain, but always talk to your doctor if the pain doesn’t go away.