Simple Ergonomic Exercises for Office Workers Experiencing Pain
If you’re like many office workers, you’ve probably spent a long day sitting at your desk only to experience back, neck, or wrist pain when you stand up to go home at the end of the day.
Ending your workday with terrible back or wrist aches, or chronic shoulder pain after hunching over your computer all day long can be debilitating. These common soft-tissue pains are known as Musculoskeletal Disorders and have accounted for 33% of workplace injuries in the United States.
Ailments such as back pain, Tendinitis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, Tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, “Trigger Finger,” and other issues are completely preventable with a proper daily routine that involves stretching and other ergonomic exercises for office workers. Most people who work in an office do not realize that something as easy as standing a few times per day, or twisting from side to side periodically can have a huge impact and help with pain related to working a desk job in an office environment.
There are a few basic things to keep in mind before we tell you about some of our favorite ergonomic exercises for office workers, which we cover on our page dedicated to ergonomics. The most important tip we can provide is:
Take regular breaks. Standing for a few minutes every hour can be a huge help in alleviating chronic pain that can result in staying in a poor ergonomic position for many hours on end. Go to the bathroom, water cooler, or chat with a colleague for a few minutes.
Neck, Shoulder, and Chest Exercises
In today’s modern age we stare at a screen (or multiple screens) for most of the day while in an office.
The neck is the primary part of our bodies that is affected by staring at a computer screen or reading paperwork.
Ergonomic Exercise and Stretch for Your Neck
A neck relaxer is a great way to help blood flow and release tension in both the neck and shoulders and it's one of our favorite ergonomic exercises for office workers who are experiencing neck pain or discomfort.
This simple ergonomic neck exercise should be done every hour or two or as part of a stretch routine during regular breaks spread evenly throughout your workday.
Ergonomic Exercise to Relax Your Shoulders
An easy stretch that everyone seems to know for shoulders would be shoulder shrugs. Shoulder pain can be derived from typing or using a mouse.
Ergonomic Exercise to Stretch & Relax Your Chest
Stretching the chest is not something that everyone commonly thinks to do, but it's one of the most important ergonomic exercises for office workers. If you have a resistance band you can keep in your desk at work that's ideal, but if you don't have one you can do this exercise by simply lacing your fingers together.
This ergonomic office stretch can be done either in a sitting or standing position.
One thing to remember is if you have shoulder pain or discomfort, or if you've had shoulder problems in the past, you should avoid this stretch as it can irritate rotator cuff issues. Otherwise this is a great stretch which can keep your chest strong and healthy and which can help you avoid working in a hunched over position at your desk.
Wrist Exercises & Stretches for Office Workers
There are two great exercises that are for wrists and both are very helpful with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Wrist Flexion Exercise
The first is a wrist flexion exercise and often those who have a short range of motion in their wrists can benefit from this exercise as well, even if you're not experiencing wrist pain.
This can help to rejuvenate the joints and create more flexibility.
Wrist Tilt Exercise
Another great exercise for the wrist is a wrist tilt. The wrist tilt is performed in this way:
This ergonomic stretch can easily be performed at your desk in between projects or assignments and is very important for wrist health if you find yourself typing or writing for many hours in any given workday.
Hand Stretches and Ergonomic Exercises for Office Workers
Ergonomic exercises for the hands are very important to help alleviate stiff joints due to computer usage or writing.
Extended Finger Stretch
One of our favorite hand stretches for office workers is called the extended finger stretch. It can be done in a matter of 30 seconds and both hands can be stretched at the same time. To perform this hand exercise:
This hand and finger stretch can be performed as many times as needed until your hands feel loose and mobilized.
Back Stretches and Ergonomic Leg Exercises You Can Do At Your Desk
The most common musculoskeletal injury that derives from working a desk job in an office would be back pain. It is possible to alleviate back pain by doing both leg and back stretches.
Inner Thigh Stretch
An inner thigh stretch does wonders for both the back and your legs. This is not necessarily something you want to do at your desk because it looks a bit unprofessional (try it and you'll see what I mean), but is something you can do at home before and after work. Here's what to do:
To specifically stretch your back you can try standing and slowly bending over to touch your toes (or come as close as you can). Dangle there loosely, then gradually roll yourself back up to a standing position.
Another lower back stretch that works well is to pull your legs into your chest one at a time and then slowly release.
Eye And Focus Exercises for Office Workers
One of the most often overlooked aspects of physical health when working a desk job at your computer all day is caring for your eyes and avoiding eye strain and injury.
Here are some of the basic principles to keep in mind when trying to maintain healthy eyes in an office job where you look at a computer screen for most of the day:
We also recommend that you shift your focus every 2 hours. Hold a finger a few inches from your eyes, focus on this finger and then slowly move the finger away. Then try to focus far into the distance, and bring the focus back to your finger. Slowly move your finger back to the original position a few inches from your eyes, and then focus on something at least 8 feet away in the distance. Repeat this and practice controlling your focus to keep those eye muscles healthy and strong.
We Hope These Ergonomic Exercises for Office Workers Help You Stay Healthy
Ergonomic exercises and stretches can be an important way to maintain your physical health and wellness in the workplace.
The emphasis in an office job is always on productivity, but you cannot maintain productivity if you become ill or injured after neglecting your physical health. Taking a few minutes out of your day to stretch and focus on your wellness can greatly reduce the soft tissue workplace injuries that have come to define the American workplace.
Remember to take breaks often, allow your neck and shoulders to relax, and try not to hunch your body over while at work. If you're serious about your physical health at work, you may want to learn more about creating an active workstation which can help you keep moving and changing positions throughout the workday (the simplest way to maintain your physical health in an office job).
Constant movement and shifts in position help to maintain good blood flow and avoid the strain that comes with sitting in one position for an extended period of time.
If you'd like to improve the ergonomics of your desk or workstation at the office, use our free ergonomic desk height calculator as a starting point.
Additional Resource on This Subject:
Exercises and Stretches from the National Institutes of Health, Division of Occupational Health and Safety