neck and back

Office Wellness: Neck and Back Stretches

When you sit at your computer for long periods of time, often the only exercise you get involve your fingers clicking away at the keyboard. But prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to issues with joint health, repetitive strain injuries, and other complications associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

So what can writers do to avoid compromising their overall wellness without sacrificing blocks of precious writing time?

Alex Teixeira, Owner and Head Trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness, has been generous enough to offer our readers some easy exercises to promote good health, balanced with a productive lifestyle.

This is part one of a five part series.

Part One: Neck and Back

It is important to keep your back and neck supple. Some cultures even proclaim this to be the key to youthful longevity!

As a writer, or anyone spending a lot of their day in a fixed position, suppleness can be easily lost. You’re probably familiar with the mainstay methods of dealing with back health at the desk. For example, there are proper ergonomic angles associated with your workstation and its relation to your structure that are good as a general rule, and in itself can save a lot of injury. Your chair should be at a height that allows your hips and knees to be at 90 degrees. Shoulders relaxed and back aligned. Elbows around 90 degrees and keyboard height adjusted so that you can maintain your wrists in a neutral position. Take a ten-minute stretch break every 2 hours.

I believe that’s a really great start. But even sitting properly all day long isn’t going to cut it in the long run. Things get too stagnant. Muscles will spasm and vertebrae will seize. Lets look at some simple things to add to the mix to prevent this from happening.

The Slither:. Imagine you are a snake and your next idea lies across the field ahead of you. All you need to do is slither over and get it!

First check and make sure your back is in good alignment. Need help? Now begin by tilting your head slowly to one side (try to manipulate one vertebrae at a time). When it has reached its limit, fluidly allow the tilt to continue at the shoulders, then further down your back until your hip is about to rise off your seat. Now you can switch directions again starting by tilting your head to the other side.

Once you get the hang of it you can try adding in a small twisting motion and changing the size and speed of your slither. Not only is this an inspiring visualization, you will be flexing and extending the spine and all of its connective tissues laterally, giving your whole back a gentle stretch. Do it a few times on either side or as much as you need to. Remember, even when you speed it up a bit, this is meant to be a softer exercise.

The Flower Stretch: Another great stretch for the back and shoulder girdle is a modification of what I call the Flower Stretch.

Again, make sure your posture is on point. Hands on your thighs, eyes forward, breathe in deeply to the bottom of your belly. Slide your hands down towards the inside of your knees as you exhale, lips relaxed. Tuck your chin and round your shoulders spreading the shoulder blades away from each other. At this point, you should be feeling a good stretch in the upper back and neck.

Over the next few breaths, work your way down to target the lower areas. You can add a slight slither into this as well and cross your arms to use your fingers to crawl down your shins. When you are ready to come up, do so while inhaling slowly. Go past your original position, pulling your shoulders back and looking up.

Don’t miss this opportunity for a big smile!

Owl Stretch: Once again, begin by checking for proper alignment of your back. Next, simply rotate to one side beginning at the head, down to the shoulders followed by the remainder of the spine to the hips. Aim to achieve 180 degrees looking directly behind you. You may use your hands on your leg or the arm of your chair to assist the stretch. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

After completing these three exercises throughout your day, you may find yourself feeling like you’ve been out for a massage!

Speaking of being out, I can’t over state the importance of just getting out for a walk every once in a while. Not only are the physical benefits fully evident, it also works wonders to regain a creative flow when your thoughts are stifled.

Next up we’ll discuss core strength. Now that we know how to keep our backs loose and supple, we need to develop the necessary strength to support its structure!

Alex Teixeira is the owner and head trainer at Golden Fusion Fitness.

Richard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.