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How to look after your body whilst working at your desk....

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Do your shoulders, neck or back ever hurt after a day in the office? People in the UK took 30 million + days off work last year because of muscle and bone problems. It can easily happen when we sit down for long periods, and on average many of us spend 7 hours plus a day sitting at desks on computers or laptops. This significant amount of time at a desk can lead to a host of problems with your health, but don't fear you don't need to quit your job!! With a few changes and addition of good habits you can keep productive at work and keep healthy.

Sit - Well

Its really important when working at your desk that you are mindful of your posture and your equipment is correctly set. Things to look out for include:

  • Is your screen level? - If your monitor does not have height adjustment try elevating it with a raiser, or even some old books.

  • Keep your mouse close. - Its easy for your mouse to drift away from you when working, make sure you are not over-stretching to reach it.

  • Keep your keyboard close. - You should be able to sit up in your chair, have your elbows in an L-shape and still be able to reach your keyboard. If you are overstretching to reach it, you will need to make adjustments.

  • Adjust your Chair - You should be able to sit right back into your chair, so your lower back is supported while still comfortably accessing your equipment.

  • Feet to the Floor - The height of your chair should allow your feet to easily reach flat to the floor. Use some form of raiser if needed.

  • Avoid crossing your legs - It can cause circulation problems and puts unnecessary strain through your lower back.

If you are unsure your desk or workstation set-up, ask your employers to provide a workstation assessment.

Take Regular Breaks

It is recommended that you should take a break from your desk every 30 minutes for at least one or two minutes. Try building in some of these good habits into your working day:

  • Stand and move around for a few moments around your desk,

  • Use a break to get a drink of water, which also helps you keep hydrated.

  • Rather than phoning an office colleague, can you walk over to talk to them?

  • When taking a call, you can take the opportunity to stand up rather than sit?

On The Phone

If your work involves making lots of calls, avoid tucking handsets between your neck and shoulder. Consider getting a headset so you are not battling with the handset, keeping your hands free and able to maintain a healthy posture.

Laptop Working

Increasingly we are working directly off laptops, particularly if you are mobile or remote worker or hot-desking across offices. However, the same rules apply and even more so if you don't have the luxury of an adjustable chair or monitor.

  • If you are mainly working off a laptop you may want to consider getting a wireless keyboard and/or raisers so you can optimise your work posture.

  • Also consider where you work - your dining room table may be convenient but if of an incorrect height, extended working may cause shoulder, neck or back pain.

Stretches And Exercises At Your Desk

Try these exercises which have been designed for you to do at your desk, to help ease the strain:

1. Seated Spinal Rotation

  • While seated, cross your arms over your chest.

  • Grab your shoulders.

  • Rotate your upper body from the waist, turning gently from left to right as far as you can.

  • You should feel a tension on both side of your lower back as it stretches out.

2. Posterior Shoulder Stretch

  • Hold one arm across your body.

  • Pull your elbow into your chest.

  • You should feel your shoulder gently stretching.

3. Shoulder Shrugs

  • Gently lift your shoulders.

  • Let them slowly fall.

  • You should feel tension being released as your shoulders drop.

4. Sitting Back Extensions

  • Sit straight with your feet together.

  • Put the palms of your hands into the small of your back.

  • Lean back over your hands, feeling your lower back stretch out.

5. Neck Rotations

  • Keep your head upright.

  • Gently turn your head from side to side.

  • As you turn your head, try to move it past your shoulder.

  • You should feel the muscles on the outside of your neck gradually stretching.

6. Upper Shoulder and Neck Stretch

  • Sit on one hand

  • Tilt your head away from the hand you're sitting on.

  • Tilt your head slightly forward, towards your shoulder.

  • You should feel the muscles in your neck and shoulder being stretched.

  • Change sides and repeat.

7. Shoulder Extension - One

  • Stand up and stretch your arms out behind you.

  • Clasp your hands together and gently lift your arms.

  • You should feel the pressure in your shoulders ease off.

8. Shoulder Extension - Two

  • Hold both arms above your head.

  • Link your hands with your palms facing upwards.

  • Reach as high as possible.

  • You should feel your shoulders stretching.

How Can Your Osteopath Help

Hopefully you can keep healthy at work by introducing the above advice but if you do find yourself suffering from aches and pains such as back and neck ache, elbow or wrist pain, come speak to an Osteopath so we can give you further advice on healthy working habits and treatment if necessary to get you back to work.

Links to useful products for working at a desk:

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