Neck & Shoulders, Pictures of Exercises

Movement Breaks for the Office (part 2)

Here is another series that can easily be done at work with no equipment.  These exercises are all meant to reduce the upper body tension that comes with computer/office work. Alternate this upper body series with the lower body exercises from Part 1 to hit the whole body!

1) Head Ramping: Instead of the “forward head” position that creates compression of the cervical spine, gently slide the head back. Pay attention to your head position when you are looking at the computer screen and driving. Ramp the head as often as you remember.

photo 2-2  photo 3

2) Head Hang: Let the chin drop towards the chest to lengthen the back of the neck. Relieving tension in the neck improves circulation to the brain which can reduce headaches and brain fog. Hold for 1 minute, repeat several times a day.

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3) Hand Stretching: Do you have “claw hands” from computer work? This tension in your hands may seem insignificant, but it can lead to things like carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis. With your palm face up and your elbow by your side, stretch each finger towards the floor.

photo 2  photo

4) Thoracic Stretch: Place your hands on a wall, roll the elbows in towards each other so the elbow “pits” point up towards the ceiling and elbows point towards the floor. Drop the chest towards the floor as you hinge forward from the hips.  (If you have learned about rib position, try to pull the ribs “up” instead of letting them slide towards the floor.) Hold for 1 minute.

photo 1-2

5) Standing Crescent Stretch: Stand with your feet a few inches from the wall and your gluts against the wall. Keep the ribs down while you lift the arms over head. Arch your body towards the right, breathing into the right side of the rib cage. Hold for 1 min and repeat on the other side.

photo 5


Want more for the shoulders? Try an Alignment Snack (20 min online classes) on your lunch break. For upper body work, I love these: Everybody Needs a Little Shoulder Bolster, Rhomboid Madness, Can’t Get Enough of Shoulders & A Real Pain in the Neck.

I also recommend Katy Bowman’s book, Don’t Just Sit There. It’s a comprehensive guide to sitting less and moving more, without compromising your productivity.

Back Pain, Sitting

Homemade Desks & Hedgehogs

If you read Sitting is the New Smoking, you know that sitting less is one of the best things you can do for your health. Transitioning to a standing work station at home or the office is a great way to start. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You can stack a plastic crate or box on your desk and put your computer on top. For a larger (and more sturdy) workspace, find a cheap coffee table or end table at a garage sale. Cut the legs if necessary to make it the appropriate height. My friend Josh recently made the switch to a standing desk. *

Here is his desk:


And his hedgehog:


(Yes, this is his actual pet hedgehog, Urchin. Be honest, you love him, right?)

And his story :

“Going from a sitting desk to a standing desk was possibly the best workplace decision I’ve made–you know, apart from doing valuable work alongside awesome people. Before making the switch, I read claims that it was healthier, built better posture, burned calories, and increased focus. It sounded a little too good to be true, but I figured any one of those benefits alone was worth it. Right off the bat, there was a noticeable difference in my energy level and ability to focus. After a few days of soreness from standing for so long, I noticed the pain in my upper back (from hunching over the desk) had dissipated. Moreover, standing all the time seemed to reduce soreness in my lower back–I assume because it was being strengthened. Perhaps the best part of all, though, was the variety of new ways I could now fidget while working; balancing on one foot, putting my leg up on the desk, doing the frustration dance, and pacing like an absent-minded scientist were all so much easier when I was already standing! All in all, I think standing desks are a win.”

Sounds great, right?

At first, standing most of the day may be difficult because your muscles aren’t used to working all day; however, the benefits far out way the effort! 

Here are 5 tips for transitioning to a standing work station:

1) Know where your pelvis belongs. Try this: Let your pelvis shift forward, so you can feel more pressure in the front of your feet. Now BACK IT UP until you feel more pressure in your heels. That’s where you want it. Feel the difference? It gives you less foot & back pain, stronger bones, healthier pelvic floor, and longer, stronger posterior (ones on the back side) leg muscles.  More details on this and a good visual here.

2) Ditch the heels! I know they are pretty, and they make your legs look awesome; but when you wear them, you can’t get your pelvis where it belongs, and you don’t get any of the benefits of #1. In fact, you get the opposite (more pain, osteoporosis, weak pelvic floor, and tighter muscles). Even a small heel throws off your alignment. Stick to flats. Save the heels for special occasions.

3) You might feel like #1 is really hard. If you have been sitting your whole life, the hamstrings are tight, weak, and not used to holding you up for hours at a time. Do this stretch several times a day to stretch the hamstrings and calves.

Try to lift the tailbone, keeping that little curve in the low back.
Slightly elevate the ball of the foot. Hinge forward from the hips without bending the knees. Try to lift the tailbone, keeping that little curve in the low back.
The tension in the hamstrings and calves pulls the pelvis into a tucked position. You might look like this in the beginning.
The tension in the hamstrings and calves pulls the pelvis into a tucked position and causes the spine to round. You might look like this in the beginning.

Work up to holding the stretch for 1 minute.

4) Take breaks. You will probably get sore & tired in the beginning. You don’t have to stand the whole day. If you alternated between sitting and standing every 30 minutes, you would cut your sitting time by 50%. The point is to move your body through a variety of positions throughout the day. Take a stretch break. Walk a lap around the office. Go get a drink or a snack. I type at my kitchen bar counter, and when I get tired, I pull up a bar stool and sit for 5 minutes.

5) While doing #4, enjoy this clip from The Office.

*A special THANK YOU to Josh & Urchin for their contributions to this post!