15 Easy Desk Stretches For Computer Users

If you spend all day at the computer, try these stretches to relieve some of the built-up tension.

Some of the most common non-fatal work-related injuries are musculoskeletal injuries like sprains and strains that can occur in many types of workplaces, including office environments. Research shows that poor posture, repetitive motion, and staying in the same position for too long can cause or aggravate existing musculoskeletal injuries. 

This is where "deskercise" comes in! Here are 15 easy stretches you can do at your desk to help prevent things like carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and other ailments associated with long term computer use: 

1. Finger stretches

The repetitive motion of typing can mean our fingers end up stiff and painful. Do this quick routine to loosen them up:

  • Separate your fingers until you feel a stretch. Hold that position for 10 seconds, then close your fingers into a fist and hold that for 10 more seconds. Repeat as many times as you'd like. 
  • Touch each of your fingers to your thumb, holding for three seconds. Repeat as many times as you'd like. 

See the video below for a demonstration: 

2. Thumb and wrist stretches

The repetitive motions of the wrists and fingers required by using a mouse and keyboard can lead to strain injuries and have been linked to carpal tunnel syndrome as well. Take a break and stretch out your thumbs and wrists every hour or so to avoid injuries that could continue to bother you for years. 

  • Make a fist around your thumb and bend your wrist down until you feel a stretch. 
  • Place your palm on a flat surface like a wall with your fingers pointing down. Then pull your thumb back until you feel a stretch in the palm side of your forearm. 
  • With your elbow straight, make a fist. Reach under and pull the fist downwards so you feel a stretch on the top of your forearm.

3. Shrug your shoulders

Oftentimes, after sitting at a computer for a while, our shoulders tend to roll forward and cause stiffness later in the day. Take a moment to sit with your back straight, shrug your shoulders up so they're touching your ears, hold, and then release.

4. Stretch your traps

All the time we spend staring at our various screens really takes a toll on our necks, which can be felt in our trapezius muscle, which spans the back of the neck and top of the shoulders. Stretch this muscle by tilting your head towards your left shoulder and applying gentle pressure to your head with your left hand. Repeat this stretch on the right side as well. View the first video in this Instagram post for a demonstration: 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Emily Chen (@emchenyoga)

5. Neck stretch

Another way to stretch your neck is by doing neck rotations. This is done by simply rotating your neck by looking over your shoulders. Repeating this stretch several times will improve the mobility in your neck.

6. Give yourself a "double chin"

Though it may look strange, this stretch can help prevent that "computer hunch" in our necks that comes from leaning into our monitors. Start by tucking your chin in slightly. Then, slide your head towards the back of your spine so that it is on top of your cervical spine. This will give you a "double chin" look. Do this 5 to 10 times.

7. Reach for the sky

Your shoulders and arms get stiff and sore from staying in one position all day as you type and use your mouse or trackpad. Stretch them our by lacing your fingers together, turning your palms upward as you stretch your arms above your head. Elongate your arms and you should feel the stretch through your arms and sides of your rib cage.

Stretches you can do sitting down
Image Source: RF._.studio on Pexels

8. Triceps stretches

Your triceps, the muscle on the back up your upper arm, can get tight when you spend long periods of time with your arms at your sides as they adapt to this shorter position. To stretch them, lift up your arm and grab your elbow with your other hand. Pull your elbow towards your head and hold this stretch for about 20 seconds. Repeat for the other arm.

9. The "relaxing" stretch 

This is another great stretch for your shoulders and it stretches your chest too. Lace your fingers and rest them behind your head. Keep your elbows straight out at your sides. Pull your shoulder blades towards each other until you feel a stretch throughout your upper back. Hold the stretch for ten seconds. Repeat as necessary. 

Desk stretch for shoulders and chest
Imaga Source: JanBaby on Pixabay

10. Overhead latissimus stretch

Your latissimus dorsi muscles (or lats for short) are large muscles that span your back and sides. Just like your triceps, your lats can get tight from lack of stretching. Tight lats can contribute to poor posture, so it's important to keep them stretched. Do this by lifting your left arm and then reaching over to the right side. Hold this for about 20 seconds and then repeat with your right arm.

Sitting stretch for shoulders and lat muscles
Overhead Latissimus Stretch

11. Calf raises

Stand up and get your blood flowing! Stand behind your chair and rest your hands on the back of your chair for support. Then, raise yourself up onto the balls of your feet while tightening your calf muscles. Slowly lower your heels back down to the ground.

12. Hamstring stretch

Keeping your legs bent in a sitting position all day can lead to short and tight hamstrings over time, which makes it hard for your legs to straighten out properly. Luckily, you can easily stretch these tendons at your desk. To start, extend one leg out in front of you. Then, straighten your back and lean forward, keeping your back straight until you feel the stretch in the back of your leg. Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds. Repeat this stretch on the other side. 

13. Back extensions

Lower back problems can come from poor posture while sitting, like slouching forward or leaning too far back. This stretch can help alleviate some of that pain and be used as a reminder to reset yourself back to a good sitting position. You can do this lower back stretch either sitting or standing. With your feet firmly on the ground, place your palms on the small of your back. Then, lean back over your hands until you feel your lower back stretch out. 

Sitting stretch for lower back
Back Extensions

14. Seated hip and glute stretch

Your glutes and various hip muscles also suffer when you sit for extended periods of time. Start with your feet flat on the ground. Then, put your left ankle on top of your right knee. Sit up straight and then gently lean your torso forward until you feel a stretch in your left glute and hip. Pressing down on your left knee will deepen the stretch. Hold this for about 20 seconds and repeat for the other hip. 

15.Trunk rotation

To get a good stretch for your whole back, start by sitting with your feet firmly on the ground. Rest one arm over the back of your chair and turn your upper body towards that arm. Hold this for 20 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Sitting torso twist stretch for back
Trunk Rotation

Incorporate these stretches into your daily workflow as breaks to keep your muscles happy and prevent long term repetitive stress and strain injuries!

Stevie is a writer who perpetually has a coffee in her hand and a cat on her lap. Her other hobbies include reading and playing video games.

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