8 Stretches to Do at your Desk to Stay Productive and Pain-free

8 Stretches to Do at your Desk to Stay Productive and Pain-free

Repetitive bodily movements and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to low back pain, shoulder and neck pain, carpal tunnel, and stress. Although this sounds alarming, moving the body for just a few minutes can work wonders in alleviating these issues.

Finding the right stretches to do at the office can make all the difference between a day and a great day, especially in terms of efficiency and productivity. Whether you opt for ball chair exercises, office chair yoga, or simple desk stretches, your body will thank you for the self-care. Integrating some simple stretches into your workday will keep you moving and grooving through the day with less pain.

To help you stay alert and limber on the clock, we've selected eight of our favorite office-friendly stretches that don't require any exercise equipment. Always remember to listen to your body. If you experience any pain or discomfort, ease off or stop.


Tips Before Getting Started

  • During your stretch session, breathe! These exercises are aerobic, meaning with oxygen.
  • There is no reason to push beyond your comfort zone for office-based stretches. Never overexert yourself to the point of pain.
  • Consult a medical professional or personal trainer before starting new exercise routines.


Start with the shoulders and neck if you're sitting all-day

Most computer-based office workers carry work-related stress in the shoulders or neck. To combat this strain, release tension with shoulder shrugs and neck stretches.


1.   Shoulder Shrugs

Moving image of a man performing a shoulder shrug stretch

Shoulder shrugs are a straightforward exercise with two steps.

First, lift your shoulders up towards your ears while inhaling. Avoid hunching your shoulders forward by rolling them back slightly.

Next, release the tension by exhaling and dropping your shoulders back down to resting.

Do a set of ten "up and downs" to get started.


2.   Neck Stretches

Moving image of a woman performing neck stretches

With your head in a neutral position, drop your head forward to look down while bringing your chin towards your chest for a stretch in the back of the neck. After a few seconds, return your head to neutral.

Next, tip your head towards the left, bringing your left ear to your left shoulder until you feel a stretch along the right side of your neck.

Lean your head forward and gently roll to your right shoulder, holding for about ten seconds. Repeat this same movement on the right.


3. Doorway Shoulder Stretch

Moving image of a man performing a doorway shoulder stretch

Begin by standing in front of an open doorway. Lift your arms and rest your forearms and hands on the door frame, resembling a football goal post.

Keeping your head and neck straight, step forward on one leg and gently lean into the doorway to feel a stretch across your chest. Hold for 20 to 40 seconds.


Loosen up the core

Back pain can result from poor posture and weak core abdominal muscles. These stretches gently stretch and strengthen the core muscles.


4. Latissimus Dorsi (side bend) Stretch

Moving image of a man performing a side bend stretch

To start, sit in the chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor.

Then, bring your right arm up above your shoulder straight into the air. (optional) Bring your left arm up and clasp your right wrist with your left hand.

From there, engage your core abdominal muscles and lean towards the left, reaching your extended arm to the opposite side of the body. How long you hold this position is a matter of personal preference; 10 to 30 seconds is recommended. Repeat on the opposite side.


5. Seated Twist

Moving image of a woman performing a seated twist stretch

To begin, place both feet firmly on the ground, pointing straight ahead.

From this position, rest your left hand on the side of the chair and bring your right hand to the outer edge of the left knee. First, lengthen your spine by sitting up straight, then slowly and gently twist your upper body toward the left. Hold the pose for fifteen to thirty seconds. Then, repeat on the other side.

To get the most out of this exercise, exhale as you rotate to deepen the stretch.


Destress at work with office-friendly yoga

When a yoga class doesn't fit into the daily routine, we can borrow a few poses to get a five-minute workday stretch break that offers a quick boost in energy and focus.


6.   Seated Cat-Cow Stretch

Moving image of a woman performing a seated cat cow stretch

The cat-cow stretch is a classic yoga pose that can easily be brought to the work environment. This versatile exercise is excellent for those short on time because it stretches and activates several muscles in the body and incorporates breathwork which can quickly calm the nervous system.

This variation of a floor-based pose begins seated in a chair with your hands on your knees.

Cow: Begin by exhaling while engaging your core and pulling your belly button towards your spine to create a rounded spine. Tuck your chin in towards the chest. You will feel a stretch along the spine, upper back, and neck.

Cat: On the inhale, slowly send your belly button forward to create a dipped curve in the back while squeezing your shoulder blades together and lifting your head to look slightly up. You will feel a ‘stretch in your abdominals and glutes.

Sync movement with breath by moving into cow pose while exhaling, then moving into cat pose while inhaling. Repeat these movements with the breath 3 – 5 times. Incorporating slow and intentional breathing into your stretching routine has the added benefit of calming the mind. Cat-cow would be a great stretch to practice after a stressful meeting. 


7.   The Standing Pigeon

Sitting in a desk chair all day can make us feel tight in the hips and legs. A standing modification of the floor-based Pigeon pose, the Standing Pigeon, gently opens the hips while stretching the glutes and back of the standing leg.

moving image of a woman stretching over a desk

To start, stand and lift your left calf onto a desk, table, or countertop, keeping parallel to the edge with the knee at roughly a 90-degree angle. From there, slowly bend forward to increase the stretch as needed. Repeat on the other side.

Note: If you do not have an adjustable height desk or your height doesn't align with the desk in a way that allows you to do this movement comfortably, the floor-based Pigeon pose may be a better option.

If you practice yoga regularly, think about what other yoga asana poses might suit your space in the office.


8.   Wrist Stretch

The wrists can become tight and cramped with all the time spent jotting notes and pounding our keyboards. Over time, the strain adds up. One of the most accessible and satisfying office stretches is the wrist stretch.

Moving image of a man stretching his wrists

Begin by bringing your arm out in front of you with fingertips pointing up, as if you're signaling for someone to stop. Grab your left fingers with your right hand and flex your left hand back by gently pulling towards you with your right hand.

Next, flip your left hand so the fingers are pointing down with the palm facing you. Grab your left fingers with your right hand and gently pull them towards you.

Roll out the wrists and repeat on the right hand.


Ergonomic Office Environments Make a Big Difference!

With many of us working from home or being asked what luxuries we need to keep us happy at the office, it's essential to know the value of ergonomic equipment.

It's well known that an ergonomic office chair and standing desk can help reduce the aches and pains associated with office work. Then again, trying to roll a top-of-the-line chair on an old, cracked plastic floor mat or thick, unforgiving carpet doesn't make much sense.

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Whether you've got a cubicle, the corner office, or a work-from-home situation, never underestimate the value of a good stretch break and quality ergonomic support! You will make the most of your workday with a relaxed body and rejuvenated mindset.

Learn more about the benefits of a Vitrazza Glass Chair Mat.