Being hunched over a computer is, unfortunately, a standard posture for many in this country. Hours of typing, using a mouse, sitting, and the inevitable rounding of the spine all contribute to significant back and neck pain for many people. However, taking just a few minutes to stretch the parts of the body most affected by this positioning can make a big difference in your mobility and pain, which positively affects your productivity! These stretches should be performed several times a day, or whenever tension/pain becomes an issue. By taking time to care for your body, issues with chronic pain can start to reduce and modulate.

Here are five stretches you can incorporate into your daily routine. (Note that stretching should be slow and methodical. Pushing to the point of pain will only increase tension, so go slow and test your range of motion each time you perform these movements.)

  1. Hand/Finger Release. Spread and extend all ten fingers until you feel a stretch for 5-10 seconds. Relax your hands for 5-10 seconds, and then repeat.
  2. Lateral Neck Stretch. Tilt your left ear toward your right shoulder, keeping your eyes facing forward. Only tilt to the point of a gentle stretch – don’t force anything. Hold for 10-20 seconds and switch to the other side. Do 2-3 times to release tension in the sides of the neck.
  3. Shoulder Shrugs. Start by relaxing the shoulders down the back, and then lift both shoulders towards the ears until a small amount of tension is felt in the neck and shoulders. Hold 3-5 seconds and release back to normal. Do this movement to 2-3 times, particularly when tension is felt in the shoulders, neck, or upper back.
  4. Chest Stretch. Interlace the fingers behind your head and spread your elbows out to the side until aligned with the upper body. Gently squeeze the shoulder blades toward one another until you feel a small amount of tension and hold 8-10 seconds. Relax, and then repeat 2-3 times.
  5. Upper Back Opening. Interlace your fingers, turn your palms away, and extend your arms straight out in front of you. Slightly round the upper back to feel a stretch between the shoulder blades and the arms. Hold 15-20 seconds, relax your arms, and repeat 2-3 times.

These stretches are simple, but vital to keeping your neck and upper body from collapsing forward and causing misalignment. Taking just a few minutes several times throughout the day to stretch can start to undo patterns of bad posture that can affect all areas of your life. Try them for a week and let me know if it makes a difference in your life!