If you spend most of your workday sitting hunched at a desk, you’ve probably experienced some of the aches and pains of Desk Jockey Syndrome. This syndrome is associated with a sedentary work environment, and it poses significant health risks. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate those risks through exercise.
Research findings suggest that sitting is the new smoking. Being sedentary, sitting too much without moving, has been linked with a host of negative health outcomes. Sedentary lifestyles are correlated with obesity, and seem to carry a higher risk of death for those who develop cardiovascular disease or cancer.
Another occupational hazard that often manifests as a part of Desk Jockey Syndrome is “text neck”, neck pain caused by spending too much time hunched over a smartphone.
There’s a very simple and very important biomechanical reason for this: when you lean forward, your head puts twice as much pressure on your spine, specifically the neck bones or cervical spine (c-spine). Human heads weigh approximately 10-15 pounds, so with a 10-pound head you’ll exert 20 pounds of pressure on your neck with one inch of forward leaning.
Fortunately, there are a number of simple exercises you can do to reduce your risk and combat Desk Jockey-related pain. By incorporating the following stretches into your daily routine, you can keep your body happier and healthier.
Seated Spinal Twist
The seated spinal twist is an excellent stretch for your pelvis, shoulders, and joints. You’re going to need to sit on the floor for this one, which makes it an excellent way to promote getting up and moving during the day.
Begin by sitting on the floor, with both legs stretched out in front of you. Now, take your right foot and carefully place it across your left leg, bringing it down by your left thigh. Take your left foot, and carefully bring it back toward your right hip.
Put your right hand behind you, fingertips down, and then take your left arm and bring your right leg in toward you. Take a deep breath—this will lengthen your spine—and then stretch your left arm out beyond your right thigh. As you exhale, twist toward the right, keeping your left arm and thigh pressed into each other. Do this for at least three breaths, and then switch to your other side.
Shoulder and Upper Back Desk Stretches
The first shoulder and upper back stretch you should try is posture correction. Simply stand up, slouch forward, and then adopt a proper upright posture. You want to overcorrect a bit, so that your upper back bends a little. You should feel movement in your upper back and shoulder blades.
Next, try setting your shoulder blades (scapulae). Stand with your arms to the sides, and move your shoulder blades up, about a centimeter or so. Hold them there for 10 seconds or more, and then try to push them out, away from your torso. Again, hold for 10 seconds, and then push them down for 10 seconds.
Solar Plexus Expansion Stretch
Also known as the “camel pose” or Ustrasana, the solar plexus expansion stretch is a great way to release tension in your spine and body. Kneel on the floor, knees the same distance apart as your hips. Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the floor, but avoid clenching your buttocks.
Press your hands on the back of your pelvis, fingers pointed down. Now, lean back, tucking your chin slightly toward your chest. Depending on your comfort, you can take this pose farther, leaning back and holding onto your heels.
Neck Rotation Stretch
This stretch is particularly helpful for text neck. From a straight-backed standing or sitting position, tilt your head forward, as close to your chest as possible. Now, rotate your head clockwise and tilted to the right, as far back as you can. Repeat, this time tilting your head to the left. When you’re done, try the stretch counter-clockwise.
With these simple stretches, you can make great progress against the aches, pains, and health hazards of Desk Jockey Syndrome. Try making them a part of your routine, and see how you feel.