Preventing back pain: 7 ways to stretch at your desk

If you are an office worker, you are likely to spend 4 to 9 hours a day sitting at your desk. The same is true if you work from home, if you are a student, and even when you have retired: we generally sit too much. Prolonged sitting has been linked to poor physical health, back pain and decline in mental well-being. So what can we do? First and foremost, get up once an hour for a short walk. Secondly, try the 7 ways to stretch at your desk that are demonstrated in this blog. Doing these stretches regularly will increase the blood supply to the brain, reduce fatigue, prevent aches and pains and increase work efficiency. All the exercises below should be fine for people with back pain, although it is still important not to do a movement if it hurts. Let’s dive right in!

Cat stretch

Clasp your fingers behind your head.

Exhale and round your back while lowering the head and moving the elbows towards each other.

Inhale deeply and straighten the back, moving the elbows to the side and the shoulder blades towards each other.

Repeat a few times


Shoulder stretch

Take hold of the right wrist with the left hand and, keeping both arms bent, turn the right palm to face up.

Exhale and pull the right wrist gently up and slightly over to the side.

Inhale and relax the arms.

Repeat 3-5x and then do the same to the other side, holding the other wrist.

Finish by circling the shoulders a few times in both directions.


Neck stretches

Lower the palms so they cradle the back of your head.

Exhale and move your head to the right. Inhale to return the head to the centre. Exhale to the left.

Repeat several times, coordinating the breath with the movement.


Side twist with chair

This position is not advisable if you have a recently herniated disc.

Leaving the feet firmly down and hips facing forward, twist gently and from the waist to the side with an outbreath. You can hold the back of the chair and the desk.

Inhale and return to the centre.

Exhale, move to the other side.

Repeat a few times and, if comfortable, stay on each side for a few breaths.


Glut stretch

Place the ankle above the knee of your other leg. If you want to feel more stretch in the glut, bend forward from the hips, keeping the back straight and the chin gently down to the throat.

Stay for a few breaths and repeat on the other side.


Leg and back stretch

Get up from the chair and lean forward over the desk. If you have back pain or very tight hamstrings, do this against a wall so the hands are much higher than the hips.

Position the feet under the hips. You can leave the legs bent if this gives a greater release for the spine.

Breathe in this position for a few moments, while feeling that the spine is lengthening in two directions.


Leg stretches

Place one foot on your chair.

Bend forward from the hips and with a straight back. Keep the chest lifted. Just leaning forward slightly is likely to give you enough stretch at the back of your leg.

Stay in the position for up to a minute, or 5 to 6 slow breaths.

Turn the foot you are standing on 90 degrees to the side.

Stay in this position for up to a minute to feel the stretch along the inner thigh.

Turn the standing foot to face forward again.

Twist the body towards the leg that is on the chair. Keep the hips in place, facing forward and level, and move from the waist.

Again hold this stretch for up to a minute. Breathe…


There are other ways to stretch at or near your desk. Check out my other blogs on neck stretches and lunges.





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