Nov 30

Back Strengthening for Desk Workers


Cover Desk Worker Back Pain

I work with a lot individuals who work at desks all day to make a living.  While sitting at a desk, sometimes we forget about how sitting for prolonged periods of time can affect our bodies.  It’s not like we don’t know that sitting down in the same position will cause pain to our back and hip joints, we just get so tied up and busy with working at our desks and forget about it.   We also know that having good posture will solve a lot of the issues that cause back, hip and neck pain.  Well, what’s the problem then?  Why are so many people who work at desk jobs complaining about achy necks, pain up and down the middle back, tightness in the hips and symptoms of sciatica?  The answer could be:

  1. We feel these pains and try to work through them without correcting it.
  2. After we know there is a problem indicated by pain and discomfort… we straight up neglect it and move on with life.

And for the most important…

  1. We don’t exercise correctly to improve our performance at our worksite!

While there are many problems that contribute to neck, back and hip discomfort when working at a desk all day, these seem to be the top 3 most common.  So let’s go through a ways to solve some of these issues.

Issue #1:  Working through the pain

When sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, discomfort can develop in the neck, back and hip joints.  In certain cases, people feel the need to get a certain job done and that they can’t possibly step away from the computer screen and keyboard because they feel as if they will not get the job done.  I will agree that work does need to get done and you should bring the “best you” to your job every day.  However, it’s alright to get up for 1-2 minutes and do something about the pain symptoms that you are experiencing.

Solution to issue #1:  Set a timer, Get up!

Just like I stated above, sitting down for a prolonged amount of time without getting up will screw up your back.  There is a very easy solution to preventing this, GET UP!  It’s not some crazy exercise routine you have to remember and recite in the middle of your work day.  It’s just standing up and reversing the sitting position that your body has been resting in .  Just make sure that you get up every 1-2 hours and walk around for a little.   Is this considered a 15 minute break?  Not necessarily.  In my opinion this is a critical part of you performing to the best of your abilities at your job.  This technique shouldn’t take any more that 2-5 minutes, then you can get back to kicking ass at your job at your computer desk.

One thing to help you with this is set a timer on your computer or your phone.  Set this timer for every 90-120 minutes and get up and walk around for a little bit.  Go smell the roses outside, check out the humming birds and the palm trees or admire the clouds in the sky.  Doing this just 1-2 times throughout your work day will help reduce the likely hood of excessive sitting and the injuries to your back.

Issue #2:  Neglecting the body’s message of telling you there is a problem.

Ya, we’re all guilty of this.  I’ll admit it, I am.  Sometimes we know that there is an obvious problem in our body due to the sensation of pain in a certain area.  In this case, we are talking about back pain due to prolonged sitting in front of a keyboard and monitor.  The easy solution would be to say, “Stop sitting at your desk 8 hours a day.”  We can’t say that, that’s the same things as telling a butcher to stop cutting meat all day because he suffers from pain in his wrists.  This is your livelihood and something needs to be done to improve it.  Without work, you don’t get money.  Without your back, you can’t work.  If you try to keep working while you’re in pain, your job is going to suck.  So do something about it!

Solution to Issue #2:  Listen to what your body is telling you and apply preventative exercise to the indicated ared.

The most common types of pain that I see from someone who works a desk job are are hip pain, lower back pain, and mid back pain.  Experiencing this pain is a form of biofeedback.  That is, your brain giving you a message that your back is experiencing a state of trouble in that specific area.  Therefore, you should listen to this biofeedback mechanism and apply some sort of solution to the affected area.  To remedy this problem, start to perform corrective and preventative exercises immediately.  Don’t wait!  Below are some great exercises that can help strengthen your lower back and make a world of difference to making your day while sitting a desk much better:

Static Hip Extension:  2 sets of 15 seconds.

static hip ext

  • Lay on the ground on your back. Bring your heels underneath your knees and spread your arm out at about a 30-45 degree angle from your side.  With your head and shoulder blades flat on the ground, push your heels through the ground and lift the crests of your hips up toward the sky.  Make sure that the crests of your hips are parallel with your abdomen and thighs, but do not hyperextend.  When in this position, flex your glutes, high part of the hamstring and low back muscles and hold for 15 seconds. Perform this routine 1-2 times a week.

Wall Bug:  2 sets of 5 repetitions

Wall Bug 2Wall Bug 1

  • While maintaining the ninety degree position of the hips, place hands against the wall with arms bent at a ninety degree angle. Actively press against the wall while descending one leg and allow the flat of the foot to touch the ground while ensuring the non-descending leg stays stable at a 90 degree angle. Return the descended leg to the original starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. This will count as 1 repetition.  Repeat for 5 repetitions and perform 1-2 times a week.

Cat and Cow:

Cat Cow

  • Position yourself on your knees and hands. Hands should be directly underneath your armpits and thighs directly underneath your hip sockets.  Breath in and bring your belly button toward the ground and flex and hold for 1 second, stretching out the stomach muscles and mid back..  Then arch your lower back toward the sky and exhale, stretching out the mid and lower back muscle around the ribs.  Repeat for 5 repetitions and perform 1-2 times a week.

We all need to make money to live.  Working is part of that.  So we need to take really good care of our bodies.  In this case, desk workers need to pay attention to their bodies as well.  In order to excel and be successful at your job, you have to perform at your best.  Part of performing at your best is maintaining the functionality of your body.  Just like taking care of your car.  Take care of it, it will ride for many miles… don’t and you’re going to have to spend a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get a new one.  It’s pretty much the same for your body, except you don’t necessarily get a new one.  So, for all you desk workers out there… make sure you bodies are strong and durable for the years to come.  You may be professional sitters, but every day you need to perform your best sitting to make sure you and your body are successful at the end of the day.