4 Exercises For Bad Computer Posture
By Dr. Doug
Whether it is being back to school, at the office, still in the home office, or relaxing with a computer game, we spend a lot of time sitting at the computer. This often leads to us hunching forward over the screen, and that bad posture can lead to pain in the neck and back and also lead to the onset of headaches.
Screen time is now a permanent factor in part our day but we can help reduce the impact created on our bodies by computer posture. Here are 4 exercises that can be done easily throughout the day to combat postural pain:
1) Lunge Stretch
Sitting shortens muscles in the front of the hip - the hip flexors. One of these hip flexors is the iliopsoas, which brings the leg forward at the hip AND supports the curve of the low back. When this muscle gets tight, pain can be felt anywhere from the groin where it attaches, to the thighbone and up to the mid back where it is attached to the vertebrae. Its location means that the usual back stretches where you bend forward, won’t do much to stretch the iliopsoas. Instead, a lunge with the back foot pointing straight forward and the low back flattened helps to undo the tightness from sitting. Hold for 30 seconds and do 2-3 times on each leg.
2) Neck Stretch
Even if you aren’t slouching forward, staring at a screen means neck muscles aren’t moving and are slowly stiffening. This stiffness is a big contributor to headaches. Stretching the head forward will provide some short term relief, but it accentuates the forward head position that is causing the initial problem. A better solution is a side bending stretch. Sitting up straight, lean to one side and let the head fall in that direction. NOTE, do not use muscular force to tilt the head. To increase the stretch, you can reach the hand up and over the head, toward the side you are leaning placing the hand by your ear. Rather than pulling, let the weight of your hand increase the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each side.
3) Chest Stretch
Whether on the computer or doing many other things through our daily life, we are usually working in front of ourselves. This can lead to tightness across the front of the shoulders and chest. To loosen these muscles, go to a doorway. Place the forearm on the doorframe so that the elbow is higher than the shoulder. Standing squarely in the doorway step forward with the opposite leg from the arm on the doorframe. You should feel a stretch in the chest. If you feel it in the shoulder, bend both knees. You should feel the stretch move into the pectoral muscles. Hold 30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.
4) Brugger’s Exercise
Now that tight muscles have been relaxed, it is time to tighten up the muscles that haven’t been engaged in postural support, namely the ones behind us. Sitting straight with the feet flat on the floor, hold the arms by your sides with palms facing forward. Reach the arms back from that position, and then comes the hard part. Keeping your gaze level, slide the chin back (think of making a double chin). You should feel some tightening of the upper back and shoulder blade area. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Relax and repeat 3-4 times.
Each of these exercises takes a few seconds. Depending on your schedule, you can do them all at once, or one or two at a time throughout the day. Try to do them 3-4 times while you are sitting in front of the computer, and that should help offset the postural strains created by computer work.
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