Updated: Feb 9
by Dr. Paul Santos, PT, DPT
Many Americans have careers and positions that require them to work at a desk and in front of a computer. From those who work countless hours coding the perfect program for their start-up tech company, to those who take on endless clients as financial advisors, many of us busy bees fall victim to sitting in a chair for long periods of time, eventually adopting a slouched posture after one too many hours in front of the computer screen. This is especially true nowadays, since the coronavirus pandemic has caused many of us to work from our own homes, which do not always have the most ergonomic workstations.
Although there is no direct causal relationship between posture and pain, adopting a slouched posture may contribute to various muscle imbalances throughout the upper body that can lead to pain in the neck, shoulder, upper back, and even the wrists. So, what can you do to prevent this from happening? Below, I suggest the top three exercises to do in order to address these pain points!
EXERCISE 1: Seated Chin Tucks
One of the consequences of adopting a slouched posture is also adopting forward head positioning. This positioning may cause the muscles in the back of the neck to tighten up, contributing to both neck and potentially shoulder pain! This exercise can help address forward head positioning.
In a comfortable, seated position, look straight ahead, ensuring that your head is in a neutral positioning (neither too bent forward or backward)
Place a finger on your chin. This finger will be used to provide visual feedback to ensure you’re doing the exercise correctly
Without moving your finger, retract your head directly backwards, as if you’re making a double chin. Your head should look like it’s moving away from your finger, without bending too far forward or backwards.
You should feel a stretch in the base of your head in the back, as well as some muscle contraction underneath your chin. You may hold for 2-3 seconds in this retracted position, doing 10-15 repetitions total.
EXERCISE 2: Doorway Pec Stretch
When we adopt a slouched posture, we tend to develop tightness in the front of our chest. This tightness contributes to the rounding of our shoulders and inefficient shoulder blade positioning, which can contribute to both neck and shoulder pain. This exercise can help with stretching out your chest.
Find a door of standard width, and position yourself within the doorframe, staggering your legs. It does not matter which foot is in front.
Place your forearms on the doorframe, palms facing forward, with elbows slightly below shoulder height.
Keeping your arms stabilized and firm on the doorframe, lean forward onto your front foot while keeping your trunk upright.
Keep leaning forward until you feel a moderate stretch in the front of your chest, around the area underneath your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds, for up to 2-3 times.
EXERCISE 3: Wall Seated Thoracic Extension
With a slouched posture, what usually happens is an excessive rounding of the upper back. Over time, if we are in a slouched posture for too long, the segments become stiff in this position, which may contribute to upper back pain. This last exercise can help promote mobility of the upper back, and it feels great too!
Place a chair next to a wall and sit on it. Face the chair directly in front of the wall.
Place your hands behind your head and position your elbows in front of you against the wall, adopting as much of an upright trunk as possible.
While in this position, bring your chest forward and try to extend your upper back backwards while keeping the elbows against the wall like anchors.
You should feel a nice backward bend in the upper back as well as a slight chest stretch. You may hold this position for 2-3 seconds, for up to 10-15 times.
Those are the top three exercises I recommend for after sitting in front of a desk! I hope that this helps some of you after a long day at work. Note that this blog post does not constitute formal physical therapy treatment. If these exercises cause excess pain or discomfort outside of normal stretching/strengthening sensations, STOP doing them and reach out to your nearest California Therapy Solutions physical therapist for a consultation or evaluation to help design a program that best fits YOUR needs!
Move well, live well, be well.