Office Worker’s Guide to Mobility & Flexibility

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Modern-day life has many of us sitting at our desk oftentimes for hours.

Though sometimes it can’t be avoided, we’ve comprised a list of 5 things you can do to minimize the aches and pains that come with the job.

5 Exercises You Can Do From Your Desk

1. Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing

Back pain that occurs when seated at a desk often times comes from an arched low back. Usually, we tend to breathe with the upper chest and ribs in our daily routine. This can cause arching of the low back and tightening of the low back muscles. This is where diaphragmatic breathing can be a useful relaxation technique.

Contrary to our normal breathing, the focus in this technique is your stomach.

You want the stomach to rise and fall during drop inhales and long, slow exhales. This will help the expansion of the abdominal cavity, including your low back. This helps reduce arching of the low back and reduce the tension of low and upper back muscles.


2. Chair Stretch

Low back muscles become tight from sitting for extended periods of time. Stretch them out by scooting to the edge of your chair and slowly reach down with your hands to touch the heels of your feet. Keep your chin tucked down to your chest as well. Take deep breaths and stay in this position for 30-60 seconds. Repeat as needed.

3. Stretch It Out

Sciatic nerve issues (sciatica) can be low back problems for people. This issue can be exacerbated by a tight piriformis muscle located under the gluteal muscles (buttocks).

To stretch this muscle: scoot to the edge of the chair, place the ankle of the affected side/leg on top of the knee of the opposite leg, then slowly lean your trunk forward until a stretch is felt in the buttocks of the affected side. Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds. Perform 10 of these stretches every hour or two.

4. Chair Squats

Getting up from your desk and walking around is always helpful to reduce gravity-compressing forces on your lumbar spine. However, squats performed with your chair behind you are further helpful to also increase hip and low back strength for spine stabilization.

With your arms out in front of you, squat down to touch your buttocks to the chair seat (don’t sit down) and stand back up.

Don’t worry if touching the seat is difficult as it is not a requirement. Also, if this causes any low back, hip or knee pain then you will want to stop. Further therapeutic evaluation for the issue(s) may be needed.

5. Adjust Your Seat

Low back pain can be caused due to arching of the back (compression of lumbar spine discs). When we overarch, we compress our disc on one side, squeezing it like a wedge.

A helpful hint to combat this arching and compression is by using a tightly rolled-up towel (roughly 3-4 inches in diameter) on your seat.

Many people think to put the towel roll at their low back, but that usually only increases your low back arch.

Instead, place the towel roll where the chair’s back and seat meet. Then sit down and in the chair with your tailbone up against the towel roll. You aren’t sitting on top of it, but up against it. See if this gives some relief when sitting for extended periods of time.


Written by: Boyd Partridge, DPT

At Austin Physical Therapy, our physical therapists have training and expertise in all these areas and can help you implement a comprehensive plan of care.

Contact us today if you’d like to speak with a physical therapist about pain management or additional advice on how to help with your headache.

(Austin Physical Therapy has two convenient locations in Huntsville & Brownsboro, AL.)

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