Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, May/June 2010. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
Even with an ergonomically designed workstation, comfortable chair, and good posture, working at a computer is likely to result in strain, because it requires the body to alternate between repetitive motion and stillness, and that creates stiffness and strain.
Fortunately, the body is forgiving. You can counteract the effects of eight hours a day at a desk with just 15 minutes of movement. Of course, you'll also need aerobic exercise and strength training to stay healthy in other ways. Here's one exercise to help keep your shoulders loose.
1. Lift your shoulders up toward your ears and hold for a couple of seconds. Then let them drop. Repeat this a few times.
2. Lift your shoulders slightly, release, and pull them down toward your hips and hold a couple of seconds. Repeat this several times.
3. Circle your shoulders--up, back, and down both at the same time, and then alternately.
4. Lean to one side. As you lean, reach your arm out to that same side.
Come back to center. Move from your spine first; draw your body toward the opposite side and reach with the other arm. Note that the following steps are easier to do when standing. As you reach to the side, let your elbow and wrist bend, first moving up and then as you reach to the other side, pull down. Reach your arms as far overhead as is comfortable. Let your spine and shoulders roll with the movements.
Of course, avoid moving in a way that causes pain or makes your pain worse. If a movement causes your neck, shoulder, or back to hurt, move differently: smaller, slower, or in a different direction. Don't think that the pain is good for you. It's not.
As you get more comfortable with this series of movements, spread your feet farther apart so that your body can sway further to each side. Anita Boser is a Hellerwork Structural Integration practitioner with a private practice in Issaquah, Washington. This feature is part of her free ebook 7 Undulations to Relieve Office Tension, available at www.undulationexercise.com.