... With Dr. Kross!
With the overall signs of the pandemic trending steadily in a favorable direction, many people are starting to make the move from working at home back into the office. Last year, when we shifted from office to home, we traded our ergonomically designed workspaces for makeshift, suboptimal home workstations. Though perhaps working casually slouched on the bed or couch wasn’t the best thing for our bodies. We LOVED our so-called commute time and our secret (and sometimes not-so-secret) pants-less business meetings, and the freedom to take short workout breaks, and move about as desired to adjust for the effects of prolonged sitting.
Returning to an ergonomically designed workspace may also mean a return to the rigidity of work-life structure. Sometimes, our bosses aren’t huge fans of seeing their employees get up every hour to “take a break” and move. And the truth of it is, no matter HOW ergonomically designed a workspace is, sitting at a screen for hours on end is simply not what our bodies are designed to do (unless you count binge-watching a Netflix series… Our bodies make an exception for that). If the scenario being described sounds familiar to you, you’re likely remembering (and dreading) how your body is going to feel when you head back to the office space. It’s okay! Below are four simple postural exercises you can do at your desk WITHOUT getting the stink eye from your boss.
The Chin Tuck
While you’re staring at a screen, you’re bound to slowly lurch your head forward to make sense of all the Matrix code sitting in front of your face. The chin tuck is not only the opposite position of that forward head posture (retracting your head and neck into a ‘double chin’ position); if you do this as an exercise, it is a great way to engage the muscles deep in your neck that often lose their oomph because we are too busy focusing on that one last e-mail we have to answer.
When your head shifts forward towards the computer monitor, your shoulders round as well. Similar to the chin tuck, the scapular retraction engages the muscles (your rhomboids and middle trapezius) that reverse that motion. For this one, you should pinch your shoulders down and back. The fun imagery we like to give here is, “Don’t wear your shoulders like earrings.” I particularly love the scapular retraction because you really can’t do a good one without an accompanying chin tuck. They’re friends. Best friends.
When you sit for a long time, the hips and knees stay bent for a while, leading to the hamstring and hip flexor muscles staying short and tight. Hamstring stretching is very easy on the job. If you don’t want to think about it, you can prop your leg up with your knee straight on something while you’re working. You don’t even have to stop typing while your leg is stretching. Although, really...please, take a break (the best thing for posture is to be able to move, and I recommend you move at least once an hour). No one needs to work THAT hard.
Hip Flexor Stretch
This is a particularly important stretch that people miss out on and a definite game changer for someone who sits most of the day. It allows the front of the hip and thigh to breathe. There are many ways to do this stretch but if you’re at work, while you’re sitting in your chair, you would simply turn your body to one side and drop into a “lunge” position. Your knee doesn’t even have to touch the ground. Easy.
Whether you’re working in the office, at your home desk (or even on the couch), give these exercises a try to move and stretch your body, and work on that posture!
About the Incredible Doctor Tawny Kross
(who I can't thank enough for sharing her expertise with us and even making videos!)
Dr. Tawny Kross graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Duke University. She has a comprehensive and integrative approach to PT, which evolved from the necessity of such an approach in her work with the complexities of those who have chronic pain. Her various certifications include: Hypnosis, Therapeutic Pain Specialist, Functional Nutrition and Functional Dry Needling (among others). Dr. Kross currently works as a chronic pain specialist at a VA Hospital in North Carolina and recently started her own business, Kross Centered Care - Integrated PT, Health and Wellness.