Cricked neck. Sore lower back. Misaligned spine. Sprained wrists. These symptoms aren't the result of a job involving heavy lifting -- they come from sitting in a chair.
While it certainly isn't the most physically daunting of job descriptions, sitting for multiple hours a day behind a computer can have a lasting negative impact on your body.
"We probably see as many patients that have problems because they have sedentary desk jobs as we do those that have hard manual labor jobs," says Dr. Stiehl Wilson, doctor of chiropractic at Performance Plus Rehabilitation Center.
He says the main reason desk workers complain of aches and pains is due to the poor posture that can result from sitting in a slouched position all day.
"Our body is designed for motion. Things start to stiffen up when you don't move them, and your muscles have to work harder to maintain that sitting position," he says.
Dr. Wilson says the best thing a person can do if they have a sedentary job is to get up and walk around several times a day, if possible. Take bathroom breaks and go talk to coworkers in person instead of sending e-mails so the body can recharge after remaining in one position for so long. This helps alleviate stiff joints and muscles.
He also says your workspace should have proper ergonomics that allow the spine, arms and legs to remain in a neutral position. This includes keeping your chair at a proper height and making sure the computer screen isn't too high, too low or off to one side.
If you aren't worried about funny looks or office jokesters wielding a pair of scissors, try swapping out a desk chair for an exercise ball. Dr. Wilson says this will help strengthen core muscles by "forcing you to concentrate on your posture and using your own postural muscles instead of having a chair do it for you."
Fitting in exercise at the office isn't easy, and many online tips include unrealistic or embarrassing exercises most people wouldn't attempt in front of coworkers. Experts with Discovery Health offer advice for simple stretches and strengthening exercises that can be done behind a desk. The tips in Jodie Schneider's article "10 Office Exercises You Can Do Secretly" can help relieve stiffness without causing commotion.
* Slowly tilt head toward shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Alternate sides.
* Start with feet flat on floor. Sit tall at your desk. Hold your abdominal muscles tight. Extend one leg until it is level with your hip. Hold for 10 seconds. Slowly lower leg. Repeat 15 times. Change legs.
* Put your hand under the table. Press up against the table. Continue until your muscles are tired. Do this one hand at a time or both together. Next, push the table into the floor.
* Sit on the edge of chair. Press down on table with both hands. At same time lift legs as high as you can.
* Make a fist. Squeeze. Hold and release. Stretch fingers. Repeat 10 times. You can use this squeeze, hold and release technique to strengthen just about any muscle.
Find these tips and more at health.howstuffworks.com.
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