5 Stretches for People Who Sit at a Desk

Brad Walker - Updated on March 21st, 2023

The Solution to a Tight Neck, Back, & Shoulders

If you spend long hours behind a desk or computer, or hunched over a cellphone or laptop, you’ll know how quickly the muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders tighten up. From there it’s not long before the aches, pains, and muscle stiffness start to take their toll. If you don’t do something soon, those aches and pains could turn into a hunchback posture, a splitting headache, or all sorts of back, neck, and shoulder injuries.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty you can do to ease the pain and take the pressure off your aching, sore muscles.

  • Start by getting up and moving around at least every hour. Even just standing up and shrugging your shoulders will help promote circulation and get the blood flowing to those aching muscles.
  • Take some deep breaths. The tighter your muscles get, the more you unconsciously hold your breath. Breathing slowly and deeply throughout the day will relax your muscles, promote blood flow, and increase delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of water. Increased hydration helps eliminate toxins and waste products, maintains muscle tone, cushions joints, and transports oxygen and nutrients around your body.
  • Stretch! Stretching regularly will help to increase the length of your muscles and stop them from tightening up and causing pain.

What Else Will Stretching Do?

Apart from improving your flexibility and increasing your range of motion, stretching will also:

  • Increase your comfort
  • Improve your ability to move freely
  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Lessen your susceptibility to muscle and joint injuries
  • Improve your posture
  • Develop body awareness
  • Improve coordination
  • Promote circulation
  • Increase energy
  • Improve relaxation and stress relief

Precautions and Instructions for Performing the Following Desk Stretches

To get the most out of the desk stretches below and ensure you stay safe and injury free, please adhere to the following rules and guidelines.

  1. Do NOT stretch an injury! If you have any sort of muscle or joint injury, do not stretch it. There is a big difference between tight muscles and an injury. If you have acute muscle or joint pain, avoid all stretching and consult a medical professional.
  2. Perform the following desk stretches gently and slowly and avoid bouncing or any jerky movements. This will help to reduce muscle tears and strains that can be caused by rapid, jerky movements.
  3. Stretch ONLY to the point of tension. Stretching should be pleasurable, relaxing, and greatly beneficial. If you had to assign a number to the tension, it would be 5 or 6 out of 10. Keep in mind that 1 is no stretch at all and 10 is the absolute hardest you can push the stretch.
  4. Slowly move into the stretch position until you feel tension of about 5 or 6 out of 10. If you feel pain or discomfort you have pushed the stretch too far; back out of the stretch immediately.
  5. Hold the stretch position for 30 seconds while relaxing and breathing deeply. Come out of the stretch carefully and perform the stretch on the opposite side if necessary. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

The 5 Best Desk Stretches

Below are 5 of the best stretches for office workers and desk jockeys. Please make special note of the instructions with each stretch.

1. Above Head Chest Stretch

Sit upright and interlock your fingers. Bend your arms and place them above your head while forcing your elbows and hands backwards.

Above Head Chest Stretch

2. Reverse Shoulder Stretch

Stand upright and clasp your hands together behind your back. Keep your arms straight and slowly lift your hands upwards.

reverse shoulder stretch

3. Sitting Upper Back and Neck Flexion Stretch

While sitting on a chair, cross your arms over and hang on to the edge of the chair between your legs. Let your head fall forward and then lean backwards.

Sitting Upper Back and Neck Flexion Stretch

4. Lateral Neck Stretch

Look forward while keeping your head up. Slowly move your ear towards your shoulder while keeping your hands behind your back.

Lateral Neck Stretch

5. Rotating Neck Stretch

Keep your shoulders still and your head up. Slowly rotate your chin towards your shoulder.

Rotating Neck Stretch