top of page
  • Writer's pictureLillian Antonio

Is working from home becoming a pain in the neck? Simple stretching can help.

Updated: May 27

Are you feeling the strain of working from home? Are you missing your office chair? For many, the aches and pains are creeping in, so to help, throughout the day, The Modern Ergonomist has curated a list of essential stretches to ensure you don’t feel the strain.

We have been working from home for a number of weeks now, and this is set to continue even as lockdown measures are eased in many countries. We are moving even less and sitting for even longer than when we are in the office. This sedentary lifestyle can lead to a host of musculoskeletal aches and pains. Regular movement, throughout the day, is not just a good idea, it's a necessity to combat these issues. 

As humans, we are designed to move and interact. But with no commute, fewer distractions, impromptu coffees, or a walk at lunchtime, we have increased the number of hours we sit for. To make up for our lack of face-to-face interaction, we are turning to video conferencing for both work and social gatherings. However, this only encourages us to be more sedentary, adding to the strain on our necks and our mental health. It's crucial to find a balance and incorporate movement into our daily routines.

As discussed in a previous post, it is important to ensure that your workstation is set up correctly. However, even with the perfect set-up, sitting and typing at your computer for long periods affects your whole body. It tightens the muscles at the front of the body, reduces hip mobility, and tightens your lower back and neck muscles as they try to balance out your posture. How do you ensure you are moving often enough when stuck at home? 

The Modern Ergonomist has curated a selection of stretches to target the muscles most susceptible to tightening. To feel the benefit, you must complete these regularly, at least a couple of times a day, so plan them for your day to ensure you do them or set a reminder. 

These exercises will help to: 

  • Reduce fatigue by increasing the blood flow and nutrients to the muscles.

  • Improve your posture

  • Improve flexibility 

  • Decreases musculoskeletal injury and stress

  • Increase energy levels

  • Increase productivity

A word of caution: Please be careful with yourself. If pain occurs while you are carrying out these stretches, you are advised to stop. These stretches should feel good and not like a punishment, so move gently and enjoy.

1. Shoulder rolls

Why? We tend to drop our shoulders forward when sitting, creating a poor posture that leads to back pain. This is an easy movement to do regularly throughout the day to get those shoulders moving.

Here’s how…Lift your shoulders as high as possible, towards your ears. Slowly roll your shoulders back and around, pushing them to their maximum position in each direction. Aim for 3-5 times, forwards and backwards.

2. Neck stretch

Why? Have you ever noticed how your shoulders start moving towards your ears when stressed? We tend to gather tension in our shoulders, which can ache by the end of the day. This exercise will help you stretch these muscles.

Here's how….

Sit up straight near the front of the chair. Place your left hand on the edge of the chair, your right hand on the left side of your head, and gently pull over to the right.

You should feel a stretch on the left side of your neck. Do this for 30 seconds, three times on each side. 

3. Upper back stretch

Why? These muscles can become very tense when sitting, particularly if you look down at your laptop or phone for long periods.

Here’s how...

From a seated posture, stretch your arms straight out in front of you. Twist your arms so your palms face out, away from each other. Cross your arms so that your palms are now touching. Reach your arms forward as you relax your head down.

You should feel a stretch in your upper back and shoulders. Hold for up to 30 seconds; complete twice.

4. Door frame chest opener

Why? This stretch is excellent for opening up the front of your shoulders and chest, improving your posture. I mentioned above that we tend to drop our shoulders forward; this can be the result of tight chest muscles. 

Here’s how…Stand in a doorway, put your arms up on the door frame, and put one foot forward through the doorway. Your forearms should be along the door frame, and your upper arms should be horizontal to the ground. Bend your front knee until a stretch is felt along the front of your chest and/or shoulders. Take some deep breaths and hold the stretch for around 30 seconds to one minute.

5. Trunk stretch

Why? We don’t reach our arms above our heads very regularly. This is a good stretch for the whole front of the body and gets the Latissimus Dorsi involved, too. 

Here's how...

From a seated position, interlace your fingers and raise your arms to the ceiling. Take a deep breath to reach as high as you can.

You can move around gently here to see where your body needs more stretch. As you exhale, release your hands back down by your side. Repeat this 6-8 times.

6. Wrist and forearm stretch

Why? Because we perform so many repetitive movements when using a computer all day, our hands and wrists become tired and tense. 

Here’s how…

Bring the palms of your hands together, elbows out. Slowly rotate your hands forward until you feel a stretch. Hold for a slow count of 10. Repeat 3 – 5 times

7. Seated hip stretch

Why? Your hips become tight from sitting for long periods. This stretch will help to stretch the outside of your hip and glute.

Here's how...

Sitting upright, cross your left ankle over your right knee. You should feel a stretch in your left hip.

To stretch deeper, push gently down on your knee or lean forward slightly (with a straight back). Hold for 30 seconds on each side. 

8. Spinal rotation

Why? This encourages spinal mobility and helps to reduce lower back pain.

Here's how...

Sit upright, with your feet firmly on the floor and engage your abs. Twist your body to the left, looking over your shoulder.

To gain a deeper stretch, you can use the armrests or the edge of the chair. Repeat for 30 seconds on each side.

9. Hip floor stretch

Why? This stretch is fantastic for opening up your hips and improving your posture, allowing you to stand up straight. 

Here’s how…Kneel on the floor and bring your right knee up so the sole of your foot is on the floor. Extend your left leg out behind you so the top of your foot is on the floor (lunge position). Shift your weight forward, keeping your shoulders back until you feel a stretch in the back hip. Hold for up to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. 

10. Forward fold

Why? These can be relaxing for your back but also cause pain if your hamstrings are tight, so be gentle. They will also stretch your hips, hamstrings, and calf muscles.

Here's how: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides. Slowly bend at the hips while keeping your knees engaged. Allow your upper body to hang over. Let your arms drop as well, dangling in front of you. Once you're fully bent over and your hands are at your toes, pause, relax, and feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Repeat 3-5 times. 

Final note: Completing these stretches doesn’t make up for getting up and moving away from your workstation every hour. Do that, too. Grab a coffee, go to the toilet, just move, and depending on where you are in the world right now, get outside for a walk as well, if you can. 

There are loads of online resources to help improve flexibility and strengthen key muscle groups to reduce strain. Are there any other stretching exercises you like to do during or at the end of the day? Comment below to let me know 👇

The Modern Ergonomist specialises in providing home-working webinars and remote workstation assessments. Through an online form and video conference follow-up, we will ensure that you are working comfortably. This is especially important if you have an existing musculoskeletal condition, such as back or neck pain. Please use the Contact Me section below or email to find out how we can help you.

This blog has been written in collaboration with Herman Miller. Visit for information on ergonomic work tools, including office chairs and desks. 

540 views0 comments


bottom of page