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Five ergonomic stretching cues that will actually help you stay ergonomically correct

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stretch affect
June 17, 2022

As business professionals, how often do you perform ergonomic stretching at your desk? Many of us sit at a desk all day, and we sit at our desk the way we want to, not the way we are supposed to.

The way we are supposed to is in an ergonomic way. It seems rigid and uncomfortable, but in not doing ergonomic stretching or sitting ergonomically sound, we run the risk of developing chronic tightness, immobility, and pain. In turn, the risks we gain from sitting all day at work creep into life outside of work limiting our enjoyment of our recreational time.

Small cues make a big difference

Throughout the day, as you sit for long periods of time, your alignment will likely start to fade, and your willingness to sit correctly will fall off.

But do you know what small cues you can give yourself throughout the day that will actually help you stick with sitting correctly?

graphic describing correct ergonomic sitting

1. Head

Proper alignment: head should be neutral (chin slightly retracted), which should align your ear to just the front aspect of the shoulder.

Head Cue: The 20% rule works well for cueing into proper alignment.

If you fully retract your head (chin as far back as can be while keep your face from looking up or down) and then come off of that end range of about 20%, the head will likely be in a neutral position.

2. Shoulder

Proper alignment: Shoulder blades slightly back. Elbows should be rested at your sides in line with the torso.

Shoulder Cue: Pinch shoulder blades together and drive them in a downward motion to full end range, then come off 20%; that should be the neutral position for the shoulders

3. Low Back

Proper alignment: Low back should not be excessively arched or rounded (pelvis neutral).

Back Cue: Arch low back (anterior pelvic tilt) to full range, then come off 20%; that should be the neutral position for low back

4. Hips

Proper alignment: Hips bent at a 90-degree angle in relation to the torso, knees bent at 90-degree angle with feet rested flat on the floor.

Hips Cue: Pressure point when sitting should not be on the tailbone; most pressure should be felt on the “sit bones” or ischial tuberosities with some pressure and the back thighs/upper hamstrings

5. Wrist

Proper alignment: Wrists should be in a slightly flexed position over the keyboard without any pressure or contact from a pad or table, wrists over keyboard as if you were playing piano. Forearms should be aligned with the middle finger (no excessive ulnar or radial deviation of the wrists).

Wrist Cue: No contact with a surface should be present under wrists or forearm. Rested wrists/forearms or elbows reduce a freer range of motion of the wrists and fingers. Having your elbows rested on armrests is acceptable as long as the armrests are not positioned too high in which shoulders get bunched up toward the ears. Constant pressure at the bottom wrist may aggravate the carpal tunnel/median nerve.

Recommended ergonomic stretching and exercises to prevent or recover from postural issues

There are a few common problem areas that get tight and irritated or weakened from constant desk work, especially in poor posture. Here is a list of ergonomic stretching exercises you can do to prevent or recover from issues.

Neck Tightness 

Levator Stretch Pails and Rails

Neck Rotation Pails and Rails

SCM Pails and Rails

Deep Neck Flexors Inhibited/Weak 

Chin Tucks and W’s

Wrist and Elbow Tightness 

Wrist Flexion and Extension Stretch Passive Range Hold

Chest Tightness

Pectoralis Stretch Pails and Rails

Shoulder Blade Retractors Inhibited/Weak 

Resisted High Low Row

Prone Scapular Retraction

Scapular Retraction Passive Range Hold

Hip Flexor Tightness

Hip Flexor Stretch Pails and Rails

Thoracic Spine Limited Motion 

Foam Roll Thoracic Extension

Desk Thoracic Extension

Core Inhibited/Weak 

Supine Pelvic Tilts

Sitting Pelvic Tilts

Dead Bugs

Standing Posture (Take a Break from Sitting!)

Posture Wall Series

Try some of these ergonomic stretching exercises at your desk throughout the day, and when you have more time, dedicate yourself to performing the more in-depth exercises. Remember, your next posture is your best posture!

Finally, if you are tired of the same sitting position, try these variations: 4 Tips For Working From Home

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