If you regularly sit at a desk, the chances are you’ll have experienced neck ache, back pain or shoulder stiffness at some point. And you’re certainly not alone, because a staggering 6.6 million working days were lost due to work-related musculoskeletal disorders in 2018-19.
While it’s important to have your monitor correctly positioned and use a well-designed office chair, Dr Chatterjee also recommends short, simple exercises to ease the stiffness and pain that comes from staring at a screen.
“Our body is designed to move with a whole different range of motions, but our jobs often restrict us to one plane or dimension of movement,” explains Dr Chatterjee, who is a bestselling author and TV presenter. He has seen phenomenal results from what he calls a “desk jockey workout” and often advises patients to follow the sequence, which takes just minutes and can be easily slotted into your working day.
Not only will the workout encourage you to step away from your desk for a breather, it will open up and mobilise your shoulder blades, spine, pelvis and rib cage.
Here, we bring you the first two exercises from the “desk jockey” sequence. You’ll find the full workout, which includes two more exercises, in Dr Chatterjee’s new book, Feel Better in 5.
- Stand with your back to the wall. The back of your head, your shoulders and your bottom should be touching the wall and your feet should be two to three inches away from it. Your arms should hang down naturally, palms facing in.
- For the duration of this exercise, ensure there are always three points of contact with the wall: your bottom, your upper back and the back of your head.
- Slide the back of your head up the wall. As you do this, you will feel your chin coming towards your chest a little. At the same time, feel as though your ribcage is lifting up and your chest expanding.
- As you’re doing this, twist your hands outward, so that your palms face outwards and your thumbs point behind you. This will help to open up your shoulders and bring your shoulder blades towards each other, encouraging a full range of motion.
- Now do the reverse. Slide your head back down the wall, past your starting position, until your eyes are looking up a little. At the same time, bring your ribcage down. Try to close the gap between your lower back and the wall so they become flush. As you do this, your hands and arms will turn inwards, like a corkscrew.
- Move in and out of both positions. Repeat the above sequence ten times, while focusing on smooth, controlled movements.
“Frontal cogs are similar to wall cogs, but work your body in a different plane,” explains Dr Chatterjee. “In this workout, you will use your back and chest muscles as well as your ribs.”
- Stand up tall and straight.
- Bend your right knee forward, while keeping both feet on the floor. As you do, feel the weight going into your left hip. Your left hip will hitch up and now be higher than your right hip.
- As you do this, reach your right arm up towards the ceiling. Really push it as high as it can go – a common mistake is to not reach high enough!
- Now do the reverse. Bend the left knee forward as the right knee straightens. Your right hip will now be higher than your left. Reach your left arm up as high as it will go. It is the reach that is most important here. Think about reaching all the way into your fingertips.
- Move in and out of both positions. Repeat the sequence ten times, while focusing on smooth and controlled movements. With both of these exercises, quality is much more important than quantity, so stop as soon as you feel your form worsening.
For more advice from Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s Feel Better in 5, click here.
For more thinking on how to sit properly at your desk, click here.
Sophie Barton is our Features Editor. She a journalist and editor with 20 years’ experience in the national media, specialising in wellbeing and lifestyle.