Woman stretching at her computer

Healthy Computing: Back Flexibility

Optimize your performance and prevent computer-related injuries with Healthy Computing Email Tips. Each week we provide hints to help you stay healthier while working.

Sitting for extended periods without interruption is a prescription for backaches. In fact, the most common workplace complaint is back discomfort. If you habitually sit for long periods of time, your hamstrings and hip flexors may shorten, resulting in stress on your lower back and pelvis when standing-up. Act more like a cave person (a hunter and gatherer) and sit less to keep Back Flexibility.

How to achieve Back Flexibility:

Use every opportunity to get up and walk around: schedule walking meetings, walk to the printer, stand-up to move from your desk to your computer work-station, stand-up when talking on the phone or when someone stops by your desk to ask a question.

Practice various leg and back stretches every hour to keep your back loose. For example, practice the following leg stretch:

Put your right foot on top of your desk and straighten your right leg as much as is comfortable, but do not lock your knee. (Be cautious to not push back if your chair is on casters.) Take a gentle breath in and then, while exhaling, slightly tighten your abdomen and bend forward, stroking your right leg with your hands from your knee towards your foot. Reach as far down your leg as is comfortable while, at the same time, keeping your back as straight as possible. Hold for one complete breath, slowly inhaling then exhaling. Then, while inhaling, let go of the stretch and slowly sit erect and relax your abdomen. Repeat three times.

Change legs and put your left foot on your desk and repeat the stretching exercise three times.

Optional: repeat the above exercise except stroke your right leg with the back of your left hand while you rotate your head to the left and look even further to the left with your eyes (make sure that you continue to hold slight tension in your abdomen). Repeat three times. Repeat the same movement, except rotate your head to the right and look even further to the right with your eyes as your stroke down your leg, repeat three times.

Finally, repeat the same movement except rotate your head to the left while your eyes look to the right. Repeat three times.

Do the stretch with your left leg extended, except that you stroke your left leg with the back of your right hand.

Take a large movement break every 15 to 20 minutes and stretch at lease 3 to 4 times a day.

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Written by Erik Peper PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021