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8 simple exercises to ease wrist, neck and back pain at your desk

Most office workers are guilty of sitting for too long. Ease the aches with some easy stretches.

A man stretches at his desk in front of his laptop in a well-lit room.

Feeling better at work is as simple as outstretching your arms and rolling your neck.

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It's 2 p.m. and my eyes flit from Google Docs to the tiny clock in the corner of my computer screen. And there it goes: the "oh my goodness I haven't moved from this exact position in 5 hours and wow my neck hurts" realization. 

This happens to me at least once a week. As a health and fitness writer who promotes movement, I'm ashamed to admit it. But hey, such is life, and sometimes all we can do is learn from the consequences of our mistakes -- in this case, nagging neck pain and poor posture.

Read more: These fitness wearables track posture and so much more

If you have a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time, chances are you've experienced aches in your neck, back, hands and wrists. Ideally, we'd all get up and exercise  for the recommended 30 minutes per day, but often, crammed to-do lists only offer a smidge of time for physical activity. 

Fortunately, you can make a big difference in just a few minutes, and you don't even need to get up from your desk to do so. Try this sequence of 7 exercises next time you feel the havoc of your desk. Also make sure to do these full-body exercises after work to release tension from sitting at your desk.

versadesk-seated-cycle-desk

While you don't need a standing desk for any of these stretches, having one can really amp up your total level of movement throughout the day

VersaDesk

Read more: Bodyweight workouts: How to get fit without a gym or equipment

1. Wrist circles: Clasp your hands together with your fingers intertwined. Rotate your hands in circles at a moderate pace -- try to keep the palms of your hands touching! Do 10 to 20 circles in one direction, and then 10 to 20 in the opposite direction. 

2. Neck circles: Sit up straight and roll your shoulders back and down. Slowly roll your neck down so that your chin is close to your neck. Hold that position for a couple of seconds, and then continue the rotation until your head is back in its normal position. Complete 10 circles in one direction and 10 in the other. 

3. Overhead stretch: Sit with good posture -- use your core to hold your torso up without relying on the backrest of your chair. Extend your arms overhead, clasp your hands together, and press up into the sky. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, relax and repeat. 

Read more: The 5 best standing desk converters to get you on your feet

4. Oblique stretch: Leave your arms extended and hands clasped above your head. Slowly lean to one side, as far as you can go without losing stability. You should feel a nice stretch in your abdominal muscles, particularly your obliques, as well as your lower back. 

5. Arm circles: Sit up straight with good posture and extend your arms out to your sides. They should make a "T" shape with your torso. Move your arms in forward circles for 30 seconds, relax, and then move your arms in backwards circles for 30 seconds. 

6. Knee marches: While sitting, bring one knee up as high as you can. Hold it in the air for a second or two, then place your foot back on the ground and bring the other knee up. Alternate as many times as you want. If you have a rolling desk chair, start slowly to make sure you're stable. If you feel unstable, hold onto your desk with one or both hands.

7. Knee flexion and extension: To extend your knee, straighten your leg out in front of you. To flex your knee, simply bend your knee and bring your calf as close as you can to your hamstring. Extend and flex for 10 to 20 reps on each leg.

8. Ankle flexion and extension: To extend your ankle, point your toes. To flex your ankle, draw your toes toward your shin bone. At first, hold each position for five to 10 seconds. After a few repetitions, you can increase the speed at which you flex and extend. 

To make any or all of these exercises more effective, complete them while standing up. You don't need much room, so you can just stand behind your chair. 

If you're up for a bigger challenge, try these 4 workouts that you can do in 20 minutes or less


The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.