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Stretching in the Office
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A funny thing happened on the way to the electronic revolution. Large numbers of us ended up sitting at desks, working at computers. And that, as so many people have discovered, has its problems, its downsides.

Repetitive strain injuries (such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis) of the wrists, hands, and arms have risen by 80% since 1990, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and are now the single largest category of workplace-related injuries. In fact, they are now being described as the workplace epidemic of the nineties.

Neck and shoulder stiffness, lower back pain, stiff muscles, and tight joints are all common among people working at computers. All of these conditions are the body signaling that something is wrong. The electronic revolution has meant that increasing numbers of people must spend more and more time sitting very still, working with computers, and the resultant problems are multiplying. Many people who work at a computer and/or a desk and want to do something to counteract the negative effects that fixed positions and sedentary office work have on their bodies.

Computer & Desk Problems:
  • Back pain When you sit for long periods, your spine tends to compress. If your posture is bad, gravity accentuates the problem, which can lead to back pain.
  • Stiff muscles Not moving for long periods of time can cause neck and shoulder pain.
  • Tight joints Inactivity can cause joints to tighten, which makes moving more difficult or even painful.
  • Poor circulation When you sit very still, blood tends to settle in the lower legs and feet and does not circulate easily throughout the body.
  • Repetitive strain injuries These injuries are caused by repetitive movement, often of the hands. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome, a type of wrist pain, can result from improper use of the hands and/or poor positioning at the workstation.
  • Tension and stress Intense mental focus can produce physical tension (stiffness and pain), which can lead to mental stress — a debilitating cycle. Facial tension and a tight jaw can cause headaches.
Many of these problems can be solved by ergonomics — the science involved with proper type and positioning of office equipment in relation to the body. However, no matter how sound the ergonomics, your body still suffers from long periods of sitting and inactivity. What can you do throughout the long work day to help prevent these problems?

You can stretch!

Benefits of Stretching
Stretching is just about the simplest of all physical activities. It is the perfect antidote for long periods of inactivity and holding still. Regular stretching throughout the day will:
  • Reduce muscle tension
  • Improve circulation
  • Reduce anxiety, stress, and fatigue
  • Improve mental alertness
  • Decrease the risk of injury
  • Make your work easier
  • Tune your mind into your body
  • Make you feel better!
If You Are Injured
Please note: If you have an injury or any type of recurring soreness as described, see a doctor or health care provider now. These stretches are not intended to cure serious problems. If you have the symptoms of a repetitive strain injury, some damage has already been done. If you do not take the right steps, damage could be permanent.

How to Stretch
The right way to stretch:
  • Breathe easily
  • Relax
  • Tune into your body
  • Focus on muscles and joints being stretched
  • Feel the stretch
  • Be guided by the feel of the stretch
  • No bouncing!
  • No pain!
The wrong way to stretch
  • Holding your breath
  • Being in a hurry
  • Not being focused on your body
  • Stretching while tense
  • Bouncing
  • Stretching to the point of pain
Two Phases
There are two phases to each stretch: the easy stretch and the developmental stretch. They are done one after the other.

The Easy Stretch
Stretch until you feel a slight mild tension and hold for 5–10 seconds. Relax. As you hold the stretch, the feeling of tension should diminish. If it doesn't, ease off slightly into a more comfortable stretch. The easy stretch maintains flexibility, loosens muscles and tight tendons, and reduces muscle tension.

The Developmental Stretch
Now, move a fraction of an inch farther into the stretch until you feel mild tension again. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Again, the feeling should diminish or stay the same. If the tension increases or becomes painful, you are overstretching — back off into a more comfortable stretch. The developmental stretch further reduces tension and increases flexibility.

Keep the following points in mind
  • Always stretch within your comfortable limits, never to the point of pain.
  • Breathe slowly, rhythmically and under control. Do not hold your breath.
  • Take your time. The long-sustained, mild stretch reduces unwanted muscle tension and tightness.
  • Do not compare yourself with others. We are all different. Comparisons may lead to overstretching.
  • If you are stretching correctly, the stretch feeling should slightly subside as you hold the stretch.
  • Any stretch that grows in intensity or becomes painful means you are overstretching — the drastic stretch.
Pay attention to how each stretch feels
Hold only stretch tensions that feel good. Relax while you concentrate on the area being stretched.

  • No bouncing
  • No pain
How far should I stretch?
Your body is different every day. Be guided by how the stretch feels.
Stretching is not exercise!

You are stretching, not exercising. You don't need to push it. Stretching is a mild, gentle activity.
Give it 2 to 3 weeks for benefits

The benefits come from regularity. Stick with it and see how you feel in a few weeks.

By Bob Anderson
All rights reserved. Any reproducing of this article must have the author name and all the links intact.


Biography: Bob Anderson is the world’s most popular stretching authority. For more than 20 years, Bob has “preached the stretching gospel” all over the world. His book Stretching has sold over 3 1/2 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 27 languages (including two Chinese dialects). His latest book, Stretching in the Office, explains the use of short stretching breaks thoughout the workday to make you feel better and prevent injuries.

Bob and his wife Jean self-published the first version of Stretching in a garage in Southern California in 1975. The drawings were done by Jean, based on photos she took of Bob doing the stretches. Their homemade book was modified and published by Shelter Publications in 1979 for general bookstore distribution and is now known by millions of people, from bookstore buyers to doctors, chiropractors, and exercise physiologists as the most accessible and useful book on the subject.

Today, Bob travels around the country, appearing at medical clinics, health conventions, training camps, and fitness centers. His appearances generally involve getting (himself and audience) down on the floor and doing a series of gentle stretches. All the while Bob talks about good health and the importance of keeping one’s body strong and flexible and the heart and cardiovascular system in good shape.

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