How to Undo Desk Damage

Whether you work from home or commute to an office, desk life is the day-to-day reality for most of us. And while having a workstation to call our own may help with productivity and focus, spending hours hunched over a desk does no favours for the health of our bodies. 

In fact, according to Lee Mullins, founder of Workshop, being desk bound from morning latte to lights out, is bad news for several reasons: “The seated position causes a lot of issues; neck and upper back pain, tightness and stiffness, as well as an achy lower back. It also promotes faulty breathing mechanics because you end up being more of a chest breather than a belly/diaphragmatic breather.” Then there’s the issue of posture, which is seriously compromised thanks to the way most of us sit when seated at a desk. “You tend to end up with something called forward head posture,” says Lee. “When you’re looking at a screen or down at a notepad, you end up subconsciously shifting your head forward, so your head isn’t in great alignment with your spine. This puts a ton of stress on the muscles in the back and bottom of your neck. All those muscles end up over stimulated and overworked, causing you to pull chin to chest and tense up.”

Rethink your gym routine 

If you’re able to get the gym during your working week, spend some time working on what experts call ‘the pillar’, which encompasses your glutes, core and upper back muscles. Focusing on these groups will enable better core strength and better posture, which will help you while in a seated position; split squats and glute bridge variations are all good options. Try to incorporate this in every workout, whether it’s 5-10 minutes at the beginning or at the end of your session, and you should reap the benefits before long.

At-home solutions 

Even if you can’t get to the gym regularly, there’s plenty you can do to undo the damage at home. “Primarily you need to try and mobilise and stretch things like your upper back and thoracic spine, so that’s from bottom of your neck to the bottom of your shoulder blades, as well as your lower back,” advises Lee. “Exercises like a cat/camel stretch, a bird/dog stretch, a lying 90:90 thoracic stretch and a high plank to downward dog are all good ways to do this. Rowing movements such as wide rows or inverted rows with your TRX are great for working the muscles between the shoulder blades. Likewise, something like the ‘world’s greatest stretch’ will help to mobilise hips and hamstrings and improve thoracic rotation.”

Consider a desk change 

While fixing the damage with exercise is a good place to start, ultimately if you continue to hunch over the same set-up day after day, the problems will remain. “One thing that will help long-term is looking into getting a standing desk,” says Lee. “If you can’t commit to a proper standing desk, then look for an attachment for your existing desk that can increase height of computer so it’s eye level. And finally, remember your breathing, which will benefit your posture and alignment whatever seated position you’re in. “Practising more nasal breathing, so in and out through your nose only, will really help to promote diaphragmatic breathing,” says Lee.