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Six for Saturday: ways to shake off 'office aches'

Man stretching at deskAs those of you who spend your time chained to a desk will know, it’s not terribly good for you. Human bodies weren’t designed to sit down all day, in front of computer screens and with tensions building up in necks and shoulders. We were meant to run free, extend our limbs and relax. But in the real world that’s not always possible.

As someone with bad posture, this applies to me more than most; my body works against me most of the time, just because of the way I hold myself.  I spend all day at a computer; most evenings involve the laptop and inbetween I’m on the iPhone, texting, calling, checking emails or fiddling with apps. And it’s not healthy.

So my six for Saturday are tips to survive the ‘office ache’, the uncomfortable feeling you get from spending too much time at a desk.

1) Get in position. This is the most obvious, but if you have a desk job, make sure you’re sitting properly. Your eyes should meet the top of your computer screen, your chair should be straight backed and high enough so your arms sit comfortably on the desk. Don’t cross your legs under the desk and domake sure everything you need and use regularly is within easy reach, no stretching. And if you’re not sure if you’re in the right position, get an occupational health bod in to tell you.

2) Be smart when using the smartphone. Next time you’re texting from your phone, stop, hold your position and take stock. Are you hunched over, shoulders forward, eyes straining to see the screen? Bad, bad, bad. Think of your posture at all times, sit and stand up straight when you can and if you get numbness in your hand from texting, work harder on your posture and try to limit it.

3) Stretch and be limber. Get outside and get some air. Walk tall, open your chest, hold your head high and breathe in the air. Relax your limbs, stretch yourself out and try and ease away some of the tensions of the day. I take my dog for a walk every lunch time – not always convenient on busy days when I have loads to do but it forces me to take a break, get some exercise and unwind. Think of your body as one of those slinkies (the toys you used to get in your Christmas stockings as kids, that cleverly slink down the stairs). Your body is supposed to move fluidly, be light and not stiff and clunky. Take some time to stretch out, roll your neck from side to side, roll your shoulder blades and loosen up.

4) Massage and/or reflexology are often seen as luxury treatments. For me, they’re essential. Years ago, job stress manifested itself in the form of neck and shoulder pain and the only way I could get rid of it was through massage or reflexology, the latter being the most relaxing treatment ever! If the desk job causes you tension – through the nature of your job and the position – physically – you find yourself in for most of the day – then get a massage, once a month, every other month or as often as you need. It’ll help, promise. I use someone who comes to the house, which is more convenient and less time-consuming for me, and means I can chill out at home straight after, rather than undo the therapist’s good work by driving home in traffic.

5) Take time out. The best way to avoid office ache, is not to sit at a desk all day and give yourself time off from computers, smartphones and laptops. It’s not always possible but try and take one weekend a month off – no technology, just relaxation, books, walks and whatever else you enjoy. Leave the computers, phones and emails on  Friday night and ignore them until Monday morning. It’s hard to do, but good for you. To really break the habit, head somewhere with no internet access or phone signal so you have no choice but to be offline for a while.


Picture by Chirag D. Shah via Flickr under Creative Commons licence