9 Seated Stretches to Release Neck + Back Pain

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Stuck at your desk all day? Relieve some tension with these nine stretches you can do without even standing up from your chair.

Sitting still for hours at a time, day after day, is one of the worst things you can do for your body. While it isn’t exactly news that sitting for eight-plus hours a day is bad for our health, many still don’t do anything to change it.

You might feel a little awkward stretching while at work, so we came up with these nine stretches you can do while reading your email. That’s right, you don’t even have to get up from your desk!

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While these stretches are not a substitute for actual exercise, they can be an incredible help in combating the negative side effects of a sedentary desk job lifestyle.

Follow each of the nine stretches in order for a complete stretch, or just do one of them every 15-20 minutes as a break from sitting still. These stretches don’t need to be done all at once or in any particular order to reap the benefits!

One easy way to remember to stretch at your desk is to set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes. Once the timer goes off, stop what you are doing and just do one stretch. Implementing these short work breaks will make a world of difference in how you feel at the end of the work day.

These stretches will bring awareness, mobility, and vitality back to your body, improving your posture and keeping you healthy.


Horizontal Wrist and Shoulder Stretch | 3 breaths (1 rep)

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  1. Sit tall, with your feet flat on the ground and your back away from the chair.
  2. Interlock your fingers, then flip your palms outward so that thumbs are facing down.
  3. Press your arms straight out in front of your chest.
  4. Continue pressing forward as you feel the stretch across your shoulder blades.
  5. Hold for three deep breaths, stretching a little more with each breath.

Vertical Wrist and Shoulder Stretch | 3 breaths (1 rep)

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  1. In the same seated position, interlock your fingers again, flip the palms outward, and press your arms straight up above your head.
  2. Arch your back just slightly and reach up to lengthen your spine.
  3. Hold for three deep breaths, stretching a little more with each breath.

Tricep and Side Stretch | 2 breaths (3 reps per side)

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  1. Sit up tall in your chair. Lift your right arm straight up, then bend the elbow so that your hand rests just behind your upper back.
  2. Grab onto your right elbow with your left hand.
  3. Lean towards the left as you gently pull on your right elbow, lengthening the side of your body.
  4. Close your eyes and take two deep breaths.
  5. Release the grip, lower your arms, then repeat on the other side.
  6. Continue alternating between right and left side stretches until you’ve completed three on each side.

Shoulder Shrugs | 1 breath (4 reps)

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  1. Sit tall in your chair with your feet grounded.
  2. Inhale as you shrug your shoulders up towards your ears.
  3. Exhale to lower your shoulders, reaching your fingertips towards the ground.
  4. Continue to breathe deeply as you complete four full reps.

Handcuff Neck Stretch | 2 breaths (3 reps per side)

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  1. Turn and sit sideways on the chair. Keep your feet on the ground and sit up tall.
  2. Place your hands behind your lower back.
  3. Grab onto your left wrist with your right hand.
  4. Gently pull on your wrist as you lean your head towards the right.
  5. Take two deep breaths, then switch sides.
  6. Continue to alternate sides until you’ve done three on each side.

Prayer Wrist Stretch Rotations | 1 breath (4 reps per side)

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  1. Stay sideways in your chair and sit up tall.
  2. Place your palms together in front of your chest in a prayer position.
  3. Press your palms together and lower them until you feel a stretch in your wrists.
  4. Take one full deep breath with fingers facing up, then rotate so that the fingers face down. Take another deep breath in and out.
  5. Repeat until you’ve done four reps on each side.

Opposing Reaches | 3 breaths (3 reps per side)

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  1. Stay sideways in your chair and sit up tall.
  2. Reach one arm up over your head and the other down towards the ground.
  3. Hold this stretch for three deep breaths.
  4. Rest, then repeat for a total of three reps on the same side, going deeper each time.
  5. Switch and do three reps of three breaths on the opposite side.

Seated Spinal Twists | 2 breaths (3 reps per side)

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  1. Continue sitting sideways in your chair, close to your desk.
  2. While keeping your feet, knees and hips stationary, turn your upper body towards your desk.
  3. Place your hands on the edge to help you get a deeper twist as you look over your back shoulder.
  4. Take two full deep breaths, then return to center.
  5. Switch to the other direction, placing your hands on the back of your chair, and twist while looking over your back shoulder.
  6. Continue to alternate sides until you’ve done three reps per side.

Back Arch | 3 breaths (3 reps)

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  1. Sit forward in your chair, facing your desk, with your bottom sitting all the way to the back of your chair.
  2. Place your fingertips lightly behind your head.
  3. Lift your chin, then arch your back to form a curved shape all the way from your head to your tailbone.
  4. Press your chest forward and open your elbows wide.
  5. Take three full breaths as you arch as deep as you can.
  6. Rest a few seconds, then repeat twice more.

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(Your Next Workout: Do These 3 Stretches to Release Neck and Shoulder Pain)

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