Stretching for the Computer Athlete
People often sit in poor or awkward postures while working on the computer, playing on gaming systems, using a laptop, and even manipulating hand held electronic devices. These postures can cause stress to the body. Over time, these body stressors may develop into repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendinitis.
Stretching and strengthening programs can be instrumental in easing the rounded shoulder and forward head postures that develop from computer or desk activities. A recent study shows that stretching may not only improve flexibility but can also enhance performance making people stronger and increasing their endurance (Chronic Static Stretching Improves Exercise Performance; October 2007; Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise).
The study also suggests that stretching is an important part of an exercise program for those who are out of shape or just beginning an exercise program.
Here are a few recommended stretches for the computer athlete ï¿½
(Stretches should never hurt. Stop if you have pain. Hold the stretch gently. Do not bounce).
- Stretch the Pecs
Face a corner with the forearms resting against adjoining walls, hands placed at about ear height. Put one foot in front of the other. Gently lunge forward (bending the knee of the leg in front) keeping the back straight. As the chest presses forward towards the corner, you should feel a stretch through the chest muscles. Hold for a count of thirty. Repeat three to five times.
(see picture at toneyourbones.com)
- Squeeze the Shoulder Blades
Place your hands gently on the table in front of you. Leaving your hands on the table and keeping your shoulders relaxed, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five. Repeat five times.
(see picture at toneyourbones.com)
- Chin Tuck
Begin in a good, relaxed posture. Slide your chin back as if you are trying to give yourself a double-chin. Look straight ahead and do not tip your head up or down. Hold for five seconds. Repeat 5 times.
(see picture at silvafamilychiropractic.com, position 1)
- Head Tilt (Scalenes Stretch)
Begin in a good, relaxed posture. Tilt the right ear to the right shoulder. Hold for ten seconds. Modify position by slightly rotating the head as if you are looking at the ceiling. Hold for ten seconds. Modify position again by slightly rotating as if you are looking down towards the floor. Hold for ten seconds. Bring the head back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
(see picture at silvafamilychiropractic.com, positions 2, 3 and 4)
- Triceps Stretch
Place the right hand on the left shoulder. Place the left hand on the right elbow. Push the elbow towards your chin as if you are reaching for an object behind your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. Then repeat on the other side.
(see picture at adam.about.com)
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.
Several programs are available that can cue you to take a break when working on the computer. These programs also provide stretching instructions and illustrations.
- ErgAerobics: Why does working @ my computer hurt so much?
- Yoga for Computer Users: Healthy Necks, Shoulders, Wrists, and Hands in the Postmodern Age