Not a holdup, but hands up and shoulders back and keep moving!

hands up squirrel

Because of years of back problems (and now osteoporosis and arthritis) and years of sitting at a keyboard, I’ve collected exercises and advice from various sources. Today I’m sharing some that can benefit writers, office workers, and others who sit long hours at desks and/or keyboards can benefit from exercises and activities aimed at preventing carpal tunnel, neck and back and hip pain, and weight gain.


Be sure you have your chair and keyboard so your wrists are straight rather than at an angle with the keyboard. Sit up straight like your mother told you. Don’t slump. Habitually letting shoulders slump forward can lead to “dowager’s hump” and rotator-cuff injury. A lumbar support cushion strapped to the chair back can facilitate this. The cushion’s pressure on the lower back is a great reminder to sit erect.

Train yourself to use the mouse with either hand, so you don’t overuse one hand. Even before I learned this about carpal tunnel, I taught myself to do this because of pain in my index finger from clicking and scrolling. I think the same thing could be true of using the touch pad repeatedly with the dominant hand.

This next sequence of exercises continues carpal tunnel prevention and helps keep arms and shoulders limber. Do these once and hour while you’re at the keyboard.


Put your hands in a prayer position, pushing toward your sternum and with your elbows raised to the sides. Hold for a count of ten. Release the prayer hand position and point your fingers downward stiffly, pressing the backs of your hands together. Hold for a count of ten. Repeat that sequence three times.


Similarly, as in the photo, grasp the fingers of one hand with the other and pull back, hold for a count of ten and relax. Repeat the sequence three times with each hand.


Release and shake out your arms and hands. Hold your arms out straight from your sides and roll your arms and shoulders frontward, then backward.


Remind yourself to stand straight with shoulders back as if the lumbar cushion is attached to your back, shoulder blades pinched together slightly. Get up at least once an hour and walk around, go up and down stairs, more often if possible. I set a small timer for twenty minutes.


Caucasian woman lifting weights in warehouse gym

A variation is to do gentle lunges, enough to tighten the buttocks but not enough to stress the knees. I do my silly walk down the long hall beside my basement office. When I began, to keep my balance, I touched the wall on both sides.


The head weighs about the same as a bowling ball, so as we age, we need strength to keep it vertical. This exercise will improve posture and strengthen neck muscles. Sit or stand straight, shoulders back, in the posture I described above. Looking forward, pull your head back, chin down, turtle-like. Hold for a count of five, then relax. Do five repetitions. Do the set three times a day. And here’s the “hands up” in my title.

WINGS OR THE BIG W boy hands up

This exercise will prevent the shortening of chest muscles and stretch your back. Sit or stand straight, shoulders down, shoulder blades slightly pinched together. Hold your arms out from your sides, elbows bent, hands pointed up so your arms form a big W, or wings. Pull your arms back and hold for a count of five, then relax. Do five repetitions. Do the entire set three times a day.

I’ve worked the Wings and the Turtle exercise into walks with my dog. Sasha doesn’t notice my nutty behavior, and neither do the birds and squirrels along our dirt road. None of these should be too time consuming and should improve flexibility and decrease risk of pain from overuse.

Lastly, pay attention to the body’s reactions, the movements and stretching of various muscles, and on your breathing. Focusing on the present moment and on the sensations created by the various exercises can reduce stress and increase the benefit of the activity.

I invite commenters to suggest additional activities or exercises to add to the repertoire.

About susanvaughan

Susan Vaughan loves writing romantic suspense because it throws the hero and heroine together under extraordinary circumstances and pits them against a clever villain. Her books have won the Golden Leaf, More Than Magic, and Write Touch Readers’ Award and been a finalist for the Booksellers’ Best and Daphne du Maurier awards. A former teacher, she’s a West Virginia native, but she and her husband have lived in the Mid-Coast area of Maine for many years. Her latest release is GENUINE FAKE, a stand-alone book in the Devlin Security Force series. Find her at www.susanvaughan.com or on Facebook as Susan H. Vaughan or on Twitter @SHVaughan.
This entry was posted in Susan's posts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to HANDS UP! GIMME ALL YOUR…

  1. León says:

    Great suggestions. My chiropractor recommended some of these to me when I was having neck and shoulder pain from working at a computer all day at my job. They are very effective.

  2. Thank you, Susan! This is the most useful public service blog post I’ve seen in a long time. As someone who sits all day with my day job then goes home and sits in front of the keyboard some more at night, I plan to print this out and keep it next to both desks.

  3. Peter Murray says:

    Of course, I couldn’t get through the blog without trying a couple of these. Wow! I didn’t realize how stiff I have become. If my hands hadn’t been warm, I would have thought I was in full rigor. This is a truly useful posting to be saved and used over and over.

  4. Barb Ross says:

    Thank you! I am bookmarking this page.

  5. I’m having carpal tunnel surgery on the 23rd…but will try to incorporate all these fun things. Now I want a massage…

  6. Hi Susan,
    Thank you for your very valuable advice!!! I did the exercises this morning and copied the post to keep.

  7. Lea Wait says:

    Wonderful! I’m printing these out. Neck and shoulders are where I stiffen out …. Thank you, Susan!

  8. Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Kaye George says:

    What a find! You’re timely for me, since my back is acting up–again. Printing out now. Much thanks for this!

  10. Great exercises, Susan, and thank you for sharing them! I’m adding these to my repertoire.

  11. Nicki Chen says:

    Wow! These are great. I’m looking around for the perfect place to tack them up until they become a habit.

  12. Thanks for the great ideas. I just saw this and wish I’d tried these suggestions earlier. I just got back from a doctor’s visit and discovered the ugly truth about the rotator cuff. I love the idea of learning to use your mouse with either hand. I am on to my left had now and getting used to that keyboard with my arms straight. I’ll be trying all these exercises.


  13. Rebecca, thanks for your comment And bummer on the rotator cuff. I hope my sharing these exercises helps.

Leave a Reply