Not a holdup, but hands up and shoulders back and keep moving! I posted this previously, but a new development of my own has prompted me to revisit and add a bit.
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.
PREVENTING CARPAL TUNNEL
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. Here’s where I’ve failed to protect myself. Rather than switching hands occasionally, I’ve kept using my left for the mouse because I liked having my right free to jot down notes. I’ve also neglected the exercises in the next paragraph. So–you probably guessed it–I’m experiencing an early symptom of carpal tunnel issues in my left hand. The symptom is tingling, like “pins and needles” in my index and the next two fingers. So learn from my failing.
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.
SHAKE IT UP, BABY
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.
A variation is to do gentle lunges, enough to tighten the buttocks but not enough to stress the knees. You probably don’t need to sink as low as the woman here. 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
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.
Great suggestions, especially about the number of reps. I don’t do nearly enough. Since my arthritis is in my knees, ankles and feet as well as neck and hands, and walking a lot doesn’t have a happy result, I add floor exercises, sitting and lying down, stretching in all directions and flexing various body parts. Of course, getting up again is always an adventure!
Yes, good to know the number of reps, which I’ve learned today should be 10, not 5. Aargh.
Thanks, Susan! It’s too easy to sit for hours, especially when there are deadlines. I have an ergonomic desk and keyboard and now mouse .. but still, my shoulders and neck are not happy at the end of the day. Brava for giving us a lesson in what’s right!
Thanks, Lea. But the shoulders and neck are sadly neglected here. I’ll have to add some stretches to this.
So who else pictured Monty Python’s John Cleese as soon as they read the words “SILLY WALK”? This was a great reminder, Susan, to get up and move. Too often I’ve found myself stuck in my chair, cringing as I stand from the tightness in my hips. Along with the advice to move and stretch, I’ll add stay well hydrated. Which, coincidentally, will mean you’ll HAVE to move, at least as far as the potty, hehe.
Oh, absolutely John Cleese! And great reminder to hydrate and the consequences of that. Thanks for adding this.
Thanks for this, Susan! I’ve been having some issues with carpal tunnel lately – this was a great reminder that I need to be more mindful of the physical impact of my work. I’ve bookmarked the post, and will definitely try those exercises.
Thanks, Jen. But remember Yoda’s admonition: there is no try, only do.
Being a long-time fitness professional, I love anything about exercise. I did a post on Ladies of Mystery that has additional information about the effects of sitting and how to counteract them.. Here’s the link: https://ladiesofmystery.com/2017/12/28/butt-in-chair/
Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing this link
Susan – this is great and timely, as I have been participating in the NJRW 20K challenge this month. Been doing a lot of stretching, but these are great. Already tried some.
Thanks, Deb. I’m so glad this can help you.