by Dr. Kathryn Woodall, DC

If you work in an office, stop for a moment to take a look at your coworkers. How many of them look like they’re straining to cross a finish line by a head?

Assuming their computer monitor is properly placed, the reason they’re sitting that way probably has nothing to do with poor vision. And they aren’t trying to win some sort of desk bound Olympic dash either.

So what’s the deal?

When you’re a desk jockey who sits all the time, sooner or later you’ll catch yourself slouching. Do it often enough and you’ll prove the truth of  your mother’s old saying: “Keep making that face and you’ll get stuck in that position.” In your case you’ll start to become chair-shaped.

When your head sits that far forward all the time, it can result in problematic issues like:

  • tingly arms and hands that may or may not “go to sleep”
  • neck pain
  • headache
  • wrist pain
  • shoulder problems
  • elbow problems
  • upper back tension
  • weakened joint structure that can lead to early disc problems
  • a feeling like there’s a line of fire running down your arms

In other words, not fun stuff.

Are you ready to fix it? If so, the first thing to address is your posture. If you’ve been following our Shapeshifter desk jockey series, you’ll find a description of good seated posture and desk setup.

Today we’ll look at a few other things you can do…

At the office

  1. Sit with good posture. You’re likely to slouch sometimes no matter how vigilant you are. Consider setting a reminder on your computer or phone that prompts you to return to good posture at least once an hour.
  2. While sitting tall, rotate your head as far to the right and then as far to the left as you comfortably can. Hold each for 20-60 seconds while breathing normally.
  3. Roll your shoulders forward and backward a few times to help relieve shoulder tension.
  4. Tilt your head to the right as you pretend to lift your left ear to the ceiling, and then repeat to the left as you lift your right ear to the ceiling. Hold each for 20-60 seconds while breathing normally.
  5. Since you’re probably sitting in an office chair, run the base of your head from one side to the other as though you were sliding along the top of your chair. Keep your body still and move only your head and neck. You’ll be tempted to tilt your head, but that isn’t the exercise. Your eyes should stay level with the floor the entire time.

At home

  1. Sit and stand with good posture. This is important, because desk jockeys often go from sitting at work to sitting at home.
  2. Lie flat on the floor for at least 5 minutes each day. Gravity will help you achieve good posture, and any aches you might feel will act a subtle indicator of what your posture is like throughout the day.
  3. Find a flat, bare wall and stand with your back against it. If possible, keep your heels, back, shoulders, head and hands touching the wall. If they won’t all touch, do the best you can and keep working to get there over time. Now imagine you’re making a snow angel while standing against the wall. Keep your hands touching the wall and arc them up over your head while keeping your shoulder blades tucked away from your ears. Arc your arms back down, and squeeze your elbows to your sides for 20-60 seconds while simultaneously pushing your shoulder blades toward the floor. Relax.

Repeat a few times. Your neck and shoulders have a lot of muscles in common, and this movement helps both areas of your body.

There are several other exercises that will mobilize and strengthen your neck, but these will get you started. Leave us a comment to let us know how it goes!

(As always, check with your doctor to make sure the advice in this article is relevant and safe for you.)


Kathryn Woodall ran a private health care practice for 15 years. She is the creator and co-author of the Million Dollar Exercise joint pain and mobility program.