Total Health

Easy stretches you can do to break up your work day

May 14th, 2021 by
Category: Dr. Ashleigh O'Brien Health & Wellbeing

Occupational sitting is creating an epidemic of chronic pain. Here’s how we fix it.

Of the Australian workforce, 81 percent report some level of exposure to occupational sitting; where they are forced to sit at a desk for a period of time in order to complete their work. Fifty percent then report having to sit often, or all of the time (Straker et al, 2016), leading to an epidemic of chronic pain among our workforce.

Many jobs, particularly those in offices, require these extended periods in seated positions. But if it’s causing chronic neck and lower back pain, action needs to be taken to remedy the risk of ongoing discomfort and injury.

Thankfully, there are simple techniques which can prevent these chronic pains. Micro-breaks, meaningful breaks of around 30 seconds that are taken every 15 minutes is one solution which not only gives your body a rest from the sitting position, but also gives your brain a rest, allowing you to mentally and physically recharge.

Simple micro-breaks can include stretching of the neck, back, shoulders and forearms, or any part of the body that has been in a static position for too long. This could even be as simple as standing up and walking around. Getting up from your desk to stretch your body or move around allows you to decrease pain and increase movement (Tunwattanapong et al, 2015).

Below are some easy stretches for four areas of the body that you can do to break up your workday!

Neck stretches

Stretching the neck helps to reduce tension in the area, can help with headaches, increase flexibility and act as a reminder that we need to be aware of our posture when sitting at work rather than letting our head come forward instead of sitting on top of our shoulders.

Flexion/extension neck stretches

Flexion and extension neck stretch exercise

Lateral flexion neck stretches

lateral flexion neck stretches infographic

Rotation neck stretches

rotation neck stretch infographic

Forearm stretches

Forearm stretches are really good stretches for anyone who uses their hands or arms a lot during their workday – e.g. someone who works in an office at a computer. These stretches help to maintain flexibility in the forearms, which is important in preventing overuse injuries.

Extensor forearm stretch

extensor forearm stretch infographic

Flexor forearm stretch

flexor forearm stretch infographic

Low back stretches

Low back flexion/extension stretches

low back flexion extension stretch infographic

Low back lateral flexion stretches

Low back lateral flexion stretch info graphic

Trunk rotation stretches

trunk rotation stretch infographic

Leg stretches

Glute stretch

  • While sitting on your chair, cross your legs so that your right foot is sitting on your left knee
  • If you feel that you need more of a stretch, lean your body forward over your legs
  • Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat on the other side

Hamstring stretch

  • While sitting on your chair, stretch one leg out in front of you with your toes pointing up to the ceiling
  • If you feel that you need more of a stretch, lean your body forward over your legs
  • Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds and repeat on the other side

Other micro-break practices could include

  •   Walking to a co-worker’s desk, instead of calling them
  •   Drinking plenty of water throughout the day to keep hydrated, while also adding the bonus of walking to the water cooler to refill
  •   Leaving the office during lunch to take a short walk in the fresh air.

Avoid doing any exercises that cause pain or discomfort and if you do experience this contact your local Chiropractor or health care professional.


  • Straker, L., Coenen, P., Dunstan, D., Gilson,N., Healy, G. (2016), Sedentary Work – Evidence on an Emergent Work Health and Safety Issue – Final Report, Canberra: Safe Work Australia
  • Tunwattanapong, P., Kongkasuwan, R., Kuptniratsaikul, V. (2015), The effectiveness of a neck and shoulder stretching exercise program among office workers with neck pain: a randomized controlled trial. Clinical Rehabilitation. Available from:  https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269215515575747


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