Sitting down is a great way to relax after a long day. Except for when your long day was already spent sitting—at a desk, in the car, or otherwise.

“Many of our work setups are less than ideal, or are downright ergonomically incorrect,” says Alanna Fincke, meQuilibrium’s director of content, board certified health coach, and yoga teacher. “This can misalign our joints and cause tightness or looseness in places where it shouldn’t.” Namely, in our necks and backs.

Intermittent movement throughout the day, such as short walks, is key to a healthy neck and back. But if your workday isn’t conducive to taking walks, you also can add movement right at your desk. Performing simple seated stretches can relieve the pain caused by sitting for long hours and gradually reverse some of its harmful effects.

Here are five stretches for your neck and back recommended by Fincke that can be done right at your desk. They’re proven to ease and prevent joint pain, improve posture, and promote healthy circulation. Practice them daily for a better workday and healthier life.

1. Side Neck Stretch 

Why do it: Provides a gentle stretch of the scalene muscles around your neck, which get tight from talking, sitting, and stress.

How to do it: 

  1. Place your right hand on the left side of your head, lining your palm up so that your middle finger touches your left ear.
  2. Take a long, slow inhale.
  3. On the exhale, let the weight of your arm gently pull your head toward your right shoulder, feeling a stretch on the side of the neck.
  4. Inhale and exhale, releasing stress and tension.
  5. Gently release, and repeat on the other side.

Person sitting in chair, stretching neck to side

2. Turtle

Why do it: Counteracts the harmful effects of slouching. Stretches the cervical spine, improving posture, while easing and staving off neck stiffness and disc disorders.

How to do it: 

  1. Place one index finger on your chin.
  2. Gently press your finger against your chin, tucking your neck, until you feel a stretch in your neck.

Person sitting in chair, tucking chin into neck with index finger.

Want to go deeper? How to do it: 

  1. Interlace your fingers and place your palms on the back of your head.
  2. Inhale.
  3. On the exhale, let the weight of your arms gently stretch your neck down toward your chest.
  4. Inhale and exhale.
  5. Slowly release and bring your head back up.

Person sitting in chair with hands behind head, tilting head down towards floor.

3. Hip Opener

Why do it: Relieves and staves off sciatica and hip tightness.

How to do it: 

  1. Seated in a chair, place both feet on the floor.
  2. Bend your right leg, placing your ankle on your left thigh, making a triangle.
  3. Inhale and exhale.
  4. If you’d like to take it deeper, on the exhale gently bend forward, placing pressure on the right thigh with your right hand.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Person sitting in chair doing hip opener stretch.

4. Forward Bend

Why do it: Relieves stress and eases tension in the lower back and hips.

How to do it: 

  1. Inhale, raising both arms above your head.
  2. On the exhale, bend forward at the hips, lowering both arms toward the floor.
  3. Gently shake your head “yes” and “no.” Release your jaw, if it’s tight.
  4. Hold the pose for as long as feels comfortable, breathing deeply, letting everything go.
  5. When you’re ready, slowly roll up, one vertebrae at a time.

Person sitting in chair doing forward bend.

5. Simple Twist

Why do it: Stimulates blood circulation and releases tension in the muscles of the abdomen and back.

How to do it: 

  1. Inhale, raising both arms up above your head, keeping your shoulders down.
  2. On the exhale, twist your torso to the right and bring your arms down, resting both hands on the outside of your right thigh.
  3. Take three deep breaths. With each inhale, sit a little taller. With each exhale, see if you can twist a bit deeper.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Person sitting in chair, twisting to one side.