Stiff and sore after sitting all day: what can I do about it?

In recent years, the negative effects of sitting have been likened to those of smoking. This is a very serious comparison to make but it also gives an indication of the seriousness of the problem. Sitting itself is not the problem. The duration that we are sitting for and lack of movement are the real concerns.

We don't realise the impact sitting has on our bodies. There is only the slow decline in flexibility, fitness, strength and ability to focus. Often these values aren't measured. The symptom that we do notice after a long day is stiffness. Some feel it in the neck and upper back, while others have it the thighs and buttocks. Perhaps, you are one of the unfortunate few that experiences it throughout your entire body. Hopefully, the following tips can provide everyone with a little relief.


From a physiotherapy perspective, this term has been around for a long time. It refers to a technique, taught to the patient, to move tissues in a certain way to produce a desired outcome. The outcomes range from relief from pain, tension release, relaxation and to improve self-efficacy. The ultimate outcome of this blog post is to relief the feeling of stiffness after a hard day at work. With these exercises, that is what you should aim to achieve. The duration differs from person to person. Some feel immediate relief, others have keep at it before they really notice a difference. There is no set rule as to how long one should perform the massage but rather use your own sensation and relief as an indication of what would be enough. While massaging, the area should become a red colour. That is completely normal and to be expected. Due to the pressure applied, an increase of blood flow is expected in the area. This is one of the positive physiological effects of massage.


Applying pressure to the tissues of the neck can stimulate the blood flow to that area, increasing heat and allowing the muscles to relax. You can massage the neck but also the area just above the shoulder blade next to the spine. If you're feeling the stiffness at the attachment of the neck to your skull, it might be because of tightening of the rigid connective tissue in that area. See the photo for the technique using two tennis balls on either side of the spine or alternatively using a towel with the chin tucking technique.

The shoulder and upper back

As previously mentioned in this blog, a foam roller can be an extremely useful piece of equipment to counter stiffness and tension. It's good to know that the foam roller doesn't change the structure of the tissue but rather changes the way that it feels. Unfortunately, these are short-term effects and have to be maintained on a regular basis.

The foam roller can also be used for relieving tension and stiffness in the shoulder and upper back.

Using a tennis ball to massage the pectoral region or just below the clavicle towards the shoulder is also important. This region might not feel tense, but it is important if you often feel stiffness in your upper back. It might indicate that you are sitting hunched over and the shoulders are being drawn forward by these overactive chest muscles. See the accompanying photo to open up the chest and maintain the flexibility of this area.

Important to note that these techniques can safely be performed at home. However, if you feel pain that's out of the ordinary or aren't comfortable trying this on your own, contact us for advice or visit your nearest physiotherapist.

Ultimately, prevention is always better than a cure. Instead of compensating for the stiffness with massage techniques, try to move regularly throughout the day, adding different types of movement such as stretches and strength exercises. If you need more information on how to manage pain and stiffness while implementing better working habits, be sure to check out our Train and Gain package.