For many employees, back pain is only made worse by sitting in an office chair for hours on end. Standing desks are said to be a good alternative to sitting all day. Whether they help to relieve back pain is up for debate.
Will using a standing desk relieve back pain? It depends on the cause of the back pain, but in many cases, yes. Given that pain can be the result of any number of conditions, experiences, or injuries, standing desks are not a magical cure.
Discovering what a standing desk might do for you or your back pain begins with comprehension of said pain. The cause of specific back pains and how that pain is supposed to be remedied is just one aspect of many that require consideration before switching to a standing desk. It is also important to consider what sitting does to your back and overall health. If you desire a standing desk after learning of the numerous benefits, there is likely one in your budget available.
It seems to make sense that standing for a long period would be better for the human body than sitting for several hours. With the widespread obesity problem, humans are often inspired to sit less. One would think that you burn more calories with the freedom to move around more. With that movement comes the ability to avoid continuous stress on specific parts of the back all day. The question is, how exactly does a standing desk relieve back pain?
Surprisingly, sitting at a desk is often an action performed incorrectly. That statement is an odd one, but in reality, the bad posture that typically comes with desk work causes both back and neck pain. Sitting the entire workday puts up to 90% more pressure on the back than when standing. A study on the impact of standing in 2011 indicated that an increase of standing 66 minutes of the workday reduced aches and pains by 54%. Imagine the improved pain levels if you were to stand for more than just an hour.
With these numbers, why aren't standing desks the norm in all office spaces? Employees that attempt the switch to a standing desk all at once experience pain and other medical issues. For most people, converting to a standing desk is a complete lifestyle change. The average human body in an office job is not accustomed to being on its feet all day. Consider how often you stand and how often you are seated or off your feet. With 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours sitting at your work desk, there's 2/3 of the day almost guaranteed to be sitting or lying down.
By suddenly deciding to stand all day at work, the body gets somewhat of a shock at the immediate transition. Many times, inflammation around the ankles is a result. To make the transition to a standing desk more comfortable, go at a slower pace. For instance, in week one, stand for 30 minutes of the day. In week two, increase it to an hour. If you begin feeling uncomfortable, break up the hour into one 30 minute morning session and a 30-minute afternoon session.
Why does standing improve pain? It seems that some people might trade back pain for an ache of a different kind. Standing helps to improve posture. If you were to compare how you sit to how you stand, you would probably see a major difference in your shoulders and neck. Sitting at a desk is usually accompanied with a hunched back, slouched shoulders, and a neck that pushes forward. This action requires more muscle use from the upper back, usually causing unnecessary strain.
Despite how standing can correct posture issues, a standing desk is unable to fix issues that stem from scoliosis or herniated discs. Some people with predisposing conditions can experience negative effects from standing too much. This goes beyond the swollen ankles one might develop if the transition to a standing desk is made too fast. It can mean varicose veins or other vascular-related complications will arise. It can even worsen back pain if the desk is not at an appropriate height.
Determining the appropriate height for a standing desk is reliant on the person's height. This means that unless the standing desk is easily adjustable, they should not be shared between employees. A standing desk should be at elbow height, where the wrists can easily rest on the desktop and reach the keyboard. The forearm and bicep should meet at a 90-degree angle. The computer monitor needs to be just below eye height, as being forced to look upward continuously will cause neck strain.
Also, think of your feet when switching to a standing desk. While standing will likely help with back pain, foot pain can be a concern for standing desk users. To combat foot pain when using a standing desk, it is imperative that you wear comfortable shoes. High heels or shoes with no support are not recommended for those using a standing desk. If necessary and possible, add supports to your shoes. Additionally, use an anti-fatigue or standing mat. The mat provides a little extra cushion to a hard floor, making standing easier on the feet and knees.
If it is necessary to switch between sitting and standing, a sit-to-stand desk might be the best option. This desk is easily adjustable from a seated to a standing position. While many of these desks are manual, there are brands that offer electric adjustments that memorize the necessary heights for both seated and standing positions. If deciding to use a sit-to-stand desk, ensure that posture while both sitting and standing is proper.
While standing, weight should be placed on the balls of the feet with knees bent slightly. Avoid locking the knees. It is best if you stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Your head should be level and shoulders need to be pulled back. Also, tuck the stomach in to avoid curving the spine. Following these guidelines will produce a good standing posture.
When sitting, your feet should be on the floor. Ankles should be in line with the knees, which means that crossing your legs is incorrect. Your shoulders should be relaxed and at a parallel position to the floor. Your chair's backrest needs to support your lower to mid-back. There should also be a small gap between the back of your knees and the chair. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. While following these guidelines will help to decrease any pain caused by sitting, it is still recommended that you get up and move around as often as possible. Perhaps alternating between the seated and standing positions could change things up every hour or so.
Developing a good standing and seated posture will take practice and thought for quite some time. Studies show that it takes 21 days to develop a habit. By focusing on your posture, it should be improved once your habit has been developed. By the end of the third week, your habit should be more like muscle memory.
It is clear that the benefits of standing are many. It is also clear that sitting too much can cause aches and pains. However, it may be best to find a good in-between. Too much standing can also cause pain. Trading one pain for another is not ideal. Solving all body aches is the end goal.
While standing desks may decrease back pain, there are additional health benefits worth mentioning. From burning calories to increased movement, learning what exactly a standing desk might do for you may convince you to make the switch.
As previously mentioned, just over an hour of standing when you wouldn't have stood before can work wonders on back pain. However, if your reasons for standing at work also stem from the need to burn more calories, know that standing only burns 24 more calories per hour than sitting does. Depending on how many calories you are looking to burn, standing may not make a big enough dent for it to matter.
While 24 calories isn't a lot - it won't even earn you an extra cookie - it can add up over time. Even if you spend half of your work day standing, you will burn just under 100 calories. That isn't too bad considering you are not exercising. Plus, that number does not include all of the extra movement people tend to do while standing.
For example, you're much more likely to walk around while on a phone call if you are already standing. Those extra steps add to your burned calories. More calories burnt often means less chance of obesity. Since obesity leads to some health problems, simply standing at your desk helps to decrease your chances for a variety of diseases, including heart diseases and blood pressure issues.
Studies show that standing decreases blood sugar levels. This helps to diminish the chances of type 2 diabetes. By standing at your desk after lunch, not only are you improving your blood sugar, but you are decreasing fatigue. Since high blood sugar often causes fatigue and sleepiness, standing will make your afternoons more productive.
A standing desk also helps employees to have lower stress levels. While the benefits of less stress are numerous - including helping to improve depression, headaches, insomnia and a weakened immune system - one of the most immediate reactions is improved moods. With an improved mood, employees are much more likely to be more productive and energetic. They will also be happier upon going home, which often means an improvement in home life.
A study has proven that decreasing the time spent sitting down to just 3 hours of the workday can increase life expectancy by 2 years. On the other hand, sitting more can decrease life expectancy. Using a standing desk can offer better quality and longer lives for people in all types of offices.
Standing desks have benefits other than relieving back pain. To achieve those benefits, buying a standing or sit-to-stand desk might be next on your to-do list. How much should you expect to spend?
Throughout my research for this article, I've discovered numerous people that discuss how expensive a quality standing desk is. I've also seen some people that use books or other items to create the illusion of a standing desk. If you want an actual standing or sit-to-stand desk, know that you will get what you pay for.
Think of how much you would pay for a standard, seated office desk. If you want something of more quality than press wood that you have to construct yourself, you will pay more than a few hundred dollars. The same is true for a standing desk. While there are some cheaper models on the market that run less than a couple of hundred dollars, they are not recommended if you plan to use it long term. If you are just looking to try a standing desk before purchasing a high-quality desk to use for the rest of your career, the cheaper option is probably for you.
However, the more quality models, like the Terra Pro from Xdesk, are thousands of dollars for just the basic version. While Xdesk has the most awards compared to any other electric standing desk, the base price begins at $2697. Additional features can add another couple of thousand dollars. If you’ve found yourself loving the standing desks you have tried, an award-winning standing desk like this one might be for you. A lower cost option is Varidesk - sells on Amazon for $995
It is to be expected that the electric standing desks are more expensive than the manual adjusting ones. Many of the crank-style standing desks are priced between $300 and $400. If this is better for your budget, the Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing Desk has great reviews and is priced on Amazon from $299. Even without all the bells and whistles, a hand-cranked adjustable desk will improve your health.
Of course, there are some variations that can be added to all standing desks. Many offer an anti-fatigue mat for an additional $50 to $90. Other additions might include a stationary bike or treadmill that fits under the desk, offering the opportunity to be more active while working. This add-on is typically more expensive than the lower end desks themselves.
Another add-on is often a slide out tray for a keyboard and mouse. While many of the add-ons seem like a nice perk, remember the more you add, the more your desk will cost. Determine the worth of your desk and what you truly need.
If you often suffer from back or neck pain, worry about your overall health, or feel yourself growing tired after lunch, consider a standing desk as a solution to your problems. Not only will a standing desk assist in your health concerns, but it is also a great talking point and an interesting modern furniture piece to add to your office space.
Does an exercise desk cause changes in productivity? If attempting to exercise while you work, you may see a decrease in productivity. However, if you treat your exercises like a coffee break, you are likely to see an increase in productivity.
Does ergonomics play into productivity? Yes. Ergonomics is known to improve productivity. There are a variety of ways to improve ergonomics in your office space, from ergonomic chairs and desks to keyboards and choice of mouse.
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