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Back Benefits from a Standing Desk - and 5 Tips for Making the Switch

30 October 2018

A very common ailment of office workers is back pain. Sitting at a desk all day at work puts unnecessary pressure on your spine and can lead to discomfort and injury. But trading in your traditional workstation for an adjustable standing desk can reduce that pressure and help to increase the health of your spine. Read on to find out why your back can’t stand all that sitting.

Sit or Stand – How Does Position Impact Your Spine?

Sitting for extended periods has been shown to shorten and harden abdominal and hamstring muscles. At first glance this change might not seem related to the spine, but the imbalance that it causes impinges on the rest of the body’s core, reducing spine alignment and muscle symmetry. Standing helps strengthen muscles in the core and legs – essential to general strength and to preventing spinal injury.

Slouching is also much more common while sitting, and dipping your head toward the computer screen can cause neck and back pain and eventually impact your spine’s curvature. Performing repetitive tasks, particularly while seated, puts stress on muscles and joints and increases the risk of back and neck injury such as spine misalignment, pinched nerves and degenerative discs.

One advantage of an adjustable desk – whether used for sitting or standing – is the ability to customize its height and provide an ergonomic advantage for your body, promoting good posture and spine alignment. Assuming the keyboard and monitor are configured correctly, standing generally opens up your shoulders and helps push posture from good to optimal. It’s harder to slouch when you’re standing tall!

The Research Doesn’t Lie: Standing Desks Are Good for Your Spine

CDC study that provided sit-stand desks to workers with sedentary jobs found that after just four weeks of use, reported upper back and neck pain was reduced by 54%. Another study that focused on overweight/obese office workers found that lower back pain was reduced by nearly 32% when workers transitioned between sitting and standing with a height-adjustable desk every 30 minutes throughout the day.

Tips for Switching to a Standing Desk

So you’ve decided to give a standing desk a try? Keep these tips in mind as you get started:

  1. Configure equipment correctly. Ensure that monitors are at the proper height, with the top of the screen approximately at eye level. Keyboards, mice, phones, and any other regularly-used equipment should within easy reach. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle when using your keyboard. (Laptops alone will not work on a standing desk, because either the keyboard will be much too high or the monitor much too low.)
  2. Ease into standing. Especially when you first use a standing desk – and even as you become accustomed – transition between sitting and standing often. An extended period in any one position can cause stiffness and pain, so switch it up and rest when you need to.
  3. Take breaks. Regardless of your position while working, movement is important. Always take occasional breaks to stretch, walk around, or grab a glass of water.
  4. Wear comfortable shoes. Anyone who has stood for hours in high heels will agree – kick them off and trade them for flats…comfort beats style when it comes to your health.
  5. Pay attention to your body. Depending on the shape and curve of your spine, you may be more or less equipped to handle regular standing. Effects of sitting and standing while working can vary by person based on factors such as pre-existing spine conditions and the amount of time spent sitting or standing. Recognize any pain that comes from more than just building up muscles. If you have concerns, consider seeing a spine specialist.

If you’re in a job where you sit all day, consider taking some pressure off your back – help align your spine with a standing desk.