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Should I Use a Standing Desk for Back Health?

person working at their laptop on a deskIf you are an office worker, you may have seen some colleagues using standing desks instead of typical seated desks. If you have back pain, or if you are trying to avoid back pain issues, you may wonder if these types of desks are a good choice for you, and if they can help your back health.
As a chiropractor in the Chesapeake region of Virginia for the past 20 years, I have witnessed first-hand the rise in popularity of standing desks. Further, I have worked with many patients who have considered using them. In this article, I will discuss the benefits of standing desks for your back health.

Are Standing Desks Better Than Sitting Desks?

Standing desks have important ergonomic benefits as compared to traditional sitting desks. Workers who sit at desks have a high risk of low back pain. In any given year, up to 50% of people with desk jobs will experience low back pain. Studies have shown that when a worker minimizes the time they spend sitting behind a desk, their back pain improves. Neck pain and shoulder pain are also common conditions that people suffer when they sit long hours behind a desk. Some risk factors for getting back pain as an office worker include:

  • Sitting for a long time without breaks
  • Using a chair that supported only the lower back and the arms
  • Having the computer mouse far from the keyboard
  • Inclining the head at a 45° angle when working
  • Holding both forearms above the level of the desk
  • Not exercising every day, which may predispose a person to gain weight, further increasing their back pain
  • Having a stressful workplace environment

How Does Standing Prevent Back Pain?

Standing can prevent back pain in several different ways, including:

  • As compared to sitting, being in a standing position decompresses the spine. This takes pressure off the neck and lower back
  • Standing improves posture as compared to sitting. You can more easily maintain the natural curves of the spine, which optimizes spinal biomechanics.

What Are the Benefits of a Standing Desk?

Using a standing desk has a variety of benefits, both on your overall health and your job performance. Several studies on standing versus sitting desks have been conducted. Researchers have found that standing desks:

Besides its impact on reducing your back pain, studies have shown that standing and sitting are also linked to different health outcomes:

Health outcomes linked to prolonged sitting:

  • Premature mortality
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
Health outcomes linked to standing:

  • Improved metabolism
  • Lower waist circumference
  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Improved blood sugar levels

Drawbacks of a Standing Desk

Although standing desks can be helpful for many people, they may not be appropriate for everyone. Further, excessive use of a standing desk can cause problems of its own, especially if you are standing on a non-shock-absorbent floor. Some disadvantages of standing desks include:

  • Temporary discomfort in your legs, hips, feet, and back as your body adjusts to standing more often. This is a risk particularly if you are not wearing shock-absorbent shoes
  • Back pain, especially if you are not standing on a shock-absorbent floor
  • Foot and lower leg swelling, particularly in those who stand for long periods without wearing compression stockings
  • Vascular problems like varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis, especially in people with risk factors for cardiovascular disease
  • Extra expense. Standing desks can be expensive, especially if you’re trying them for the first time and are not convinced they are right for you. Consider making your own “standing desk” at home by placing your computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse on stacks of books to elevate them.

Tips on Using A Standing Desk

Just like you need to make sure to have proper posture and take breaks from a sitting desk, you need to make sure you are appropriately using a standing desk. The following are some handy tips to make sure you are making the most of your standing desk:

  • Stand and sit at intervals throughout the day, making sure to switch whenever you feel uncomfortable
  • Adjust the desk to a height that does not require slouching or arching your back
  • Align your head, neck, and spine when standing
  • Make sure you don’t tilt your chin up or down to see your computer screen. When your screen is at the right height, you should be able to look straight ahead and see it
  • Wear supportive shoes to protect your legs and feet
  • Use a cushioned anti-shock mat under your feet to protect your joints
  • Consider a footrest so you can alternate resting each foot. This helps you shift your weight and change your posture.

Switching To A Standing Desk With Precision Spinal Care

As a certified NUCCA chiropractor and spine management physician, I make sure to evaluate the root cause of your condition before coming up with a treatment plan. This includes an evaluation of your daily activities, including whether you use a sitting or standing desk. If your treatment can be enhanced by a standing desk, I will fully educate you on the best and safest way to incorporate a standing desk into your life.

To accomplish this, during your first visit, I will do a thorough examination of your spine. Afterwards, I will go over my evaluation with you in detail. Together, we will set reasonable expectations and milestones for recovery and further evaluation. We will also put together a treatment plan that meets your care needs. I will reevaluate you to make sure you are meeting your goals.

My experience and expertise in spinal biomechanics allow me to competently and safely address your back issues. I am a trauma and hospital-qualified spine management physician. I have credentials in MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanical engineering, and orthopedic testing through the Academy of Chiropractic. I am also a fellow in Spinal Biomechanics and Trauma which is recognized through the SUNY Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine.

If we determine that chiropractic is not the best solution for your needs, I will recommend the type of specialist who is most appropriate for you. I may also recommend other specialists that can be used in conjunction with chiropractic care to help you meet your needs.

We understand that you need to explore all your options when you are trying to treat your pain. At Precision Spinal Care, we are happy to help you determine the best way to address your specific needs and discuss all the options with you and your family.

Call our office at (757) 382-5555 to speak to the doctor or set up a consultation. You can also set up an appointment online.

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