Back pain is something many with a desk job have experienced – and something which often worsens with age. What many don’t realise is that standing desks could be to blame.
This is especially important for sedentary office workers. Let’s find out.
(Related: Which Standing Desk Should You Buy?)
Will A Standing Desk Reduce My Back Pain?
Shown above: standing desks don’t have to be fancy or expensive. If you’re on a tight budget, create one using a set of cardboard boxes.
There are mixed studies regarding the efficacy of standing desks. The percentile of back pain in sitting desk workers (76%) was slightly higher than in standing workers (70%).
(Related: How Long Should I Stand At A Standing Desk?)
Several studies confirm that sit-stand workstations are beneficial. They:
- Positively impact chronic low back pain by encouraging movement.
- Support you in maintaining a proper posture that works best for your body.
- Allow you to alternate between positions and take frequent movement breaks.
Excess of anything can be detrimental. Long periods of standing instead of sitting are not the solution to low back pain as they can lead to added load on your joints and muscles.
Ongoing standing can lead to the following:
- Varicose veins.
- Aggravated back pain.
- Poor posture if leaning in awkward ways.
According to a study by the University of Waterloo, working at standing desks for about two hours continuously can contribute to lower back pain in almost 50% of people.
Adjustable standing desks may prove counterproductive in preventing back pain, especially when:
- Standing in a poor posture.
- Not moving around or stretching.
- Having pre-existing back issues.
(Related: How To Stand At A Standing Desk).
How Should I Use A Standing Desk With Low Back Pain?
You should follow a sit-stand cycle to relieve pressure throughout the body:
Shown above: Prevent neck pain when using a laptop with a standing desk by elevating it and using a wireless keyboard.
Should I Be Concerned About Prolonged Sitting?
Physical activity is a vital aspect of maintaining optimal health and well-being, with physicians across the globe emphasising the importance of regular exercise and mobility.
The greatest hindrance to activity is the 9-5 office job. The dangers include:
What Are The Long-Term Dangers Of Sitting?
Sitting for up to eight hours (sometimes more) is now considered the new smoking. Extended sitting can lead to a range of health problems alongside back pain, including:
Reduced daily movement is a significant risk factor for obesity.
Research shows prolonged periods of sitting can promote dysglycemia (abruptions in blood glucose levels). This lowered insulin efficiency and reduced muscle contractility can promote fat deposition.
Hypertension refers to higher-than-normal blood pressure.
A school study revealed that a sedentary lifestyle was associated with a greater risk of high blood pressure. Abdominal obesity and hypertension were more common in teachers with sedentary lifestyles.
3. Heart Disease.
One of the significant pitfalls of sitting for extended periods is the increased risk of cardiovascular issues. These are dangerously associated with an elevated cardiovascular disease mortality risk.
Higher total sitting time can also increase the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack).
Excessive sitting can also contribute to increased diabetes risk. The latest research encourages us to sit less to prevent Type 2 diabetes.
Ensure you eat a healthy and balanced diet, prioritise sleep, exercise regularly, and minimise stress for optimal health. Sitting is merely one risk factor for back pain and numerous diseases.
How Should I Use A Seated Desk With Low Back Pain?
If your workplace or home office does not have a sit-stand desk, ensure you maximise your seated position.
You should be:
If you don’t have a standing desk, you can always browse the numerous standing desk converters online for a quick and easy fix.
Impact Of Occupation On Low Back Pain.
Occupational low back pain is a medical challenge that causes disability and discomfort. It is not just sitting that causes pain – multiple factors can contribute. These include:
1. Poor Posture.
A systematic review concluded that sitting in an incorrect body posture for more than half a day increased the chances of developing sciatica and low back pain.
Poor posture also:
- Increased lower back pain.
- Contributed to musculoskeletal disorders.
Disc slips and herniations can be implications of prolonged sitting in a confined posture (on a workstation). Approximately 1 in 3 American workers reported being in a job that increased posture disturbances.
2. Desk Position.
Whether you sit or stand, you should pay attention to your desk’s position and ensure it supports your body.
A table too low can cause rounding of the shoulders, whilst a table too high can cause you to strain your arms.
To alleviate stiff muscles and improve posture, aim for the following:
- Keep your upper back straight with your hips/buttocks pushed back deep into the chair.
- Keep your legs straight, creating a 90-degree angle with your thighs.
- Adjust yourself to be at eye level with the computer screen, so your neck remains in a natural position.
- Relax your shoulders and make a conscious effort not to slouch.
- Ensure your feet remain flat on the ground.
Relief For Back Pain.
Whether you sit or stand, ensure you support your spine daily with a holistic approach.
You should focus on the following:
- Diet: Opt for anti-inflammatory foods such as salmon, nuts, dark leafy greens, turmeric, and tomatoes. Reduce your saturated fats and refined sugars, which can worsen the pain.
- Reduced stress: Incorporate mindfulness and regular breaks in your day to revitalise your energy and mental health.
- Stretching: Try yoga or special standing desk exercises to relieve your back pain.
- Exercise: The CDC advises you should aim for 3-5 sessions per week. For ultimate health benefits, work out outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
Maintaining your health comes down to consistency. Even on days when you are not in pain – ensure you keep your routine to prevent injuries.
If you are experiencing persistent back pain that does not improve, see a physical therapist or health professional for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Whilst remaining seated all day can worsen back pain and contribute to spinal misalignment, standing all day can similarly aggravate pain and contribute to injury.
The best option is maintaining movement, stretching, and mobility throughout the day. Remember to take regular breaks, and invest in a desk that allows you to sit and stand whilst you work.