workstation ergonomics

Are Standing Desks All They're Cracked Up To Be?

Image from Google Images "standing desk"

Image from Google Images "standing desk"

Lately there has been a lot of information that sitting all day puts us at a much higher risk for obesity, diabetes, pain, and other potentially life-limiting issues. Therefore, one would think that standing for a portion of the work day would be a great way to combat this, right?

Although merely changing your position and burning a few more calories while standing are good things, the standing desk may not help with low back pain or sciatica that you've been feeling after a few hours at work.

If you are planning on getting a standing desk to help with pain you may be experiencing, keep in mind that simply standing up may not be enough to ease your discomfort. Most of us, pain or no pain, have postural abnormalities. Chances are, if you do experience pain, yours are a little worse than most. In order to make the most out of standing at work, you need to be sure you do so without falling into these postural problems.

When we stand, most people tend to have too much arch in their lower back, a forwardly tipped pelvis, and stand with our weight on our toes (especially if you're wearing heels, ladies!). These issues cause our weight to be put onto our lower backs causing low back pain. When this happens, our stabilizing muscles are not able to work efficiently and we must compensate with others, such as our piriformis, causing possible sciatica and other discomfort.

How can you make the most out of your standing time?

Shift your weight- When we try to stand "correctly," with equal weight on both feet and standing erect, we tend to fall into the pattern described above. Try shifting your weight from side to side throughout your standing time, but be sure to share time between legs as most of us will "pick a leg" and stand on just that side for a majority of the time. Let's say you pick your left leg to stand on: pretend you have a quarter under your left heel and try to center your body weight over it. Placing your right foot slightly ahead of your left, with your toes pointed forward, will help accomplish this. If you're doing this correctly, you'll notice your pant zipper is aligned over your left big toe. This will keep your weight on your heel and your back in a more neutral position.

Pick the right shoes- Sure, many of us have certain dress codes we have to meet which usually means uncomfortable dress shoes for men and heels for women. No one said you have to wear them every minute of every day. Either bring a pair of tennis shoes to work, or buy a pair that you keep under your desk. When you want to stand, switch your shoes. This will not only make your feet more comfortable, it will help keep your weight on your heels appropriately.

Don't do it too long- Our bodies were just not made to hold a static position for more than 20 minutes. Even if you're shifting your weight from side to side, try to take a break every 30 minutes and walk a few steps around your office/cube, go to the bathroom, or refill that cup of coffee. No amount of will (or stubbornness) can beat anatomical and biomechanical design.

Change it up- Whether you're sitting or standing, we tend to set up our desks/work stations and leave them that way permanently. This is a problem because you are causing repetitive movements to take place which cause microtraumas to our tissues as well as possibly feed into our poor postural habits. Try moving your water or coffee to the left of the computer and the stapler to the right this week. Keep things interesting for your body so it doesn't begin to wear out!