Standing Desks to Reduce Low Back Pain

Standing Desks: Standing Vs Sitting When at Work

We all know that sitting for long periods at a time, day after day, is not good for our backs. However, some of us have little choice in the matter and the jobs we are in don’t allow us to move around. A recent survey found that many of us spend up to 12 hours a day sitting looking at computers or watching television. If you throw in the seven hours we spend sleeping, then that adds up to a remarkable 19 hours a day being sedentary. No wonder many of my patients, at Bodymotion suffer with low back pain.

Fact: 31 million days of work were lost in 2013 due to bad backs, necks and muscular problems (Office of National Statistics, ONS). The ONS continue to explain that this has dramatically increased since the population’s workforce has gone from labour intensive roles to sitting roles in offices. Is sitting the new smoking? Will the lifestyle we live inevitably cause us back pain? I want to discuss some solutions for this modern day problem.

A company in Hertfordshire has changed its office architecture by purchasing high desks for a proportion of its employees. This will allow a huge change in the number of people suffering from bad backs.

So what are the actual differences from sitting to standing?

When we are sat down, our pelvis is posteriorly tilted, which means that the back (posterior) of the pelvis is lower than the front of the pelvis. This positional change causes the lower back to curve out. Many of the lower back issues I see are due to this sustained “flexed” position, which in turn affects the spinal discs or facet joints in the spine. The spinal alignment changes during standing and our natural ‘S’ shaped spine is much more achievable and we avoid the curved flexed position which many of us adopt in the office environment.

For a minute, let’s forget about the practicality and costs of getting adjustable desks in the office. Our physiological health will improve significantly, especially for those of us who do very little in terms of exercise. A non-exhausted list below shows some of the benefits:

Benefits of working whilst standing up

–          Reduction in glucose level due to increased activity, therefore reducing the risk of diabetes.

–          Reduction in the risk of heart disease.

–          Improvement in pain from arthritic changes in the weight bearing joints.

–          Improved posture, spinal alignment and core activation.

–          Increased sense of wellbeing and increased productivity of employees.

Dr Buckley, a specialist in cardiac rehabilitation, explains, “Just by standing up three or four hours in your day at work will be equivalent of running about 10 marathons a year”.

Back to reality – not every office can sustain standing desks for all employees, nor potentially will managers fund this change of working. However, we can make small adjustments: standing while talking on the phone; going over to talk to a colleague rather than sending an email, or simply taking the stairs, will help. If you are fortunate to get a standing desk, it could make a significant difference to your health.

I have, of course, written this article while standing.


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