Do you feel slouched over at your desk? Sitting, hunched over all day at your desk, is giving you low back pain or neck pain. Furthermore, you’re exhausted by mid-afternoon and you’re unproductive. Is there anything you can do can do to help your posture and back pain? Try a standing desk to improve your posture.
Effects of prolonged sitting on your spine and posture
Sitting for prolonged periods of time at work is a major risk factor for causing low back pain and neck pain. (1, 2) To explain this, sitting for long periods of time puts your spine into a stressful hunched over position. This prolonged stress on the spine ligaments, muscles, and discs causes small tears in them. Although your body heals these small tears with scar tissue, scar tissue isn’t as flexible or as strong as original tissue. As well, scar tissue is more pain sensitive. So this scar tissue just keeps building up layer upon layer the more we sit. This stiffens your spine up, creates more damage in your spine (disc degeneration and arthritis), and makes it more pain sensitive.
Furthermore, as your spine stiffens up with prolonged sitting, your posture is trained to be hunched forward.
Effects of prolonged sitting on your brain
Sitting for long periods of time dampens your brain’s ability to work at peak capacity. So when you sit, your spine isn’t loaded properly and the nerve signals required to “feed” and keep the brain “charged” are dampened. In effect, you won’t be able to process things as efficient and you won’t be as alert versus when you stand or move.
In order to understand this better, I will explain why standing more upright and movement is important.
Standing desk to improve posture and brain function
Your brain and nervous system require consistent movement from your body and proper body alignment to work optimally. In other words, when you load your spine properly (standing, walking, running) versus sitting, more nerves in your spine turn on and “feed” your brain. So taking some time during the day to stand can help make your brain work better and you can become more alert.
Furthermore, getting up to stand during the day can force you into a more upright position to improve your posture. We’re not designed to stand for 8 hours straight either. However, varying your posture will help you get out of hunched over posture. I recommend to work up to standing about 50% of the day. Here are some of the health benefits when using a standing desk:
- Strengthens your core and postural muscles
- Increases energy expenditure
- Burns 75% more calories than sitting
- Increases alertness and brain function
- Increases work production
Purchasing a standing desk to improve your posture
Here are a couple of recommendations for standing desks:
Varidesk. Robust hardware and comes preassembled. It’s very easy to lower when you want to sit and raise when you want to stand. However, even though the monitor is on a higher platform than the keyboard you can’t adjust the height of the monitor and keyboards separately. It’s more expensive and takes up more room than our counterpart below.
Anthrodesk. Lighter and takes up less room. There is some assembly required , but it’s easy to set up. The feature I like better about this standing desk converter is that you can raise and lower the monitor height separate from the keyboard height. So from a posture and ergonomic standpoint it’s more flexible.
Here’s a specific link to the model we use at our front desk: AnthroDesk: Sliding Standing Desk Converter (Black)
Varidesk is more robust for sure and is therefore more expensive. At the time of this writing, a single monitor standing desk convertor from Varidesk will run you about $500 Canadian versus the Anthrodesk which retails at about $180.
From a cost benefit ratio I would choose the Anthrodesk to start with. For more information about their products: AnthroDesk: Standing Desk in Canada
Other factors to consider when you purchase a standing desk
There are other factors to consider when you purchase a standing desk:
- Make sure you get an anti-fatigue mat with it
- Wear good shoes
- People with flat arches should be wearing custom foot orthotics as flat arches create extra stress on the feet, knees, and low back.
- If you have a significant shorter leg length (due to a bone length difference) you will likely have a tilted pelvis (one hip lower or higher than the other). If you stand for long periods of time with a tilted pelvis this will create more stress on the knees and lower back. So you likely need a heel lift that fits into your shoe. You will need to get that assessed by someone who knows a lot about posture.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time at a desk stiffens you spine up and leads to poor brain function, poor posture and back pain. By getting a standing desk, you can start standing at your desk and improve your posture. In turn, this will improve you brain function, improve you work production, and help manage your back pain.
For further information how chiropractic care can help you can your family please read our ultimate guide to chiropractic care: Chiropractic Care for Everyone