A Massage Therapist’s Take on Standing Desk

standing deskOffice jobs:  the hidden cause of many people’s back and neck pain.  Even though physical jobs cause pain as well, sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week is incredibly harmful to the body.  As a massage therapist, patients coming in for back and neck pain are often office workers who sit at a desk all day.

So, companies started providing standing desks for their employees.  It’s been all the rage for the past few years, and if you don’t have one yet, you may be wondering if it’s really worth it.  Some companies provide them for their employees, and others just allow their employees to purchase one and work at it if they wish.  For specifics on how to get one in your office, you’d have to ask your Human Resources Department.

Anyway, are they really worth it?  Well, when sitting at a desk typing or making phone calls all day, the body’s postural muscles (shoulders, neck, back, hips) start to weaken.  Because they’re not being used to hold up your body as they would when you’re standing or moving around, they don’t have to work as hard and therefore essentially get lazy.  Add in the poor posture that most of us have when sitting at a desk, and your back and neck are in for worlds of hurt.  Hunching over the computer does bad, bad things for all these muscles (not to mention your eyes and head, but that’s a different topic).  It has been concluded that sitting all day at a job is one of the least healthy things you can do for your body.  Some studies have even concluded that sitting all day is worse for your health than smoking.

The concept of a standing desk is fantastic if used properly.  It can help you burn slightly more calories during the day (it’s not a significant number, but according to the Harvard Medical Journal, standing at a desk burns an extra 8 calories per hour which equates to an additional 64 per day and 320 per week.  It’s not much, but it’s something).

If you’re going from sitting at a desk all day to a standing desk, it’s important to do so slowly.  Your body isn’t used to being on your feet all day every day, and if you jump into it all at once, you might cause yourself even more issues.  Since our back and neck muscles get so weak from sitting, we have to strengthen them a little bit before being able to spend 40 hours a week standing without any pain.  You can do this by standing an hour and sitting an hour and alternating throughout the day.  Many desks have a standing or sitting feature, so you can switch between the two.  This will strengthen your muscles a bit at a time, and you can start increasing the amount of time you stand after a week or two.

With stronger back, neck, and shoulder muscles, you’ll start to notice less pain and back-pain-2292149_960_720cramping in those muscles.  This will also help you avoid injury better, as the muscles will be stronger and won’t strain, pull, or tear as easily.  So, if you’re one of us who sits at a desk all week, and then tries to play volleyball with the family over the weekend and notices you get sprains or pulled muscles more easily, this could be why.

Standing desks are definitely an improvement to sitting desks.  As more and more research comes to light showing how harmful sitting all day really is (humans are not meant to be that inactive), more companies are producing standing desks.  If you’re not sure how you’re going to feel about a standing desk and you have a company that’s giving you the option to choose, try one of the sitting and standing desks so that you can make adjustments each day.

My final ruling is that while standing desks are much better than sitting desks, being on your feet all day is taxing on the body, too.  Therefore, desks that provide the option to stand and sit and alternate throughout the day are a great option for office workers to decrease back and neck pain.

Other benefits of standing desks include more energy during the day (sitting all day saps your body’s energy) and increased productivity.  Make sure you wear shoes that are comfortable with good support (orthotic inserts are great, too, for increased support).

If you’re experiencing back, neck, or shoulder pain and are looking for relief, aside from trying a standing desk, call me at Strongsville Massage, and I can help alleviate the pain!

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