Could A Standing Desk Ease Your Neck Pain?

From Forbes magazine to Facebook, there’s a lot of chatter about the benefits of standing desks for your health, happiness, and office productivity. In 2012, numerous studies started to emerge, with warnings about the threats of prolonged sitting to your overall health. Workplaces are gradually adapting to the findings, although in most modern offices workers still spend more than half the day seated.

In 2011, a study was conducted in Minneapolis, MN. Participants were office workers and others with sedentary jobs who signed up to participate in the Take-a-Stand project. It’s important to mention that the study was sponsored by Ergotron, a manufacturer of standing desks and work stations. That said, the results were promising. Working at a standing desk helped to significantly improve back and neck pain, as well as mood. The study participants using standing desks were happier and healthier.

Many back and neck pain sufferers are curious about the actual benefits of this latest trend in desks. We’ve seen everything from exercise ball office chairs to under desk exercise machines that are supposedly able to relieve pain and improve your health while you work. Most flop. Is the standing desk another fad, or is there something behind the idea that could actually benefit neck pain sufferers? Let’s find out.

Why Does Working at a Seated Desk Cause Neck Pain?

We’ve talked about ergonomics before – the position that you sit in at your desk and the way you hold your neck and back while working can have a major impact on your back and neck pain. Poor posture at your desk can cause everything from headaches and neck pain to a prolonged disability, like torticollis, that limits your ability to move your head or work. The pain is the result of repeated strain and stress on the muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons in your neck.

Working at a computer for a long period of time can aggravate and even cause neck pain in otherwise healthy individuals. If you are already suffering from neck pain, these behaviors can worsen your condition. Slouching or leaning over to read is another common culprit behind chronic neck pain.

What Can You Do To Remedy Work-Related Neck Pain?

Standing desks may be able to ease neck pain and discomfort. Although the Take-a-Stand study was small, there is reason to believe that standing desks can help.  The principle behind these desks is ergonomics. Your body is like a machine – it’s meant to be used a certain way. Force it to do something other than what nature intended, and you’re likely to suffer the consequences.

Desks and computer screens weren’t part of early man’s habitat, and our bodies are still trying to determine how to adapt to them. Research has taught us a few basic principles that can help:

  1. Take regular breaks. Every 30 minutes, give your back and neck a break from sitting and craning over papers or slouching into a screen.
  2. Use a headset if your job involves spending a lot of time on the phone. This helps you avoid angling your neck for a prolonged period of time (a common cause of neck pain).
  3. Adjust your workstation to allow for proper body mechanics.

Number three is the primary point to take into account when contemplating a standing desk. You can’t stand all day long – you’ll tire out and be equally uncomfortable. Using a desk that can adjust to both sitting and standing positions allows you to break from sitting without decreasing your productivity, though. A work station that allows you to work while standing can also be adjusted so that you face forward instead of looking down while working. This helps to encourage a healthy posture while working.

Other principles of proper ergonomics include keeping your feet flat on the floor while working – an automatic if your desk is a standing model – and not slouching. Standing desks have been linked to more than back pain relief, too. Studies show that people are generally healthier when using them. Everything from cancer to diabetes and hypertension have been linked to prolonged sitting. The answer for many people is that standing desk.

Don’t take the standing desk trend too far…

As beneficial as standing desks are for back and neck pain, and possibly even helping you live longer, they can cause some unsettling problems. From cankles to varicose veins and lower back pain, standing desk users have their fair share of complaints, as well. Neither extreme is a solution. It appears that the best desk for your body is one that can switch between sitting and standing. If you want to solve your neck pain woes by changing your work posture, opt for a desk that can change in height, and stand until you are tired, then sit. Alternate regularly. It’s a little closer to what our bodies are designed to do, and a reliable way to defeat neck and back pain without causing other health issues.

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