Office Ergonomics: When is Standing Too Much?

OFFICE ERGONOMICS: WHEN IS STANDING TOO MUCH?

  • October 28, 2019

Snowballing off of our October newsletter, I wanted to jump back on to share some of our knowledge about standing desks. In recent years, this has been all the craze. And I’ll be the first to say that I have most definitely asked many patients if they have a standing desk option at work. But that got me thinking, does everyone need a standing desk? Is office ergonomics important?

Office Erogonomics: THE RESEARCH

So I did some research. I came upon a study posted in the British Journal of Sports Medicine titled “Associations of occupational standing with musculoskeletal symptoms: a systematic review with meta-analysis.” The goal of this study was to investigate the relationship between occupational standing and aggravation of musculoskeletal symptoms, like in the lower back pain or pain down the legs.

THE RESULTS

In a nutshell, the evidence presented in the study suggests that substantial occupational standing is associated with the occurrence of low back pain (inconclusively) and lower extremity symptoms, but there may not be such an association with upper extremity symptoms.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE ABOUT OFFICE ERGONOMICS?

Now I know what you’re thinking – the study reports inconclusive results, so why should I care? Though the results are inconclusive, there is no denying the fact that our movement VARIABILITY as humans reduces as we move from childhood to adulthood. Instead of the movement variability we had as children (jumping, running, reaching, squatting) we become adults that REPEAT movements. Whether that be sitting at our desks for 8 hours straight or standing at our desks for 8 hours straight, we lack the fundamental movements our bodies are meant to be doing on a daily basis.

BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS ABOUT OFFICE ERGONOMICS

Having said that, you are now probably thinking – I have no time, I have a ton of meetings, I don’t care enough, I don’t have any pain. But that doesn’t mean you can’t break the lack of movement variability that’s currently prevalent in your office life!

So here are my biggest takeaways that may be useful for you to think about:

  • You don’t NEED to have standing desk option; you just need to MOVE regularly
  • Standing too much CAN cause low back and leg pain (but may not be the same for neck and arm pain)
  • Your body is designed to sit AND stand throughout the day, and there are many ways to get your standing throughout the day without the need for a sit-to-stand desk

We all live in a modern world, with the modern convenience of having a sit-to-stand desk option available to us. (Ask and you shall receive!) So for those of you who already have a sit-to-stand desk, here are things you should be aware of for proper utilization:

  • 15-20 minutes is ENOUGH within an hour time frame. Start there.
  • Take frequent breaks (stand for 20 minutes, once every hour, on the hour). Don’t do a continuous 8 hours of standing in a day.
  • Stand on a flat surface with flat shoes. If possible, take your shoes off and stand with bare feet. This will enhance muscular utilization in the lower extremity and trunk.
  • Weight distribution should be equal side to side and right below the hips, with your arms at less than a 90-degree angle to your keyboard and gaze at the level of the top of your screen(s).

Do you agree that not everyone needs a standing desk option? Share why or why not by posting a comment below!

Dr. Ashley Agcaoili

Post written by Dr. Ashley Agcaoili DC, MS. Check out her bio here.

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